CARSON, Calif. — Omar Gonzalez had been hoping for a late call-up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and U.S. Soccer says the plans had been in place for months. But its arrival was most unexpected for the LA Galaxy defender.
“I didn't think it was happening until yesterday around 3:30,” Gonzalez said after the Galaxy's training session Thursday morning. “I was getting ready for the ESPYs, and I come back to my phone and see I've got a missed call from Jurgen [Klinsmann]. It was pretty much a surprise, but I'm happy I got the call-up.”
Gonzalez, who this year has anchored the US backline through six World Cup qualifiers (and three friendlies), is one of four players Klinsmann has added to the Americans' roster for the regional championship's knockout stage, but only he will wait until the US have secured a final-four berth — if they beat El Salvador in a quarterfinal Sunday in Baltimore — before joining up with the team.
U.S. Soccer's agreement with the Galaxy has Gonzalez sticking around Southern California until after LA's clash Saturday night at StubHub Center against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
Gonzalez says he's “very excited” to have a chance to play in his first major international tournament, and that the decision to wait until the semifinals — July 24 in Arlington, Texas, near his Dallas hometown — is win-win.
“I want to stay here and get the win with the Galaxy against Vancouver and leave on a high note and go with the national team,” he said. “I know they're going to take care of business [against El Salvador]. ... I'm hoping just to step in and be a good teammate.
"I don't know what my role is yet — I haven't spoken to Jurgen — but I'd like to make an impact in whatever way I can. Just go there to win the tournament, because I want to be part of the Confederations Cup next time around.”
Gonzalez has been partnered in central defense by Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler, another knockout-stage call-up, during four World Cup qualifiers, the March 26 tie at Mexico and June victories at Jamaica and in home games against Panama and Honduras. Klinsmann is expected to pair them against Costa Rica or Honduras if the US make the semifinals and in the July 28 title game in Chicago should the Americans get that far.
“If that ends up happening, I think that's great,” Gonzalez said. “I enjoy playing with Besler, and to step on the field with him would be great.”
He watched the US' group stage victories over Belize, Cuba and Costa Rica, and said he's been impressed with the US performances, “because when you are playing against a little bit lesser quality, sometimes you manage to, you know, drop down your level. I think they've been great.”
Gonzalez has also taken note of his Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan's renaissance with the national team and says playing alongside him in an international game would be a thrill.
“Seeing Landon out there scoring goals, getting Man of the Match, it seems like he's getting back to his old ways, which is great to see,” Gonzalez said. “I'm really looking forward to stepping on the field with him as a teammate for the national team. That's something I've been looking forward to for a long time.
"I mean, we've been teammates here on the Galaxy for my whole career, and I think that will be an exciting moment when we're together on the national team.”