Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Free Kicks: Making the Case for Omar Gonzalez

Omar Gonzalez has had an incredible season. Not only has he helped lead the LA Galaxy to yet another Supporters Shield, but he has also garnered the praise of players, coaches and media alike. For all of 2011 Gonzalez has been a mainstay in a lineup that has had to navigate early Open Cup stages, Champions League and of course league play.

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.


  1. If they don't hurry up, I fear Mexico may come calling soon.


  3. The only problem with Gonzalez is that he's blocked by two very similar players: Onyewu and Goodson. Klinsmann is looking for that distributor out of the back, which is why we're seeing Orozco and Ream. I wouldn't be surprised to see Morales log some minutes against Slovenia in place of Goodson. It also puzzles me that Geoff Cameron, who's been noted for his distribution out of the back, has yet to receive a call-up.

    Gonzalez is one of the best young defenders in the U.S. system, it's really only a matter of time before he earns a call-up.

    U.S. depth at fullback is excellent. And as long as Onyewu and Bocanegra continue to perform at a high level, guys like Gonzalez, Ream, Goodson, Cameron, and George John are going to ride the pine.

  4. @Baskets, you certainly know your football. And while there is depth there, both Orozco and Ream are prone to costly mistakes. Trying out Geoff Cameron or Gonzalez only seems to make sense. I can't understand the lack of call up for either of them. Still, hope lies in the January camp, which is traditionally MLS heavy.

  5. I still have hope for Ream. He's definitely got great technical skill. But as you mention, the kid is prone to mistakes. His one mistake against Ecuador cost us the game.

    I really don't think Orozco is an international-level footballer. Maybe Klinsmann sees something we all don't. But probably just wishful thinking on his part.

    As you said, he's to hoping the January camp brings in some fresh talent all-around. I'd like to see Gonzalez, Cameron, John, Bunbury and hell, let's give Brad Davis another shot.

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