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What to look for in Omar Gonzalez’s first game as a DP? Something better, perhaps

Aug 17, 2013, 4:01 PM EDT

2012 MLS Cup - Los Angeles Galaxy Training Session Getty Images

Omar Gonzalez has two versions: the absolutely dominant one, the commanding, physically imposing presence we witnessed last year in MLS Cup 2012, when he was the best player on the field.

And then there is the version of Gonzalez that is merely pretty good.

And if we’re being honest, we’ve seen a bit too much of that one lately.

In fairness, it has been a busy, busy summer for the defender out of Dallas. He was front and center in those World Cup qualifiers in June that turned out so successfully, positioning the United States to officially clinch a World Cup berth next month. Then Gonzalez provided U.S. support in the Gold Cup elimination matches of July.

Plus, all this contract rigmarole was surely something of a weight, balancing the delicate choices of remaining an MLS man after 2013 or going abroad, pushing out of his comfort zone.

Wither way, he hasn’t been exactly tip-top. Not in MLS nor on the national team, where Kansas City’s Matt Besler seems to have passed Gonzalez as Jurgen Klinsmann’s primary building block along the back line. (And we all saw how well Anthony Brooks played in his U.S. debut Wednesday, right?)

So Gonzalez has some work ahead, for club and country. Again, he hasn’t been poor. And playing in front of rickety goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who has been far less than the Galaxy expected after arriving in January from Tottenham, surely comes with its own set of problem.

But Gonzalez earns the big bucks now. (And good on MLS, and the Galaxy, for finally pushing further into territory where it’s not just strikers and creative midfielders who are getting handed the Designated Player contracts.)

It’s time for Gonzalez to rise, to be consistently great rather than good, a little closer to the version we saw in 2012, where he and Robbie Keane drove the Galaxy into and through the MLS playoffs.

By the way, a match tonight against Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake would be a wonderful place to start.

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