GONZALEZ AIMING FOR NEXT LEVEL
With the MLS entering into the second half of its season this past weekend, LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez is hoping to continue to play well and emerge as US national defender at the start of the 2014 cycle.
Gonzalez, 21, is only in his second professional season with the southern California franchise.
After leading the University of Maryland to the NCAA championship in 2008, he was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
The Dallas native would then continue his quick rise in his first season where he would emerge as a regular starter while winning the MLS Rookie of the Year in the process. Now in his second season he has picked up where he left off and was named to the 2010 MLS All Star team.
While the MLS players lost to Manchester United 5-2 in the game, Gonzalez viewed last week's game as a positive experience even though the score was lopsided.
"I loved it. I thought it was an amazing experience," Gonzalez recalled to YA. "I got to see what the next level is even though they're in preseason. I couldn't imagine what they are like when they are in full gear. I thought that they were awesome. Those guys were so fast and they put pressure on you so much."
"I want to be playing over there next," he would quickly add while not hiding his future European ambitions.
As a highly anticipated young and upcoming player for the US national team, Gonzalez also got a future glimpse in the All Star game as to what could be the next great individual rivalry against Mexico when he squared off against Manchester United's Mexican striker Javier Hernández.
"Chicharito is 21 too and he is awesome," Gonzalez analyzed. "I think he's going to be a really good player and I look forward to playing up against him."
Gonzalez has developed quickly in large part to the professional environment his finds himself in with the Galaxy. On that team he is surrounded by World Cup veterans in Landon Donovan, Eddie Lewis and Gregg Berhalter.
"Gregg Berhalter helps me out and Landon is always talking to me off the field," Gonzalez said of the Galaxy. "Whenever he has something to tell me he is always the guy to come talk to."
The next step for Gonzalez will be to earn his first cap and emerge as a regular with the US national team during the 2014 World Cup cycle. Gonzalez feels as if he knows what he has to do to get to that point.
"I think I need to just keep on doing what I am doing," Gonzalez concluded. "Keep on playing well. I can get fitter and maybe a little bit stronger – just work on my overall leadership. I think that I'll be there."