LA's Gonzalez comfortable, confident in first action of 2012
CARSON, Calif. – On Monday, Omar Gonzalez played for the first time in any competitive setting since tearing a ligament in his left knee.
It went so well he replicated the feat two days later, except this time the stage was much bigger.
Gonzalez made his 2012 debut against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, starting and playing 45 minutes in the Galaxy's 2-1 loss despite indicating Monday that he was on track to return in late July or early August.
In fact, the plan all along was for Gonzalez to play 45 minutes, both he and head coach Bruce Arena said, but no matter the circumstances, Gonzalez was thrilled to return.
"I was really happy to get out there," Gonzalez said. "I was pretty nervous the whole day, but once the ref blew the whistle, I was ready to go and I felt comfortable."
HIGHLIGHTS: Union stun LA in stoppage time
Personally, Gonzalez's return couldn’t have gone better. Philadelphia barely threatened as the center back managed to avoid any potentially dangerous situations. Gonzalez effectively slid into the middle of the field and was able to get a smooth start instead of facing an onslaught of crosses or a physical contest matched up against chippy forward.
"They decided to sit back a little bit and just kind of go for the counterattack, and I thought we had everything locked down pretty good," Gonzalez said. "We were dropping early whenever they decided to hit long balls, and we kept everything in front of us and I thought we did a great job – for the 44 minutes."
Unfortunately for LA, the Union scored in second-half stoppage time and the Galaxy failed to convert their chances in a 2-1 loss.
Still, seeing 2011’s MLS Defender of the Year back in the starting lineup full time will be a boon for the rest of the season, a prospect that could happen sooner rather than later after Gonzalez showed plenty of confidence in his knee.
"There's no room for that kind of hesitation, because if I do hesitate, then I'll give up a goal," Gonzalez said. "I just had to get that out of my mind and go for everything like I was 110 percent."
The Galaxy face a quick turnaround before their next match as they visit Toyota Park on Sunday for a match against Chicago. Gonzalez's task now is to continue recovering and continue building on his rapid progress.
"I felt like I could've gone like 10 more minutes, but we just decided to stick to the plan, just as a thing where you don’t want to play too many minutes," Gonzalez said. "This is sort of a kind of progression, so this game I got 45 minutes, maybe next game I get 60 and you know, go from there."