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Opportunity factor high for U.S. center back Omar Gonzalez

Jan 6, 2013, 6:14 PM EDT

Real Salt Lake Fabian Espindola battles Los Angeles Galaxy Omar Gonzalez for the ball during their MLS western conference playoff soccer game in Carson, California

If we look at the Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for the January camp (announced earlier today) in terms of “opportunity factor,” the name right at the tippy top of that list belongs to Omar Gonzalez.

All the elements are in place:

There’s a need at the position, given Carlos Bocanegra’s age, the inability of peripheral center back figures like Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Ream to get the kind of minutes that might boost their places in the order, plus other factors.

Clearly, Gonzalez has the talent. The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and two-time MLS Cup winner, has every single physical tool needed of a center back at highest level.

And the team’s coaching staff – heck, everybody in the U.S. Soccer scene, probably – are cheering for the big fellow.

So, yes, all the elements are in place, creating a high opportunity factor as Gonzalez joins his first extended camp under Klinsmann. If all goes well over the next three weeks, there’s no reason to believe Gonzalez won’t be in the starting lineup on Jan. 29 when the camp concludes with a Jan. 29 friendly against Canada down in Houston.

What does Gonzalez need to demonstrate, exactly, over the next three weeks? Here’s what Klinsmann had to say Sunday during Fox Soccer Channel’s Goals on Sunday show:

He needs to show to us that he is ready. That he is ready for a big step into international football. He needs to show us that he wants to break in. He needs to show that he is ready to guide a back line, and that he is ready to communicate a lot.”

Klinsmann has said repeatedly that Gonzalez would have been involved in the program to a greater degree already but for that serious knee injury from one year ago. Still, the U.S. manager is quite aware of how well L.A.’s back line leader rebounded over the second half of the MLS season. Klinsmann sounds like a guy who wants to be impressed and is hoping to be impressed, and says Gonzalez has all the ability he needs:

But the national team is another level. We are happy to have him finally with us in camp and to see him work on a daily basis.”

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