CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Thursday, July 5, 2012
Omar Gonzalez has returned to action after missing nearly eight months with an ACL injury.
The towering 23-year old center back, hailed by many as one of the heirs apparent to Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra, led the Los Angeles Galaxy's impressive defense last season during their MLS Cup run, earning plenty of plaudits but no National Team opportunities.
During the annual January camp earlier this year, Gonzalez was invited up by Jurgen Klinsmann to finally get his first opportunity since a 2010 friendly against Brazil, but it was derailed while on loan to FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga. In his first practice with his potential German-suitors, Gonzalez collided with fellow American Timothy Chandler and tore his ACL, putting him out of action until last night.
The Galaxy's poor defense yielded little opportunity for Bruce Arena to ease Gonzalez back into the lineup when he was cleared to play, and Arena wasted no time in inserting the Texan into the starting lineup. The Galaxy's defense had given up the most goals in the Western Conference this season, and it was clear that Arena wanted to waste no time with the status quo.
The Independence Day meeting between the Galaxy and Philadelphia Union featured a capacity 27,000 person crowd to welcome back Gonzalez, and Los Angeles came out strong with several clear opportunities to go ahead, but a combination of Zac MacMath and defenders sprawling across the goal line kept Los Angeles off the board. Robbie Keane had three tremendous opportunities in the first half to put the home team ahead, but MacMath stoned him on one, and two goal line clearances kept the other two out.
The Union went ahead in first half stoppage time from a Jack McInerney back heel at the right corner of the goal box, sneaking the ball to the far post. Gonzalez was marking Keon Daniel in front of goal, and was not involved in the play.
Gonzalez was subbed off at halftime, but the good news for Galaxy and national team fans is that there did not appear to be any signs of physical weakness. The game appeared to be heading to a disappointing tie until deep into stoppage time when Michael Farfan scored the winning goal for Philadelphia, converting on a nice back heeled pass from Lionard Pajoy that sent Farfan into the box.
The Galaxy's next game is Sunday, July 8th at Chicago, and Gonzalez should be expected to see more time as he continues his quest to get back to being a 90-minute player.