“I was definitely surprised about getting the start,” says Omar Gonzalez. He’s speaking via phone from Brazil, where the LA Galaxy defender is fresh off his first World Cup start for the US Mens National Team. “My mindset the whole time was, if my name gets called, I’ll be ready.”
And ready he was. In a hard-fought match against Germany, team USA managed to weather the storm and hold the Group G winners to a single goal. These are the same Germans who routed Portugal, 4 – nil. Gonzalez has often been the focus of criticism for his club play, but his showing against Germany drew an entirely different response.
“You know, it’s pretty telling how quickly people can go from talking crap or criticizing, and then all of a sudden be in your corner if you have a good performance,” joked Gonzalez. But critics are the last thing on his mind: “My worry isn’t what people are thinking — what I’m staying focused on is my team, the 23 guys that are here, and my coaches.”
“What I’m staying focused on is my team, the 23 guys that are here, and my coaches.”
Tomorrow’s game against Belgium is a huge one, and not only because a loss would spell the end of USA’s World Cup run. It’s also huge because of the record-setting flurry of interest across the States.
“You hear about the watch parties and you see the pictures, and the videos, and the amount of fans that are following us,” said Omar, who’s tuned-in to the wellspring of enthusiasm for this team. “It makes us want to work harder for all the people watching. We want to give them a great performance, and I think as long as we put forth whatever we’ve got, everyone can be happy for that. Hopefully we can give them a win.”
“You see the amount of fans that are following us … it makes us want to work harder for all the people watching.”
A win won’t be easy. The USMNT lost to Belgium in a friendly just over a year ago, and a betting man wouldn’t count on anything different this time around.
“We know they have very talented players,” admitted Gonzalez, “but they’re not more talented than what we’ve seen already.” He’s right about that. Surviving the so-called Group of Death is an impressive coup for the USA, but they’ll need to be even better tomorrow.
“We want to be a bit more aggressive,” said Omar about the game plan. “We were too late in getting to the German guys last game, so we want to make sure to not let them have too much possession, and if they do have possession to not make it easy for them.”
As for whether LA Galaxy fans will get to see their hometown defender in the starting lineup again, well, that’s the least of Gonzalez’s concerns. He’s a man in the trenches:
“Right now my mind is just about the team here,” explained Omar. “If my name gets called upon again I’m going to work just as hard as anyone on the field. Tomorrow it’s going to take another great team effort, and that’s something that I believe our team is very strong at. We put together good team performances — so that’s where I’m at right now and I’m going to fight for the guy next to me.”