Posts Tagged ‘Omar Gonzalez’

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 Jumble: Shippin’ Out!

The question: Which MLS player will make the move overseas? Or, which should?

Any doubt Gonzalez is destined for Europe in the near future?

Connor, Ninety Plus: Which MLS player will make the move overseas? Landon Donovan.  Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I think he enjoyed England too much not to return soon.

Which one should?  Chad Marshall.  His potential is quickly rotting away, after raking in two MLS Defender of the Year awards, constant injuries caused his play to suffer for the Nats, and now his place on the plane has been lost to an emerging Clarence Goodson.

Charles, MetroStars: Any MLS player with the chance to sign overseas in a situation where they play first team football should go. Go for no less than 1 year, and if they’re not playing regularly no more than 3 years, before playing in MLS. The MLS player that should move to Europe is anyone that is out of contract and is offered a contract overseas, provided they are given a fair run-out to impress.

Chris, Dynamo Fan: Which most likely will: Omar Gonzalez of the Galaxy and Geoff Cameron of the Dynamo.

Which should: Robbie Rogers from Columbus and Marvell Wynne (now of Colorado). Both those guys show outstanding athletic ability but I think need that next level of training to be able to really excel (Rogers has spent a season in Holland). Wynne has world class speed and could be a top outside back if he can really learn to play the position.

Joe, Miami Monsters: Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers. Chad is ready to move up and showcase his defensive skills while Rogers needs to show that he can play along the best in the midfield.

Preview: Not Quite October 10th, But We’ll Take It

Good day and welcome to our USMNT-Honduras preview for this Saturday.

Coach USA congratulating the king before he assumed the throne four days later...

Beyond the visage of Jonathan Bornstein and Conor Casey taking the pitch for the home side Saturday, the match is nearly inverse in all ways to the nervous match that sent the States to the World Cup Finals later this year.

TSG will focus almost exclusively on the USMNT here in this preview as the side that Honduras is bringing is not immediately clear.

What we do know is that the first half should show some high quality competitive soccer, and the 2nd half as substitutions are introduced, might drop a notch in quality, but should be no less competitive.

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Elephant In The Room & It’s Not Gooch, DeMerit

What’s the word Bob Bradley? We know you see it.

One of Bob's key problems to figure out....

Is Omar Gonzalez or Brandon McDonald a sign that you don’t believe Oguchi Onyewu will ready despite reports–is it telling that you have 5 central defenders in camp? How much of a factor for South Africa is rooted-to-Columbus defender Chad Marshall?

The notion of a balking backline has been creeping in all of qualification. The signal grew louder August 12th in Mexico. In Trinidad & Tobago, even louder and to a crescendo October 14th in RFK.

Tim Howard added insult to questionable performance with a mic’d up, “Every f%^king time!” howl that wasn’t personally directed, but could have been.

While both Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit were bit by the injury bug, the biggest question that TSG has is “Does Carlos Bocanegra have a spot in the starting back line in South Africa? And if so, where is it?”

This is Part of I of II where the Shinguardian will dissect Boca’s role in defense….Part I today is central defense; next will be at wingback.

Captain America: Riding out a rough patch for club and country....

The fan in us has some serious trouble even contemplating that statement above, the analyst must ask the question.

Captain Integrity Bocanegra did not factor for his club team, Rennes, in December.

Stades Rennes seems to have went younger by reshuffling their backline. Rennes has inserted Senegalese big man Abdou Kader Mangane in their central defense, moving French nattie player Rod Fanni (that’s an unfortunate name, no?) out to rightback, pushing right back Romaine Danze out to leftback. Boca hasn’t had a whiff of the pitch.

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Bradley’s 30: What Is This? Junior High

Marvell: Back on the scene, crispy and clean

Coach USA took the next step to shoring up the remaining roster spots in South Africa today by inviting an inordinately large contingency of 30 players, 25 from the MLS, to camp this year in Los Angeles.

The annual January camps kicks off January 4th and making their way to the bunk beds will be:

GOALKEEPERS: Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)

DEFENDERS: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC), Brandon McDonald (San Jose Earthquakes)

MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew),

FORWARDS: Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), , Marcus Tracy (Aalborg)

—–

Thoughts:

• Follow-up on our preview on the January camp:

» TSG contributor Connor, see comment section, nailed the goalies. TSG thought Thornton–at 36 years–deserving, but a little long in the tooth.

» Unfortunately, no Sean Franklin. TSG suggested an invite be sent the injured defenders way, but understandable that it was not

» No Darrius Barnes, as TSG suggested. Just a little bit too young.

• Coach USA goes with a whopping 12 midfielders, suggesting that his midfield is hardly set and that players like Robbie Rogers and Jose Francisco Torres are not locks yet for WC 2010.

• If you look at the defensive selections, here’s TSG reading Coach Sweatpants mind, “I need to get reps for middle guys here. Goodson, you know have Gonzalez pushing you….your sub spot to lose. Let’s see what this McDonald kid has there too.

Got to figure that outside picture out: Show me something Kevin, Heath, and Marvell–Heath, Marvell this is your final shot.”

» Wynne was in the rotation late last year and early this year. If the speedy outside full can show he’s overcome the nagging injuries and that he’s matured in his read of the game, then he’ll be making a strong play for that left wingback back-up role….back-up for now.

»Note: The official USSF release has Brandon McDonald as a forward. Unless Coach USA sees something we don’t, McDonald should get trotted out at center back and center back alone. I’m this close (if McDonald shows well) to calling him “Gooch Jr.”

¤ TSG has lobbed an email into USMNT spokesperson Neil Buethe to get confirmation on the release and McDonald’s position.

¤ USSF amended their release and now lists McDonald appropriately as a defender.

