Skip to content

Mistakes mean progress for emerging Omar Gonzalez

Jun 12, 2013, 2:48 AM EDT

Omar Gonzalez AP

SEATTLE — A late save on a Luis Tejada chance, and Tim Howard had preserved another United States shutout, their third in five qualifiers. The goal would have been meaningless, the States already two up by the time Panama generated their best chance of the match, but it was another instance when defender Omar Gonzalez saw an error ruin what would have otherwise been a standout night.

“For most of the night, I thought that we did pretty well,” Gonzalez said after the U.S.’s victory. “There was that chance at the end, but that’s why you have Tim Howard – to make those saves in case they do get behind.”

While Howard did show his quality, defenders don’t get credit for needing their goalkeeper to bail them out. For Gonzalez, the moment fits a pattern that started with his first start in Honduras, his mistakes in the U.S.’s Hex opener contributing to a 2-1 loss. Slowly, those mistakes have become less meaningful, but for a player that regularly dominates long stretches of play, the errors stand in stark contrast to play that would otherwise place him among CONCACAF’s elite.

“Hopefully there comes a point soon where I put in a good, solid 90 minutes with no mistakes and help this team win,” Gonzalez said, still lamenting the Tejada chance while managing to stay positive about his overall performance.

And Gonzalez has plenty to be positive about. As the U.S.’s right center half, he had the responsibility of supporting right back Brad Evans, a man targeted by Panama from the match’s opening moments. Runs behind the natural midfielder by left wing Alberto Quintero and left back Carlos Rodriguez would have found early success, but to Gonzalez’s credit, Panama was never able to threaten Howard through Evans..

“They were going after Brad quite a bit,” Gonzalez conceded, asked to assess how he adjusted to the tactic. “I just wanted to make sure [Evans had] enough cover there. There were a couple of times that guy got around Brad, but I thought he and I both did well to get around the ball and make sure that [Panama] didn’t make the play.”

Run your mind over the rest of the U.S. player pool, and it’s difficult to come up with another player capable of providing that kind of protection. And in the 37th minute, as he reacted to a give-and-go at the top of the U.S. area, Gonzalez gave fans a perfect example of why, despite his momentary lapses, he remains the team’s top defender. Picking off Tejada’s pass and playing it into midfield, Gonzalez quickly defused what has been Panama’s most promising moment.

Not coincidentally, the fact Jurgen Klinsmann has been so forgiving of Gonzalez’s errors enables those kind of plays. Confident enough to force the pass while smart enough to read the ensuing play, Gonzalez eventually won the ball. Had be been more risk averse, he may have merely elected to keep the play in front of him and hope to block a shot.

“It just helps me personally to settle down a little bit and know that if I do make a mistake, it’s fine,” Gonzalez said of Klinsmann’s approach. “You learn from it, and you just try to forget about it as quick as possible.

“And (you) keep trying those things, because if you don’t try it, then you’re not going to get any better … [Klinsmann’s approach] gives every player that much more confidence to do something on the field.”

In aggregate, the results have been convincing. Gonzalez is the only defender to play every minute in qualifying’s final round, a stage that’s seen the U.S. give up only three goals in five games. If that’s with a Gonzalez that’s still coming into his own on the international stage, how good will the team be once the 24-year-old finishes his adjustment?

“There have been a lot of situations in a short period of time,” Gonzalez says, talking about being throw into the fire during the Hex. “I’ve been [putting] a lot of information in my head. Take the good stuff. And the bad stuff that happens, just forget about that.

“Like the Belgium game, things like that. I think all those are learning experiences. I’m feeling a little bit more comfortable with every game.”

It’s the kind of confession fans may not want to hear from their first choice defender, somebody who’d ideally be the unit’s most stalwart performer and leader. But while his ever-present role in final round qualifying hints at that stature, Gonzalez is not ready to call himself the group’s leading man.

“I don’t know if it [I am], but I’m happy to keep on playing,” was Gonzalez’s response when asked if he’s become the de facto leader in defense. “I’m happy to be stepping on the field and contributing to these performances.

“We’re one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup. I’m just really happy to be out there and a part of something that’s bigger than myself – just getting it done.”

