Jul 25, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT
Thanks to a combination of factors, Omar Gonzalez hasn’t taken his place in the LA Galaxy defense since May 3, when he suffered a knee injury against the Colorado Rapids. Then came the World Cup, a rolled ankle against Belgium, and a layoff after his return from Brazil. Though Gonzalez had hoped to play on Wednesday against Manchester United, the friendly became the latest in a long line of matches the Galaxy tackled without its best defender.
On Friday in Carson, Calif., the U.S. international was finally back in full training, and while match fitness remains a huge concern, the 25-year-old is hoping Monday’s game at CenturyLink Field will mark his return to Bruce Arena’s starting XI.
“Still very optimistic about Monday,” he said. “Thought it best just to miss the Manchester game, make sure that I get healthy for Monday because that’s the most important game. … I could have played a couple minutes [on Wednesday], but we thought an extra day could help me. So now, hopefully, that day off will help me, and, hopefully, I will go 90 minutes on Monday.”
According to Arena, Gonzalez’s training had been limited since his return from the World Cup. On Friday, following a day off, he returned to full practice. Though the turf in Seattle is a concern, both team and player remain hopeful a weekend’s work will leave him ready to go:
“Obviously, the injury that I had just takes time to recover from, but when you get injured, the one [issue] is always, ‘Are you game fit, are you ready to go 90 minutes?’” he said. “And I think I am.”
As a testament to players like A.J. DeLaGarza, Dan Gargan, and Leonardo, LA’s defense hasn’t suffered in Gonzalez’s absence. In the six games Gonzalez started, the Galaxy conceded five times, giving up multiple goals only once. In the 11 league games that’ve followed, LA’s allowed 11 goals, compensating for injuries by relying on the likes of Robbie Rogers.
Regardless, the best version of the LA Galaxy is one where Gonzalez performs like his former Defender of the Year self. And the only way for him to do that is to get back on the field.
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