Skip to content

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

Mar 27, 2013, 1:10 AM EST

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. Arsene Wenger hails his team’s attitude, Sanogo and the path forward

    Nov 26, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-ANDERLECHT-TRAINING Getty Images

    Wenger was in good spirits following his side’s victory that put an end to his two-match losing skid.

  2. Ross Barkley Divegate: Why Martinez defends him and what it means

    Nov 26, 2014, 9:50 PM EST

    Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Yes, Barkley dove and yes, (news flash) Martinez is overly protective of his players.

  3. Cesc Fabregas claims he’s playing the best football of his life

    Nov 26, 2014, 8:32 PM EST

    Let's talk about Cesc... Getty Images

    “I feel that right now I am playing some of the best football of my career,” Fabregas said.

  4. Emile Heskey offers himself to Leicester City to help scoring woes

    Nov 26, 2014, 7:38 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-DISCRIMINATION-HESKEY-SIN

    “It goes without saying, I’d love to come,” Heskey told BBC Radio Leicester.

  5. Franck Ribery lashes out at “politics” behind the Ballon d’Or

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:44 PM EST

    gareth_bale_franck_ribery AP

    Poor Franck. All fired up and not even on the 23-man shortlist.

  6. Despite their struggles, Liverpool’s season intact as spirit shines through

    Nov 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Can Liverpool build off this draw in Sofia? Their manager Brendan Rodgers has cause for optimism.

  7. Champions League roundup: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid through, tense elsewhere

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:21 PM EST

    All the action from the penultimate games in Groups A-D, as two teams booked their spot in the last 16.

  8. Paul Mitchell named Tottenham’s new head of recruitment

    Nov 26, 2014, 5:19 PM EST

    Paul Mitchell

    The raid on Southampton continues, as their recruiting guru heads to Spurs.

  9. Arsenal 2-0 Dortmund: Sanogo and Sanchez send the Gunners through to the Knockout Stage

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:43 PM EST

    Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    It was an upbeat display from the Gunners, who move on to the Champions League knockout stage.

  10. Ludogorets 2-2 Liverpool: Late equalizer spells more misery for Reds, but there’s hope

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:42 PM EST

    Reds cough up late goal, but can still advance to the last 16 of the UCL with a win over Basel in their final group game.

  11. VIDEO: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo scores 71st Champions League goal

    Nov 26, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-REAL FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-REAL

    Watch Ronaldo go level with Raul as he puts some pressure on Messi.

  12. At The Half – Arsenal 1-0 Dortmund: Sanogo’s strike the difference

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:41 PM EST

    Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League

    Good start for the Arsenal, scoring early through Yaya Sanogo.

  13. Pochettino wants more rest between European and Premier League matches

    Nov 26, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur FC Training and Press Conference Getty Images

    As Tottenham continue to struggle, Mauricio Pochettino believes his team needs more rest between competitions.

  14. Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 Benfica: Danny strike eliminates Portuguese champs

    Nov 26, 2014, 2:27 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-BENFICA Getty Images

    The Zenit skipper earned three points for the home side as Benfica’s Champions League dreams ended in St. Petersburg.

  15. LIVE – Champions League: Arsenal host Dortmund, Liverpool face Ludogorets

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:58 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Follow all the action from the UCL’s eight games on Wednesday, right here.

  16. Liverpool legend says Simon Mignolet is ‘worse than Dracula’

    Nov 26, 2014, 1:13 PM EST

    Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Former Reds’ goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar had some choice words for the struggling Simon Mignolet as Liverpool’s tumultuous season continues.

  17. Arjen Robben: Bayern were ‘brutally punished’ by City

    Nov 26, 2014, 12:29 PM EST

    Manchester City FC v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The Bayern star was outshone by Sergio Aguero’s hat trick in Munich’s 3-2 loss to Manchester City.

  18. Victor Moses out up to eight weeks with injury

    Nov 26, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Stoke City v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Stoke City will be without their on-loan winger as the Nigerian international is sidelined with a thigh injury.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday