MLS Cup was Omar's show as Galaxy beat Dynamo for repeat title
CARSON, Calif. -- Omar Gonzalez took to the Twitterverse as somewhat of a prophet Saturday morning.
"Omar's comin'..." he wrote, in reference to HBO's "The Wire" hours before first kick of the 2012 MLS Cup final.
The Galaxy center back didn't just come and show up for the club's second consecutive MLS Cup triumph,
Aside from a non-DP Galaxy player snatching MVP honors in general, the fact that Gonzalez was so potent in itself and was able to steal the MLS Cup final show is a feat at which all can marvel. Just 11 months ago, Gonzalez was in a heap on the FC Nurnberg training field after a tackle from U.S. defender Timmy Chandler caused a torn ACL and ended his winter loan stint with the German club prematurely. What followed was an incredibly quick rehabilitation process that saw Gonzalez return to the playing field just six months later. With enough time left in the season to rebuild his match fitness and recapture his top form, Gonzalez has returned on track for continued stardom, for club and, potentially, country.
"For me, winning an MVP ... I never thought I'd be winning it," Gonzalez said. "It was pretty emotional for me, because at the beginning of the year I didn't see myself getting back to this level. I had some days when I was thinking if I was ever going to come back the same way. Today was really special for me, because I know I'm able to go even further now."
It cannot be overstated how important Gonzalez's able-bodied return to the field was for the Galaxy's championship hopes. He helped stabilize the Galaxy's shaky defense and put the club's wildly underachieving season back on track during a make-or-break summer. Aside from one misstep Saturday, when he kept Calen Carr onside and allowed the Dynamo forward to beat the offside trap and eventually score Houston's goal, Gonzalez was perfect. His aerial prowess thwarted any and all direct Dynamo attacks, and his positional sense, aside from the Dynamo goal, was prolific and poised as well. He cut out cross after cross, both in the air and on the ground, especially as the Dynamo threw everything forward in desperation over the final 10 minutes.
"Everything was working for him tonight," Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear said. "Probably the turning point in their season was when he got healthy, because a lot of things were good going forward, but maybe not as strong defensively, and he's definitely an important part of their back four."
Gonzalez's most notable moment of Saturday's final came when he headed home the equalizing goal, atoning for his earlier error and setting off a frenetic 10-minute stretch in which the Galaxy seized control of the game and never looked back, much like the club did in its wild-card round victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. With a stout defensive showing and a newfound sense of aggression while getting forward, the David Beckham Farewell Show turned into Gonzalez's re-emergence as a defensive cornerstone.
"David had hit a corner a few minutes before Omar's goal, and I think if Omar was more alert and attacked it he may have scored," Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. "David went over to him and said, 'Go attack the ball, that's what your here to do on those plays.' The next time the ball got near Omar, [Juninho] clipped it in and he got it. That was obviously the moment things changed."
Minutes later, when the Galaxy took the lead on Donovan's penalty kick, it was Gonzalez's presence in the area that kept the pressure on the Dynamo defense and prevented Houston from cleanly clearing the ball from danger. The ensuing scrum in the area forced a handball and provided the chance for Donovan to net the winner.
"He's a big, defensive body, great in the air, we knew that coming in," Dynamo captain Brad Davis said. "Tonight he was on his game. When a player like that is on top of his game, he's tough to beat."
Gonzalez's display was a statement of his readiness to re-enter Jurgen Klinsmann's player pool ahead of the final year of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Gonzalez pulled out of the U.S. January training camp last year in favor of his ill-fated loan to Nurnberg. He has overwhelming support for another invitation to be sent his way in the coming weeks.
"Omar is not just a special player, but he's a special person as well," Beckham said. "He works hard, he listens, he's a young player with a lot of talent that I hope at some point he's going to play for the U.S. national team more regularly, because he deserves it. He deserved the MVP today. We're very lucky to have a young player with his talent in this team."
Added Galaxy and former U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, "Omar belongs in the national team pool. When he gets his opportunity he has to show and get on the field. I'm confident that Omar is a player that can play internationally for the United States."
Even though the majority of the storylines in the build-up to MLS Cup surrounded Beckham's farewell from the league and Donovan's potential farewell from the sport, there's another potential departure for the Galaxy to consider.
Gonzalez could very well be going. Back to Europe to take his club game to another level and on his way to Klinsmann's national team roster.