If Omar Gonzalez winds up becoming a U.S. soccer legend, he’ll have a trio of legendary coaches to thank for part of his success. The L.A. Galaxy defender has played for three of the biggest names in the American game, and that's after coming through the famed Dallas Texans youth system.
During the interview that produced this piece on Gonzalez’ life in L.A. and the big year ahead, he shared his thoughts on U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Galaxy boss Bruce Arena and University of Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski.
Here they are:
On Cirovksi, whose Terrapins teams have won two NCAA titles, made seven College Cup appearances and sent the likes of Taylor Twellman, Graham Zusi, Clarence Goodson and Maurice Edu, among others, to the pros
“I think in that time, college, he added more things just about being a good person, about growing up a little bit. Obviously on the field he teaches you a lot about the game. That was my first time with video and things like that and trying to eat better, so college is definitely a different time. It’s when you learn more about yourself, and obviously we had good teams. We played good soccer and we won a national championship.
"Sasho was really intense. He could get a little bit kooky and curse up a storm, but the main thing about him is he really cares about his players. He gave players second chances – a lot more chances than maybe we deserved. But at the end of the day he really believed in us and the way he cared about us was really special.”
On Arena, who guided D.C. United and the Galaxy to a combined four MLS titles. In between, he coached the U.S. at two World Cups and took the Americans to the quarterfinals in 2002.
“He’s pretty funny. He’s kind of laid back and always telling jokes. And some borderline jokes that probably shouldn’t be said. he’s always saying them. The New York sense of humor. He’s a Brooklyn guy.
"But he knows his stuff. He’s been around for quite a while, winning championships in college [at the University of Virginia] and with the national team. In this league I think he’s definitely the best. What he’s done with D.C. United and now here, just getting the right people in the locker room and building a good team. We’ve been successful ever since he came to the Galaxy.
"Even though I’ve made some mistakes here and there, he’s been really forgiving and just helping me along. He’s always there to say, ‘All right, you know, you [expletive]ed up this time but you’ve got to show up next time.’ He’s been really great to play for and I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’ll enjoy to continue playing for him.”
On Klinsmann, who won both the World Cup and European Championship as a player before managing Germany to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. This year, he took the U.S. to first place in the Hexagonal and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title.
“I haven’t spent as much time under him, but from what I can tell he’s really good motivator and he really loves the professionalism about a player – about the things he does off the field, about what he does to prepare for games. He’s a totally different side from everything else I’ve known so far because at the national team, just the people he has on his staff. We might have more staff than players at these camps. But everyone plays a role and he believes in all that, whether it’s the strength and conditioning coach, the nutritionist, all sorts of different people. But everyone is there for a reason and I think for him, he knows his soccer, he motivates us and he’s really pulling the team together as well.