MONTERREY, Mexico – Omar Gonzalez is refreshed, excited and happy to return to his roots. At least for a few days.
The LA Galaxy defender has finally returned to the city of his parents’ birth on a work call, as the Galaxy are set to face Monterrey on Wednesday evening in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com). And even though he will be all business on the field, he couldn’t hide his delight on returning.
“I think it’s great that everyone found out that I’m from this city,” said Gonzalez, who added that he will have 50 family members in attendance on Wednesday night. “I have a lot of ties to this city and this is a great city even though it’s a little dangerous right now. I always still love coming back to visit.”
Once the opening whistle blows, though, his focus will shift entirely, mostly to Monterrey’s fearsome strike duo of Aldo de Nigris and Humberto Suazo, both of whom tallied in the final 15 minutes of Monterrey’s 2-1 first-leg win at the Home Depot Center last week.
“We ended up letting ourselves down in the final 15 minutes [last week], so now coming here to their house, we’re going to have to put in a solid 90 minutes plus of full concentration.” Gonzalez said. “We need to make the game and not give them enough space for them to be able to make the tempo and things like that.”
It’s not just the tactics, though. Suazo and de Nigris were able to score after some lapses in concentration from an otherwise solid Galaxy backline, Gonzalez included. And that’s something the towering center back says he will do his best to prevent this time around.
“We gotta just talk to each other and make sure everybody’s in the right places, get everyone in the right places whenever the ball goes out or a foul, make sure that everyone’s tuned in,” he said. “Because those moments where a ball goes backwards or the ball stops, people tend to just shut off, so we just have to make sure everyone’s ready for any situation.”
The Galaxy’s concentration should be helped somewhat by the fact the two teams are kicking off at 9 pm local time, making the extreme heat – temperatures in Monterrey reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday – less of a factor.
For Gonzalez personally, his concentration should be buoyed by the fact that he’s finally had a moment to breathe after a grueling schedule in recent weeks. He appeared in two games with the US national team – both played at altitude – in the span of five days, and then returned to the Galaxy with a 90-minute shift against Toronto before playing in the opening leg of the CCL series at the Home Depot Center.
“I think everything kind of caught up to me in the past week,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m really excited for tomorrow’s game and I’m really excited to get going [on Wednesday].”