Latest Posts
  1. Three things we learned from Juventus vs. Real Madrid

    May 5, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-JUVENTUS-REALMADRID FBL-EUR-C1-JUVENTUS-REALMADRID

    The Italian champs take a slender lead to the Spanish capital with them after a classic European encounter.

  2. Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid: Tevez penalty lifts Juve over defending champs

    May 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    Tevez stole the show as Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin. Tevez stole the show as Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin.

    A second-half penalty from Carlos Tevez led Juventus to a big home win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

  3. Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge undergoes hip surgery

    May 5, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

    The Reds’ striker will now begin his rehabilitation towards next season after a disappointing campaign riddled with injuries.

  4. Newcastle captain pens open letter apologizing for recent nosedive

    May 5, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT

    Coloccini Getty Images

    The captain came to his team’s defense, but it ended up coming out quite awkward.

  5. LIVE – UEFA Champions League semifinal: Can Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin?

    May 5, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    FBL-ITA-SERIEA-JUVENTUS-FIORENTINA FBL-ITA-SERIEA-JUVENTUS-FIORENTINA

    The Italian champions welcome the reigning European champions to Turin for the first leg of their semifinal. Follow all the action live.

  6. Rais Mbolhi rejoins Philadelphia Union, back training in full

    May 5, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    Mbohli Getty Images

    Thought to be on his way out, Rais Mbolhi is back with the club. For now.

  7. Injured Oscar out of Brazil squad for upcoming Copa America

    May 5, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT

    Oscar Getty Images

    Oscar hasn’t appeared since his collision with David Ospina, but Dunga says the midfielder’s injury is training related.

  8. Will Chelsea offer Didier Drogba a new contract? Should they?

    May 5, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    Drogba Getty Images

    Didier Drogba is 37 years old, but still represents the best option for his role that Chelsea can buy.

  9. US Soccer adds Guatemala to summer friendly list days before Gold Cup

    May 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Guatemala AP

    Just four days before opening the Gold Cup, the US will host a familiar CONCACAF opponent.

  10. Report: Newcastle in for Aleksandar Mitrovic, agree to $22 million fee

    May 5, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    Mitrovic Getty Images

    Newcastle appears to have lofty goals, but the prospects of bringing a Champions League striker to St. James Park while trying to stave off relegation appear grim.

  11. American defender Will Packwood released by Birmingham City, while Spector’s extended

    May 5, 2015, 8:38 AM EDT

    Packwood Getty Images

    The 21-year-old Packwood saw his playing time significantly diminished this season, and finished the year on loan in League Two. Meanwhile, his experienced teammate Jonathan Spector is staying on.

  12. Reports: Chelsea gearing up contract extension talks with Mourinho

    May 5, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    With Jose Mourinho “here to stay” Chelsea has looked to make that sentiment official.

  13. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Round 35

    May 4, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    Christian Benteke, Aston Villa FC Christian Benteke, Aston Villa FC

    Christian Benteke’s two goals against not only pushed Aston Villa closer to Premier League safety, but earned the Belgian POTW honors.

  14. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Matchweek 35

    May 4, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC

    This week’s standout performers are recognized as the 2014-15 Premier League season winds down.

  15. UEFA Champions League preview: Juventus vs. Real Madrid in semifinal, 1st leg

    May 4, 2015, 8:54 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF James Rodriguez & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF

    The first semifinal kicks off on Tuesday, as Juventus host Real Madrid, with Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema out injured.

  16. VIDEO: Wenger rues early-season injuries that prevented Arsenal’s title challenge

    May 4, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez & Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC Alexis Sanchez & Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC

    If not for an incredibly slow start to the season, Arsenal might be neck and neck with Chelsea for the Premier League title.

  17. Premier League Playback: Title in the bag, can Chelsea now create a dynasty?

    May 4, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes a look back at Week 35 of the PL.

  18. Hull City 1-3 Arsenal: Gunners dominant in first half, cruise past Tigers

    May 4, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC

    Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey provided all the scoring Arsenal needed in a dominant first half, making it a comfortable victory in the end.

  19. MLS Player of the Week — Week 9: FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo

    May 4, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas — Photo credit: FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas — Photo credit: FC Dallas

    Our first repeat winner as MLS Player of the Week, Fabian Castillo is in scary-good form right now.

Featured video

Week 35: Premier League recap