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.
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.
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?