CARSON, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez's call-up for the US national team's World Cup qualifier in Honduras certainly didn't surprise LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. The only real stunner is why it took so long.
The Galaxy's backline leader has widely been pegged as a national team-caliber center back, but he's made only three international appearances and would, if he sees action Wednesday in the USMNT's CONCACAF Hexagonal opener in San Pedro Sula (4 pm ET, beIN Sport), be making his competitive debut for the US.
“It'll be a good opportunity for him,” said Arena, who coached the US team from 1998 until 2006, guiding the Americans through two World Cups. “It's a little late. I think he should have been in that mix much earlier. I'm hopeful he can get some quick experience and eventually be a fixture for the team.”
With Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu omitted from the 24-man roster Jurgen Klinsmann announced Monday, Gonzalez is battling captain Carlos Bocanegra and rising star Geoff Cameron for a starting spot against the Hondurans. Arena was asked if Gonzalez, a two-time Best XI selection who was MLS' Defender of the Year in 2011 and MVP of LA's MLS Cup triumph two months ago, should be in the starting lineup.
“Listen, I don’t want to get into that stuff,” Arena said following the Galaxy's training session at the Home Depot Center on Monday. “These things are never easy. Let Jurgen do what he thinks he needs to do, and we wish him the best. I'm not picking the starting 11 at this point.”
Pressed on the topic, he said he hadn't “even looked at the roster yet, so I don't know who else is in there. I think Omar probably only has a couple caps. From experience, I can tell you going into Honduras is a little different than playing Canada in Houston,” as Gonzalez did in last week's scoreless draw.