Skip to content

Mexico vs. United States Man of the Match: Omar Gonzalez

Mar 27, 2013, 1:10 AM EDT

FBL-WC2014-QUALIFIERS-MEX-USA

The conversation usually centers around Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and when he’s available, Landon Donovan. Tim Howard also gets his due, but when discussion shifts the U.S. Men’s National Team’s best player, Omar Gonzalez’s name has never come up.

And that makes sense. Before tonight, he would have been seen as too inexperienced (five caps), too young (24), or just lacking the kind of international resume to sustain a place in the debate. He’s just recently become a first choice player in Jurgen Klinsmann’s XI. How can he be compared to Dempsey and Bradley?

But after Tuesday night’s performance against Mexico, you can you see a future where Omar Gonzalez is the U.S.’s best player. Because if he’s not the best player in the pool right now, he’s quickly becoming the most important.

(MORE: United States get big draw in Mexico)

Leading his team to a clean sheet at Azteca, Gonzalez gave a performance reminiscent of last December’s MLS Cup final. In Carson, Gonzalez dominated at the back and headed home the opening goal while leading the LA Galaxy to Major League Soccer’s crown.

He didn’t quite replicate that impact on Tuesday, but against a much higher level of competition, his contributions were just as notable.

As his fellow defenders Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, and DeMarcus Beasley struggled through the first half hour, Gonzalez was there to bail them out, sweeping up as his teammates left space for Mexico to exploit. As the U.S. adjusted, Gonzalez was able to be even more decisive, providing decisive clearances both on the ground and in the air. With Mexico able to put in 20 crosses (to the U.S.’s eight), Gonzalez’s aerial prowess and role as the defense’s anchor was constantly tested.

Seven clearances, five recoveries, four interceptions, and a blocked shots – these are the stats that describe the individual performance. The main contribution, however, was seen on the scoreboard.

(MORE: Big result took a little luck)

To keep a clean sheet at Azteca, it was going to take some a great performance. As a team, the U.S.’s defense met that standard. As an individual? Gonzalez stood out.

Going forward, it remains to be seen how much this changes our perception of Gonzalez. Same with Brad Guzan. Same with Matt Besler, who looked strong over the last hour. Standout performances with the highest stakes tend to stick out in people’s minds.

For Gonzalez, he is already recognized as the best defender in Major League Soccer. He’s already become the only defender to win MVP at an MLS Cup final. His value to the star-laden Galaxy was proven during last season’s absence, and during his most recent time with the national team, he’s shown how much he’s progressed from the young, limited player who was exploited in his first international minutes.

(MORE: Time for Mexico to deal with their own crisis)

Omar Gonzalez is clearly no longer the player he once was. He may be the best defender Major League Soccer’s ever produced, and after Tuesday’s performance, we know he’s the most important defender in the pool.

The lingering question, after a dominant performance in the biggest match of his career: How good is he? It’s too early to say for sure, but if he’s capable of replicating tonight’s performance, then he’s the best the U.S. has got. Not best defender – best player.

Latest Posts
  1. Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny officially off to Roma on season-long loan

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Szczesny Getty Images

    After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.

  2. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    LiverpoolLogo

    Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.

  3. Jose Mourinho hits back at Rafael Benitez’s wife; he “destroyed” Inter Milan, needs new diet

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Chelsea Getty Images

    Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.

  4. Chelsea issue injury update on Gary Cahill and Diego Costa

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA

    Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.

  5. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Leicester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Leicester City logo

    Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?

  6. Michel Platini announces he will run for FIFA presidency

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.

  7. Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona: Good-looking goals to spare in Maryland (video)

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    LANDOVER, MD - JULY 28: Luis Suarez #9 of Barcelona battles with Kurt Zouma #5 of Chelsea in the first half during the International Champions Cup North America at FedExField on July 28, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.

  8. WATCH: Juking, solo dribble goal by Newcastle’s Haris Vuckic is quite nice

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT

    NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 1: Haris Vuckic smiles during the Newcastle United Pre-Season Training session at The Newcastle United Training Centre on July 1, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.

  9. Cavani to sit two games including World Cup qualifier for post-Jara red card

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:43 PM EDT

    SANTIAGO, CHILE - JUNE 24:  Edinson Cavani of Uruguay (L) argues with Gonzalo Jara of Chile (NOT IN FRAME) during the 2015 Copa America Chile quarter final match between Chile and Uruguay at Nacional Stadium on June 24, 2015 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cavani will miss Uruguay’s first CONMEBOL qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Bolivia will benefit.

  10. Mob Museum in Vegas to open FIFA exhibit in September

    Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 03: A policeman stands in front of the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Joseph S. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.

  11. MLS All Star Game preview: Forecasting the day when the idea is clearly ridiculous

    Jul 28, 2015, 6:11 PM EDT

    COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 28:  (L-R) MLS All-Star Graham Zusi of the Sporting Kansas City, Waylon Francis of the Columbus Crew and DaMarcus Beasley of the Houston Dynamo work out during training ahead of the MLS All-Star Game against the Tottenham Hotspur at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 28, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Graham Zusi; Waylon Francis; DaMarcus Beasley Getty Images

    Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow.

  12. Mexico post-Herrera: Few answers, many questions as El Tri moves forward

    Jul 28, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT

    The president of the Mexican Football Federation Decio de Maria Serrano  announces the dismissal of Mexico's national football team coach Miguel Herrera during a press conference on July 28, 2015 in Mexico City.  Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera was sacked on Tuesday following allegations of an assault against a television journalist, just two days after guiding them to their seventh Gold Cup trophy in the United States.  AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Who takes over the ship, one in which the majority of the hands reportedly liked playing for Herrera?

  13. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Everton

    Jul 28, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Everton badge

    Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.

  14. Official: Miguel Herrera fired by Mexico days after Gold Cup win, alleged attack on journalist

    Jul 28, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    150728-Herrera Getty Images

    The nation has now changed men’s national team managers 15 times since 2000, and only two of those changes were caretaker moves.

  15. Done deals: Vidal to Bayern Munich, Luis leaves Chelsea for Atletico Madrid, Crespo to Aston Villa

    Jul 28, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

    Here’s a look at some of the top deals from another busy day across Europe.

  16. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Crystal Palace

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    CrystalPalaceLogo

    Can the Eagles surprise everyone again? With Cabaye running the show, don’t rule it out.

  17. Jose Mourinho ranks Chelsea’s Eden Hazard above Cristiano Ronaldo

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard AP

    Mourinho: “In my opinion he should be in the top three.”

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window