World Cup: USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez says he's back to "100 percent"
STANFORD, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez has had a rough spring.
He was wrong-footed on goals against Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League for his club team, then weeks later against Mexico for his country. He was fit, then he was injured. And with the World Cup looming, suddenly the guy who had been a lock for the last 15 months had some questions surrounding him.
Now he's got a message: Omar's coming.
"I’m feeling great," Gonzalez said from USMNT camp at Stanford University. "I’m involved in all the trainings now, and I’m happy about that. It was a bit frustrating being on the sideline for the first couple of days, but now that I’m back I’m happy to be working hard with the guys and practices have been really intense and fun."
That intensity has carried over to a couple of closed-door scrimmages, one against the Stanford men's soccer team and the other against the LA Galaxy II of USL PRO. Gonzalez missed the one against the Cardinal, held last Saturday, but was able to get in for the second half against the Galaxy's second team.
It was his first action since a knee injury sustained last month in MLS play.
"The scrimmage for me was good. I played the second 30 minutes, and I felt good, I felt strong – it was definitely a step in the right direction," he explained. "I think I was being pushed pretty hard. I felt like before I got injured I was probably the fittest I’ve been in a very long time and I was in a very good place. And then this injury happened and kind of set me back a couple of days, but I’m feeling great right now."
"100 percent," he insisted.
As good as he's feeling now, Gonzalez came into camp behind some of his competitors, and has needed to play catch-up. That fact wasn't lost on him.
"Coming into camp with this injury, I felt like I needed to work hard – harder than most of the guys, but be smart and not do anything to hurt myself in that process" Gonzalez offered. "I worked closely with all of the doctors, all of the coaching staff here to make sure that we did things the right way, and I happened to be back a couple of days before expected so that’s always great."
Suffering an injury so close to the World Cup itself could have been a confidence killer, since Gonzalez was so integral to the US qualifying run. But he said it had the opposite effect, teamwide -- that instead of fear, his injury created a sense of comaraderie and opportunity.
"My focus right now is doing everything in my power to make my teammates better, and get them ready for the World Cup," Gonzalez said. "And just enjoying every single day here."