• Is this the close of the Big Aloha Brian Ching’s USMNT career or is he being given time to rest his knee? If you remember Ching did some heavy lifting this year with the USMNT Gold Cup tourney, qualifiers and a Houston playoff run.

• In Ching’s stead and in the absence of TSG-promoted Nate Jacqua is Chivas USA’s Justin Braun. We’ll have to learn more about Braun here at TSG as we’ve only seen him play a handful of time. 6’3” and 22-years-old is a good start.

• A three-man race for the Charlie Davies role at camp amongst Marcus Tracy (Welcome to the USMNT program, Marcus!), Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham. Should be a good one to watch.

• Goodnight Frankie Hedjuk. You will be missed.

Congrats to the Galaxy’s D & Home of the Hobbit!

In a fitting combination that put the Galaxy through to the championship, Omar Gonzalez knocked a cross into traffic that fell to Gregg Berhalter for a righty touch and score. The tally was the difference in the 2-0 Galaxy win over the Dynamo to knock the away team out of the playoffs.

gonzalez

Persistence personified.

TSG’s late night comments:

♦ Just horribly embarrassing moments for the MLS as the lights went out twice at Home Depot Center. You would have thought it was a Park & Rec league game and someone had to wake up the groundskeeper. We’ll allow the MLS this one reprieve and hope they have a prevention strategy going into 2010.

♦ This game belonged to the Galaxy defense who were airtight against a relatively weak Dynamo attack. Rook AJ Delagarza (a phenomenal performance by the youngster) and last year’s rook of the year Sean Franklin on the wings continually shut down the feeble runs of the Dynamo on the outside while sprinting up to join the attack. Gregg Berhalter recovered from a tough Chivas series and Omar Gonzalez dismissed his weak playoff record-to-date and returned to the form that made him this year’s rookie of the year.

The strength, quality and consistency of the defense kept the Galaxy in the game until their one-dimensional attack prospered.

♦ While the announcers commended Berhalter on the score, big guy Omar Gonzalez’s effort to get to the cross, keep it alive and redirect the nugget was “the” play of the game in TSG’s eyes. OG, unfortunate initials for a defender, would not be denied. When coaches talk about wanting it more, they just need to pop in the DVD of Gonzales’ disregard for his health as he went above, around and through players to get to David Beckham’s service.

Heart.

No doubt, this was a tremendous effort by the Maryland grad.

♦ While the Dynamo attack was inadequate to say the least, I was surprised by the Galaxy’s lack of creativity in getting the ball to Landon Donovan. The offense for Arena’s squad seemed to continually defer to Beckham and forgot that LD was on the pitch. Odd. If the Galaxy fail to score the free kick and the Dynamo somehow squeak in a shot and eek out a victory in this one, you can be sure that TSG would have been all over the Galaxy’s lack of creativity.

♦ Conversely, it’s the Galaxy’s ability to build tempo that creates the flow of their offense and usually crescendos with a score that didn’t make it happen either. While ESPN announcer Alexei Lalas thought that the play stoppages benefited Los Angeles, I think any sane person would have clearly recognized this disrupted the Galaxy’s rhythm and ability to build the offense; just what benefits the defensive strategy of the Dynamo.

♦ Houston lacked everything on offense. Brian Ching couldn’t unshackle himself from LA’s backline and Dominc Oduro, who TSG thought in our preview might expose the elder Berhalter, was lost…and that’s a compliment. While the service to Oduro was itself lost, Oduro seemed to have slept through the lead-up to this one and have no idea how to attack the defense. A horrid performance.

That being said, through a share of crosses and scrums in the middle, Houston had a full 14 shots versus LA’s 7.

♦ We’ll say it right now, Stu Holden is a winger. While Holden presented himself more on offense tonight than in the Seattle series, the Dynamo’s young captain has trouble navigating the middle of the pitch. While Holden maintained possession, he lacked the ability to attack and threaten through the middle. After viewing Stu here and in the Seattle series, TSG thinks he’s better when there is the threat of space in front of him.

The Iceman navigated to pockets in the opening minutes to create some chances, but once LA adjusted, Holden’s offensive touch failed him and he acted merely as a hub, receiving and redirecting the ball from one side of the pitch to the other; not a bad skill, but not attacking football either. Anytime Stu operated the wing, not only was he more confident on the ball, but he seemed to have a plan of attack. Might we credit Bob Bradley again here?

♦ Ricardo Clark’s belligerence cost the Dynamo tonight. Clark who steadily fed and fed more guff to the refs was booked for an open field tackle in his half (free kick and score #1) and nonchalant trip in the box (penalty kick and score #2). Not a sterling performance for the USMNT hopeful.

♦ David Beckham was solid, but not spectacular today…but it was enough.

♦ With the loss, the Dynamo’s Stu Holden, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis are all available for Denmark recall tomorrow. TSG thinks we may see Holden round the globe, but that’s about it. Brad Davis deserves at least a trip to Camp Cupcake in January, don’t you think?

In other news, the Kiwis are through! Congratulations to the All Whites who qualified for their first World Cup finals in 28 years. Having watched the first match earlier this year against Bahrain, this one was a near mirror image with numerous mistakes and abundant USMNTitis. New Zealand was stouter on defense and that was the difference as a technical symphony this game was not.

By the way, nothing more comical than the raucous celebration by Bahrain when they earned a 2nd half penalty kick juxtaposed against the horrible excuse for a penalty take that grounded almost directly at the All Whites’ keeper thereafter.

In other news, no beer in New Zealand is allowed to exceed more than 4% alcohol, so hopefully the Zealanders started knocking them back after Rory Fallon’s goal winner header at 44 minutes in the first half.

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