Opportunity factor high for U.S. center back Omar Gonzalez

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If we look at the Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for the January camp (announced earlier today) in terms of “opportunity factor,” the name right at the tippy top of that list belongs to Omar Gonzalez.

All the elements are in place:

There’s a need at the position, given Carlos Bocanegra’s age, the inability of peripheral center back figures like Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Ream to get the kind of minutes that might boost their places in the order, plus other factors.

Clearly, Gonzalez has the talent. The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and two-time MLS Cup winner, has every single physical tool needed of a center back at highest level.

And the team’s coaching staff – heck, everybody in the U.S. Soccer scene, probably – are cheering for the big fellow.

So, yes, all the elements are in place, creating a high opportunity factor as Gonzalez joins his first extended camp under Klinsmann. If all goes well over the next three weeks, there’s no reason to believe Gonzalez won’t be in the starting lineup on Jan. 29 when the camp concludes with a Jan. 29 friendly against Canada down in Houston.

What does Gonzalez need to demonstrate, exactly, over the next three weeks? Here’s what Klinsmann had to say Sunday during Fox Soccer Channel’s Goals on Sunday show:

He needs to show to us that he is ready. That he is ready for a big step into international football. He needs to show us that he wants to break in. He needs to show that he is ready to guide a back line, and that he is ready to communicate a lot.”

Klinsmann has said repeatedly that Gonzalez would have been involved in the program to a greater degree already but for that serious knee injury from one year ago. Still, the U.S. manager is quite aware of how well L.A.’s back line leader rebounded over the second half of the MLS season. Klinsmann sounds like a guy who wants to be impressed and is hoping to be impressed, and says Gonzalez has all the ability he needs:

But the national team is another level. We are happy to have him finally with us in camp and to see him work on a daily basis.”

AT HALF: Lletget, Bradley, Dempsey spur USMNT to 3-0 lead

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The United States men’s national team’s bid to recover their 2018 World Cup hopes is off to a flying start.

As it stands, the 3-0 halftime lead provided by Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey has the Yanks up from sixth to fourth in the Hex table.

Sebastian Lletget scored a fifth minute goal to ease the tensions of the Avaya Stadium crowd in San Jose, though he’d leave the match with injury before the match was 20 minutes old.

Sloppy Honduran defending caused a turnover outside the 18, and Jozy Altidore played Christian Pulisic in on goal.

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Keeper Donis Escober got a piece of Pulisic’s shot, but no one followed Lletget to the back post and the ex-West Ham and current LA Galaxy man quickly put the Yanks up 1-0.

Then it was the captain who doubled the lead, as Honduras inexplicably gave him the room to walk across the arc of the 18 to rip a shot across goal. 2-0.

It was Clint Dempsey’s turn in the 33rd minute, after an otherworldly scooped pass from Pulisic.

What. A. Pass. Kid.

LINEUP

USMNT: Howard; Villafana, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron; Bradley, Lletget (Bedoya, 18′), Nagbe; Pulisic, Dempsey, Altidore.

Goals: Lletget (5′), Bradley (27′), Dempsey (33′)

LIVE – USMNT looks to right ship vs. Honduras

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The United States starts to make amends for its 0-2 start to the final round of World Cup qualifying with a match against Honduras on Friday in San Jose.

Losses to Mexico and Costa Rica cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job and Bruce Arena will try things differently

[ LIVE – Play-by-play via @USSoccer ]

Most importantly for Arena, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are available this time around.

Cameron starts at right back, with John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez in the center of the back four. Jorge Villafana slots into the mix at left back.

Captain Michael Bradley will sit atop the midfield, with Darlington Nagbe, Sebastian Lletget, and Christian Pulisic in the midfield.

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are the forwards. Kickoff is set for 10:55 p.m. EDT from Avaya Stadium.

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.