Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
CARSON, Calif. — LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has not had any conversations with U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann about centerback Omar Gonzalez.
That is likely to change after Saturday.
Gonzalez was named the MLS Cup final MVP following a dominant performance that helped the Galaxy defeat the Houston Dynamo en route to repeating as MLS champions at the Home Depot Center. Gonzalez was a rock in the back for a Galaxy defense that looked vulnerable for much of the first half, and he also provided the equalizing goal that helped shift momentum in the Galaxy’s favor in the second half.
For the 24-year-old Gonzalez, winning the MLS Cup MVP award was something he had never envisioned for himself, especially after tearing the ACL in his left knee this past January following a collision with Timmy Chandler while on a training stint at Nurnberg.
“It was pretty emotional for me after the game because at the beginning of the year I didn’t see myself getting back to this level,” said Gonzalez. “I had some days where I was just thinking if I was ever going to come back the same way. Today was really special for me because I know that I am able to go even further now.”
Gonzalez received plenty of plaudits after the match and rightfully so. He was masterful in the air against a Dynamo team that began the MLS Cup final by being more direct, which may have come as a result of his subpar outing in the second leg of the Western Conference finals against the Seattle Sounders. But he was also solid in his challenges and responsible for the game’s monumental momentum shift when he scored in the 60th minute on a play that came following a suggestion from midfielder David Beckham.
Minutes prior to Gonzalez’s equalizer, Beckham hit a corner kick that the hulking centerback failed to attack despite having the opportunity to do so. Beckham pulled Gonzalez over and told him to be more aggressive on chances like those, and the advice was heeded immediately.
“The next time the ball got near him when (Juninho) clipped it in and he went and got it and that was the obviously the moment that things changed,” said Galaxy forward Landon Donovan. “From there, we just kept putitng pressure and it felt almost inevitable that the second was going to come.”
Aside from calling Gonzalez’s headed finish the key moment in the match, Dynamo head coach Dom Kinnear also labeled the defender’s return from injury in July the likely turning point to the Galaxy’s season. Kinnear also acknowledged that the centerback’s play on the ground and in the air on Saturday was stellar.
The compliments from the Houston camp did not stop there.
“He’s a big defensive body, great in the air, we knew that coming in,” said Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis. “He was on his game. He played a very good game and when a player like that is on top of his game, he’s tough to beat.
“Credit to him, he made a great play on the goal he scored. It was a tough header. He did it well and he had a good game tonight. You just have to give him credit when that happened.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the match and postgame celebration that he believes Gonzalez should be playing for the United States in the near future, and he was not the only one.
“He works hard, he listens, he’s a young player with a lot of talent that I hope at some point is going to play for the U.S. national team more regularly because he deserves it,” said Beckham before cracking a joke. “He’s been dancing around in (the locker room) naked, so he definitely deserves it after that.
“But no, he deserved the MVP today and we’re very lucky to have a young player with his talent in this team.”
Klinsmamn may soon be saying the same thing.