CARSON, Calif. – Minutes after Omar Gonzalez was named MVP of MLS Cup 2012, the 6-foot-5 LA center back celebrated in the locker room by dancing around naked. That’s a sight that’s about as hard to ignore as is Gonzalez’s enormous influence in the Galaxy’s second straight MLS Cup title.
When the 2011 Defender of the Year returned in late summer from a torn ACL suffered during the offseason, it gave the Galaxy the stability they had lacked in their disappointing start to the season and helped them back on the road to MLS Cup. And when the big game came on Saturday, it was Gonzalez who forced the momentum shift with the Galaxy trailing Houston 1-0 as the match passed the hour mark.
In the 60th minute, Gonzalez headed in Juninho’s cross to even the match. And that was all LA needed to get their momentum back.
“That obviously was the moment that things changed,” Landon Donovan said in the postgame press conference.
They did, just five minutes later thanks to Donovan’s penalty kick, and it was the payoff of a series of chances the Galaxy created by pressing the game with renewed confidence.
"That's just what I got to do, game in and game out," Gonzalez said. "I need to be dominant in the air. That's what I'm known for."
On the defensive end, Gonzalez was a calming presence as the Dynamo came out of the gates fast and furious, creating five or so scoring chances within the first 10 minutes.
“Omar, he's not just a special player, but he's a special person,” David Beckham said in the press conference. “He works hard and he listens, he's a young player with a lot of talent that I hope at some point will play for the US national team more regularly, because he deserves it.”
It was perhaps Beckham’s nudging on Saturday, however, that pushed Gonzalez to be more aggressive on set pieces. Less than a minute before the equalizer, he was a step late to a Beckham corner and could only put a weak header on goal that was easily blocked.
Beckham recognized the size mismatch with Houston’s backline and urged the 24-year-old to do more.
“David went over to him and said, ‘Go attack the ball. That's what you’re here to do on those plays,’” Donovan explained. “The next time the ball got near Omar ... [Juninho] put it in, he went and got it.”
And the timing couldn’t have been better with LA wondering when the equalizer was going to come.
“If he didn’t score that goal,” Mike Magee told reporters in a champagne-soaked locker room, “who knows what happens tonight.”