Archive for October, 2010

Omar Gonzalez: The Galaxy’s #1 Bodyguard

Going Gonzo...

The Los Angeles Galaxy looked like world beaters to start the season. With Juninho pulling the strings in midfield, Landon Donovan providing the assists and Edson Buddle tearing through the competition and the nets, the Galaxy came out flying.

Now, after some very uneven play throughout the season, the Galaxy head into the post-season with some legitimate questions about their chances despite pocketing their third Supporter’s Shield. They are, however, this writer’s pick to hoist the MLS Cup as well.

One player who seems to continually be answering more questions and getting served new, grander ones about his potential is Texan Omar Gonzalez.

The skyscraping centerback has followed up on an accomplished rookie campaign by growing, at times painfully, in his second campaign.

The defender has been asked to shoulder a larger burden of the Galaxy’s defensive organization…and possibly for the USMNT as Gonzalez appears poised to continually feature for Bob Bradley’s crew over the next year.

TSG had a chance to chat by phone with Omar a little more than a week ago, and get some insights on what’s going on with the Galaxy and what some of his expectations are for club and country.

Galaxy stand at +5 (and 2 wins in 2 tries) against Rainy City this year...

TSG: The playoffs are coming up. Looks like you might face Seattle. Does it matter who you face going into the playoffs?

Omar: Doesn’t really matter. I think Seattle would be a good match-up though.

We already faced each other twice this year and came out on top both times.

If it was up to me I think I’d like to go up against Seattle and then whoever is up next…we’ll cross that road when it comes.

TSG: The Galaxy came out blazing to start this year and then seemed to suffer a flat tire during the middle part of year. What was that attributable to? The loss of Gregg Berhalter, two major players in Landon and Edson going to South Africa, or just normal ebb and flow?

Omar: It’s just a normal thing that happens. It’s the ebb and flow. You can’t win all games, obviously.

I think we went from the beginning of this season being undefeated up until the All-Star break.

We had a really good run.

Sometimes you go through a lull. We lost some players to the World Cup and some players got hurt.

So stuff like that happens and I think that we did well to rebound and get back on top and start playing well again.

TSG: How important is winning the Supporter’s Shield versus an MLS Cup?

Omar: I think winning a Supporters’ Shield is always great. Our league is pretty even now. I think that it’s hard to compete throughout the year.

In my existence on the team, the Galaxy have never won one so we want to [win the Supporter's Cup] and we want to win the whole thing. That’s two of our goals from the beginning of the year. They’re kind of indistinguishable.

TSG: One thing I noticed in looking over LA’s stats: you guys have given up a lot of goals at home, more than double actually.

Is that because of a disposition to play more defensively on the road and go for the draw? Or does the defense just zone in when they are out of their element? Are you worried about this for the playoffs?

Omar: We have given up a lot of goals at home. But I think going into the playoffs we think we know we need to play well at home.

I don’t know why we go on the road and play so well. But we need to bring the same effort at home.

We’re going to need those shutouts now at home.

Gregg Berhalter, international class according to Gonzalez...

TSG: How much have you missed having Gregg Berhlater as your central defense partner?

Omar: Well, he brings a crucial attribute to the game in his leadership. He’s the point on that stuff in that back. He’s been around for a long time and played in Europe as well.

He’s got a good soccer mind and his leadership and organization are important, and I think he adds a lot when he’s on the field.

Since he hasn’t been able to be on the field much I’ve had to play with four different people. It’s hard to play with a different partner every week.

I think though we make do and everyone works that much harder around us so as to not pressure us.

For me, I’d like to have Gregg next to me every time I go out there. But I obviously try and play well with whoever is out there.

TSG: How have you augmented your game, if at all, in Gregg’s absence?

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MLS Playoff Contenders Moving Images

TSG contributor Jay Bell authors his first video montage, taking at look at the eight playoffs teams about to throw down this weekend.

Thanks Jay.

Stadiums, National Teams & Playoffs With Bobby Convey

Bobby Convey and the Earthquakes head into battle Saturday against Thierry Henry Inc.

The New York Red Bulls take on the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday in a playoff match-up that may not be as one-sided as some people might think.

The Right Coasters may have galloped their way to first place in the East, but questions persist about their midfield and prized recruit Thierry Henry hasn’t been an automatic on the team sheet for the better part of a month.

They’ll head to the Left Coast to play a San Jose Earthquakes team that’s got the look of a spoiler.

The Earthquakes beat their chests with a veteran keeper in Jon Busch, a scalding hot shark of a striker in Chris Wondolowski who’s driving home freaking laser beams, an underrated pairing of former MLS cast-offs in Khari Stephenson and Sam Cronin manning the middle, and a U.S. World Cup veteran at leftback who started for the Yanks in arguably one of their most impressive performances ever, Italy 2006.

That defender’s name is Bobby Convey and he joined us last week to discuss playing in San Jose and his incredulousness at continuing to be left off the U.S. Men’s National Team.

TSG: Heading into the playoffs–you guys have two games left–looks like you’re going to face the New York Red Bulls. What’s going to be the difference in a potential series with Henry, Inc.?

Bobby Convey: Any team we play against in the playoffs is going to be a strong team.

The main thing for us is to get a good result in Game 1 since we’ll play the first one at home, and then to try and win it on the road.

TSG: Is there any more animosity in facing the Red Bulls? In the first game this year, you received a hard foul which resulted in a red card and ten men for New York. You guys won that one, I believe it was 3-0. In the second game–role reversal–you got a questionable yellow and New York ran away with it.

