Friday, November 11, 2011
Friday Free Kicks: Making the Case for Omar Gonzalez
Gonzalez has started 29 games on the back line this year. Considering that he's a centerback, that only makes his two goals and assist all the more impressive. His 2,599 minutes of league play helped lead the Galaxy to the best defensive record of 2011 and 17 regular season shutouts. Not only that, but Gonzalez has also earned MLS Defender of the Year honors, the youngest player ever to do so. 2011 All Star honors and his team is in the MLS Cup finals. And yet.. he remains overlooked by Jurgen Klinsmann for the US National Team.
Two theories jump to mind here. The first is that Klinsmann is not impressed with Gonzalez's passing out of the back. The German has gone on record in saying that he wants his team to control the ball out of the back line and see his boys pass the ball on the ground. Gonzalez isn't quite that player. He's also not the fastest center back out there. However, the counter argument here is this: Omar Gonzalez uses his size and positioning to shut down half the attacks he faces. That reminds me of another defender the US has employed in the past. None other than Gregg Berhalter, Omar's role model on the back line.
Consider that Berhalter was never the fastest, nor the most technically gifted defender and then look at his accomplishments for club and country. Gonzalez is much the same, albeit a younger, stronger version. That said, I don't buy that Klinsmann isn't willing to at least give Gonzalez a look. Rather my second theory looks more plausible.
Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann are close. It seems likely that Arena has quietly kept Omar with the Galaxy during these constant friendlies. Klinsmann gets the opportunity to experiment with young German-Americans while knowing he's got someone he can work with come January. Arena is no fool, he knows the importance Gonzalez plays on his team.
All that said, if Gonzalez is overlooked in January, then fans have reason to riot. There will be no excuses then. Until that time, we should enjoy watching Omar develop and appreciate his future for the potential it has. When a young defender stands out on a squad that boasts David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane you know you've got something special.