LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez has been forced to withdraw from the US national team’s final two World Cup qualifying matches with a left hip strain, and will be replaced by Puebla defender Michael Orozco.
U.S. Soccer made the announcement just three days ahead of the team’s matchup against visiting Jamaica at Sporting Park in Kansas City on Friday (6:30 pm ET, ESPN). Gonzalez had started all eight of the team’s matches in the Hexagonal prior to the injury, which he sustained during the Galaxy’s 5-0 win over Chivas USA on Sunday.
The severity of the injury is unclear, but Gonzalez (above) was substituted from the match on Sunday at halftime for backup Tommy Meyer and later evaluated in Los Angeles. He will remain in LA to receive treatment from the Galaxy training staff.
Orozco, meanwhile, has played five times for the US in 2013, including four appearances in the team’s run to the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. He last appeared for the team during an ill-fated impromptu appearance at right back during the US’ 3-1 loss in Costa Rica on Sept. 6, only the second time the US have lost in the Hexagonal round.
Gonzalez is the fourth regular starter on the team unable to see out the final two games of qualifying. Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey – who had also started all eight qualifiers this year – has been sidelined recently by a hamstring injury, while midfielder Michael Bradley (ankle) and defender/midfielder Fabian Johnson (ankle) were also both left the latest US roster while nursing injuries.
The US – who lead the CONCACAF standings with 16 points – secured their passage to the World Cup last month with a 2-0 win over Mexico, their fifth win in eight games of the Hexagonal. Costa Rica – who trail the Americans by one point and still have a road match in Honduras and another at home against Mexico to close out the round – are the only other team that has clinched a berth in Brazil.