More animosity in facing them?

Wondo, streaking for San Jose...but everyone is a contributor, says Convey...

Convey: No. They’ve obviously added a bunch of players since we beat them. The first game we played well, the second game they played well and came out on top.

I don’t think it’s more of a rivalry. I think for me, it was an awful call by the referees–you can watch the replays.

Going into the playoffs though, the games are harder, there’s more tackling, there’s more physical play and hopefully the referees can get it right this time.

TSG: Okay…how far can you guys go in the playoffs?

Convey: Well anything can happen. And then it’s about who’s on form.

Injuries come into play and who’s on form. It really depends who’s up for it on the day.

TSG: Who’s the MVP of the Earthquakes this year: you’ve got Busch who’s been a difference maker, Wondo who is on fire, and you’ve covered at leftback and still provided assists. Who’s the most integral?

Convey:  For myself, I’m just happy that I played well all season and really contributed.

For me, I just try to look at myself and my objective for me is to create as many chances for others as possible. As a wide player that’s what you look to do.

It was frustrating to move to leftback…I can’t really create too much from there. It’s more defending obviously. For me, I’m just happy how the season’s gone.

And as a team I’m happy we’ve all done well. As you said, Wondo has scored some goals as of late and you know that definitely helps, but I don’t think we’re a one-man show.

Everyone has to play well for us to do well.

TSG: How do you rate your game now? As you’ve said, you moved to leftback; it’s been frustrating and doesn’t sound like it’s a role you relish. Where is your game and career at?

Convey: I feel good. I was able to workout in the offseason. It was the first offseason I really had in five years  since I was in England where you don’t really get an offseason.

I was able to hang out with my family for the first time for the holiday season in a long time and really just get away and rest.

And then workout at home with my trainer a couple of times a day for a month or so, and I feel came  into the seasons feeling really well.

MLS is one of those leagues where one season you can do really well and one season you maybe don’t do as well.

TSG: So talk more about the league–MLS–where do you rate the league right now quality-wise versus the Championship and Premiership in England from your experience playing in both?

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MLS Playoffs, Precisely

Playoffs time! (…and Interview Week here at The Shin Guardian…a note on that in a bit).

The more I think about it, the more I like the uniqueness of playoffs to MLS. Maybe not the ridiculously confusing and backwards format, but at least having playoffs…very Uhmerican.

We’ll be along shortly with a playoff preview, but for now a quick look-see at some of the match-ups:

Will Fredy and friends be fast enough?

Left Coast:

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders

One-liner: The Galaxy easily captured the season series with a +5 goal differential. Seattle has some momentum and their zippy forwards give the Galaxy fits, but…

Opening match: Seattle: Sunday, 5pm PDT


Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas

One-liner: How do two do of the top teams play each other in the first round again? Huh?…Dallas fixed their defense and added David Ferreira to the first eleven this year (but scored less goals). Is that enough for Pizza Hut’s men against a battle-tested midfield, the reigning champs and a bowl full of dreadlocks?

Opening match: Dallas: Saturday, 2pm PDT.


A clever man on the year...

Right Coast:

New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes

One-liner: Looking for the upset series, this may be it. The Buck in Santa Clara will prove a more difficult labyrinth than at first blush for the Red Bulls and San Jose’s got a player each game that, if they muster it, can be a game changer: Convey, Ryan Johnson, Glen (ok, not Cornell Glen).

Earthquake honcho Frankie Yallop has been understated and a masterful puppeteer moving around pieces and coaxing out wins. Is Dane Richards faster than Mr. Wondoful is accurate? Oh…tasty!

Opening match: Santa Clara: Saturday, 7pm PDT

Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids

One liner: Does a Thursday opener by the MLS Front Office suggest this series is easily on the undercard? The Crew have the experience while the Rapids have a two-pronged attack and the very underrated Jeff Larentowicz.

Opening match: Denver: Thursday, Denver, 6pm PDT.


More coming…

McPride Bids Adieu

McEffort, McHustle, McClass, McGoal….McBride.

Home Depot Center in Carson, CA has the privelege of being graced br Brian McBride in his final professional game. McBride treated the pitch to something vintage with a back heel goal in the first half.

Well-played McBreezy, well-played.


From 09/03:

McEffort, McGentleman, McTeam Player, McPride.....McBride!

One-of-a-kind Brian McBride announces his retirement.

McBride was a pioneer for American players overseas–reaching the pinnacle as the captain of a top Premiership side in Fulham–and is still looked at as the model of what an American striker should be.

While Clint Mathis added the swagger to American soccer, Brian McBride can be considered the fabric.

An unflashy player who got the job done in a flashy position, McBride is so revered by all that consideration–as we joked about on Thursday–will always go out for him to be included on the national team.

A bar at Fulham’s Craven Cottage is named for him.

Member of TSG’s All-Decade Team.

♦ Returned the same season from a dislocated knee to spark Fulham who skirted relegation in 2008. His play in a key match against Reading was, in one word, inspirational.

♦ And by far, the best header of the ball to grace the Stars & Stripes.

Brian McBride, always classy for American soccer.

USMNT career:

The ingrained singular image, World Cup 2006:

Over 150 appearances, a captaincy, 40 goals for Fulham and respect from the English.

“What a finish…! Brian McBride a goal made in the U.S.A……”

If interested the TSG t-shirt: McBride: Unbreakable.

The Final Whistle: Jaime Moreno

Thanks for the pics Matt.

One goal and uncountable thank yous send of Jaime Moreno in his final match for DC United.


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