Klinsmann issues challenge to LA's Gonzalez after call-up

Omar Gonzalez

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

US national team fans had been clamoring for his inclusion for some time and now MLS Cup 2012 Volkswagen MVP Omar Gonzalez is finally back in the USMNT mix.

The LA Galaxy defender was one of nine defenders called up by USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann for January camp which kicks off on Monday in Gonzalez's backyard at The Home Depot Center.

But Klinsmann's invite is less of a reward for a stellar end to the 2012 season than it is a challenge for the 24-year-old to step up to the big stage.

"He needs to show us he’s ready for a big step into international football," Klinsmann told Fox Soccer's Goals on Sunday show. "He needs to show us that he wants to break in. He needs to show us that he’s ready to guide a back line, that he’s ready to communicate a lot and take over the responsibility."

It's been nearly a full two years that Gonzalez has seen time with the red-white-and-blue. His last appearance came back on January 22 of 2011 against Chile and he has yet to earn a single call-up in the Klinsmann era before Sunday.

But the US boss says that the knee ligament injury that he sustained while on loan to German side Nurnberg is the primary culprit.

"If it wasn’t for his injury at the beginning of last year, he would have been with us already on a regular basis," Klinsmann told Fox Soccer. "Yes, obviously tremendous physical abilities. He grew under Bruce Arena into a very good, solid centerback but national team is another level. And so we are happy to have him now finally with us in camp and to see him work on a daily basis.”