ARLINGTON, Texas – Omar Gonzalez is happy to be back home, but this is no pleasure trip.
Not with a place in the Gold Cup final on the line Wednesday night against Honduras (7 pm ET, Fox Soccer/UniMas/Univision Deportes, Live chat on MLSsoccer.com). And not with little to no time to get comfortable with a starting spot next to Matt Besler in the center of the US national team defense.
Predictably, there are also ticket requests and myriad local ties that could pull the Dallas native every which way before the big game. Key word could. The now first-choice center back for the US isn’t wasting time or energy on any of that.
“I’m just taking care of my immediate family and everyone else can figure it out themselves,” Gonzalez said Tuesday before the US’ final training session at Cowboys Stadium. “There are too many people to worry about.”
That doesn’t mean he’s not happy to be home, though, especially since he’ll have a sizeable contingent of supporters no matter how many requests he turned down in the name of staying focused.
“This is my first time in this stadium, and if I get the start tomorrow, it’s going to be extra special for me,” Gonzalez said. “Just representing the US in front of my family, it’s going to be great.”
Of course, not all of Gonzalez’s memories involving Honduras are positive. He helped the US to a 1-0 victory in Salt Lake City last month, but it was a moment of hesitation in San Pedro Sula back in February that gave Jerry Bengtson the opportunity to score the game-winning goal in that 2-1 defeat, spoiling his World Cup qualifying debut in the process.
Just don’t expect more of the same Wednesday evening.
Gonzalez may have been thrown into the international fire under Jurgen Klinsmann, but his rapid improvement is largely down to his ability to learn from mistakes and apply those lessons game to game.
“The one thing I would take out of that game is to finish plays out,” he said. “The weather was a big issue there, and the field was a big issue. The last play was really crucial to that loss.”
One thing to consider about that demoralizing defeat is that Gonzalez’s current partner, Besler, still hadn’t locked in a place in the US lineup at that juncture.
Together, the duo has presided over four World Cup qualifiers and two friendlies this year, allowing just four goals – three by Germany alone – and compiling a 4-0-2 record (3-0-1 in World Cup qualifying) that has the Americans atop the CONCACAF Hexagonal on 13 points and sitting pretty with four matches remaining.
The expectation is that both with be on Klinsmann’s lineup sheet come Wednesday night, a proposition Gonzalez certainly welcomes as he makes his homecoming in front of a massive crowd at Cowboys Stadium.
“Maybe I have missed him a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “I think I’m always looking forward to that opportunity to play with Matt. I don’t know what’s going to happen yet, but it will be nice if we both get the start.”