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. MLS Sunday review: Toronto FC ease to victory against lowly Chivas USA

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:37 AM EDT

    toronto_fc AP

    Toronto FC vs. Chivas USA was the only MLS match to occur on Sunday.

  2. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Real Madrid smokes Deportivo, Juve downs Milan

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    Roundup of Serie A and La Liga matches from the weekend.

  3. Manchester City’s Zabaleta believes Diego Costa luckily escaped red card

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

    manchester-city-pablo-zabaleta Getty Images

    Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta thinks the referee let Diego Costa off without a red card during their encounter that spurred a red card for the Argentine.

  4. Barcelona stays undefeated with 5-0 drubbing of Levante

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Barcelona beat Levante 5-0 on Sunday to continue their winning streak in all competitions.

  5. Joe Hart’s Manchester City future in limbo, Liverpool may target the goalkeeper

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Can England start to churn out talents such as Joe Hart from SGP on a regular basis? Getty Images

    Manchester City goalie Joe Hart confirmed that he hadn’t discussed a new contract with the club, and Liverpool is a prime candidate for his services, according to the Metro.

  6. Merseyside police to explore racist comments at Mario Balotelli

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT

    hi-res-133f09d31924ea9d682e1f1a8a3ffef1_crop_north Getty Images

    More racism was thrown at Mario Balotelli, but this time, it appears law enforcement will get involved.

  7. Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck brandish skills in 3-0 win over Aston Villa

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT

    Mesut Özil returns for Arsenal as they attempt to reclaim the top of the Premier League table with a win over Stoke. AP

    Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck scored and assisted each other during the Gunners 3-0 win over Aston Villa.

  8. WATCH: Alessandro Florenzi embraces grandmother in stands after goal

    Sep 21, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Unknown Getty Images

    Alessandro Florenzi hugged and kissed his grandmother in the Stade Olimpico stands following his goal in AS Roma’s 2-0 victory over Cagliari.

  9. Roberto Martinez on Crystal Palace loss: ‘We didn’t have that real drive about us’

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT

    Martinez AP

    Everton manager Roberto Martinez laments loss to Crystal Palace, saying that his squad lost its drive for victory.

  10. Daniel Sturridge reacts to Lampard’s equalizer against Chelsea

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT

    Lampard Getty Images

    One England international paid respects to another as a legend scored an emotional goal for his new team against his old.

  11. Emotional Lampard just as shocked after pegging back ex-club Chelsea (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    We didn’t see this coming, and neither did Frank Lampard.

  12. Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea: Lampard shocks former club with late equalizer (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    Zabaleta AP

    Pablo Zabaleta’s second yellow card changed the game, but a former Chelsea legend came back to haunt them.

  13. Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Visitors overwhelm Goodson with deadly counters (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

    PalaceEverton

    Everton started early and saw much of the ball but Crystal Palace got a few breaks and took advantage to pick up their first win of the season.

  14. Mario Balotelli mocks Manchester United on twitter

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Balotelli AP

    Mario Balotelli put an LOL up on Twitter at Manchester United’s expense, and subjected himself to some horrible racial abuse.

  15. VIDEO: Angel Di Maria scores stunning chip for Manchester United

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    ManchesterUnited AP

    Despite heavy defeat, United’s new attacker scores goal of the season contender.

  16. Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Everton Getty Images

    Everton has sewn the seeds for a good run of form and are hoping to build on recent success against a struggling Palace squad.

  17. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Chelsea (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

    Costa AP

    Diego Costa hsa been in fantastic form to begin his Premier League career, and has the chance to fire Chelsea five points clear at the top of the table.

  18. Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United: Foxes complete comeback for the ages (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    LCFCvMUFC Getty Images

    Manchester United were left shell-shocked after blowing a 3-1 lead against Premier League minnows.

  19. Tottenham 0-1 West Brom: Baggies get off the bottom with deserved win (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    WestBrom Getty Images

    Spurs offered little as James Morrison propelled West Brom off the bottom of the table.

Featured video

Week 5: Top five Premier League goals