Omar Gonzalez

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USMNT gets first chance to reassert its CONCACAF status

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Not going to lie to you: It’d be nice to see some vengeance.

No, beating Trinidad and Tobago at the Gold Cup isn’t going to magically put the United States men’s national team back in the 2018 World Cup, nor will it erase nearly two years of seething from the record.

But honestly, you just want to feel like something, anything, is emotionally different in U.S. Soccer from the federation that puked all over the qualifying process for 2018.

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Let’s start here: Regardless of what Michael Bradley says about Saturday night’s match versus Trinidad and Tobago — “I’m not sure inside of the group if it carries a whole lot of weight” — the Yanks should absolutely feel ready to come out firing against the Soca Warriors.

It’s Bradley’s job as a veteran leader to play down tension ahead of the second group stage game of a second-tier tournament, but we’re pretty sure Christian Pulisic isn’t sleeping on the nation whose B-team deprived him of his World Cup. Omar Gonzalez didn’t build himself back up from a terrible own goal in Couva to have this be “just another game.”

Want to send a message within the team, supporters, and CONCACAF that things are different, even if it’s just a preface to a latter tournament trophy-holding novel? Control the game despite the absence of Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Tim Weah, and possibly Weston McKennie.

Consider the make-up of both 23-man rosters. T&T has seven domestic players, three MLS players, seven USL Championship players, one USL League One player, one in Costa Rica, one in the Israeli Premier League, one playing in Saudi Arabia’s top tier and two in its second tier. The USMNT is comprised of MLS players plus Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), and Tyler Boyd (Vitória de Guimarães)

Not to mention Panama outshot T&T 16-4 in a 2-0 win the other night, about the same as the U.S. advantage (20-4; 4-0) over Guyana.

Handle their A-team with your B-plus team.

Take that knowledge and then consider this: As the USSF prepares to anoint a new CEO who may well be hand-picked by the old CEO, reportedly not supported by the new president, and happens to be the USMNT head coach’s brother, wouldn’t it be cool if things felt just a bit like they were on the right track.

The U-20 World Cup helped, as has watching McKennie, Pulisic, and Adams blossom in the Bundesliga.

But we’re mere rounds away from, if we’re fortunate, seeing the first edition of Berhalter’s USMNT against Tata Martino’s Mexico (a Tata Martino, it must be noted, who the USSF didn’t feel the need to contact regarding the possibility of an interview). And we’re days away from a game against a Panama team who took a World Cup spot by scoring a ghost goal.

The losses against Jamaica’s B-team and Venezuela in a vacuum are just bad days at the office, but something fundamentally changed in the spirit of U.S. Soccer that night in Couva. The over-achieving teams of (a few of the) World Cups past gave way to what appeared to be an entitled coach and players failing to prove wrong the wandering mind of a German legend who helped put them in their predicament.

For at least this one night, it’d be great to feel that Couva not only mattered but that it’s put a chip on the shoulder of everyone in U.S. Soccer.

Win decisively, fellas.

Player ratings from USMNT 0-1 Jamaica

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It says something that near the end of the United States men’s national team’s 1-0 loss to Jamaica in a Wednesday friendly, I hesitated to make a joke about calling up the U-20 team.

I didn’t know if people would realize I was kidding.

[ RECAP: USMNT 0-1 Jamaica ]

This was the worst performance of the Gregg Berhalter era, albeit with most stars missing from the U.S. roster.

Starting XI

Zack Steffen — 5 — Wasn’t going to do anything on the goal, but what was with the cavalier play to start the match?

Tim Ream (Off 59′) — 5 — Fighting to rediscover his form following a miserable season at Fulham.

Matt Miazga (Off 72′) — 6 — Bailed his men out a few times.

Omar Gonzalez — 7 — If Wednesday was any sign, Toronto FC is getting a wise, fit center back.

Antonee Robinson (Off 80′) — 6 — Ran out of gas in the second half, but buzzed up and down the left in the first half.

Cristian Roldan (Off 66′) — 4 — More of the same in an U.S. shirt, lots of industry but little in threat.

Wil Trapp — 4 — He was out there. We promise. After 15 caps, what’s his standout performance to date?

Jackson Yueill (Off 59′) — 5 — Unspectacular, but there had to be a lot of nerves on debut. Glad to see the Quakes man get the chance.

Paul Arriola (Off 72′) — 4 — As rough a match as you’ll see from a player of his experience and quality.

Djordje Mihailovic — 4 — His heavy touch in the box at the death was endemic of his team’s night.

Josh Sargent — 4 — Credit to him for battling to the final whistle, but this was very much a night for learning from and growing through struggles for the 19-year-old.

Subs

Nick Lima (On 59′) — 6 — The USMNT was better when he stepped into the fray.

Jonathan Amon (On 59′) — 6 — Lively on the left.

Duane Holmes (On 66′) — 7 — If there were really three Gold Cup roster slots available and Holmes didn’t have a hold on one already, he should now. Dynamic, clean, great vision. Could’ve had two assists.

Joe Gyau (On 72′) — n/a — Good to see him back out there.

Cameron Carter-Vickers (On 72′) — n/a — Pretty fortunate we’re not giving numbers for cameos. Rough.

Daniel Lovitz (On 80′) — n/a — Bubble?

Toronto FC sign USMNT DF, three-time MLS champ Omar Gonzalez

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Omar Gonzalez is back in MLS after signing with Toronto FC as a Targeted Allocation Money player (between $500,000 and $1.5 million per season) on Monday.

[ WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Groups A, B and C | Groups D, E and F ]

The 30-year-old defender will be eligible to make his TFC debut after July 9, when the league’s secondary transfer window opens. Gonzalez is currently in Gregg Berhalter’s pre-CONCACAF Gold Cup camp, with the final set to be played on July 7.

TFC used the top slot in the league’s allocation order, acquired from expansion side FC Cincinnati for $300,000 in allocation money (both general and targeted) in exchange for defender Nick Hagglund in January, to acquire Gonzalez.

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Playing alongside Laurent Ciman, who won the MLS Defender of the Year award in 2015, Gonzalez, the 2011 honoree, will give TFC one of the league’s best duos in central defense. Assuming that all three of Ciman, Chris Mavinga and Drew Moor remain on the roster through the end of the season, head coach Greg Vanney has an abundance of MLS veterans at his disposal less than a year after running out of center backs due to a rash of injuries last summer.

Gonzalez’s return to MLS comes after two and a half seasons with Liga MX side Pachuca, where he won the Clausura in 2016 and the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017, followed by the most recent season on loan to Atlas. The 49-times capped U.S. men’s national team defender moved to Pachuca in December 2015, after beginning his professional career with seven trophy-filled seasons as a member of the LA Galaxy, where he won three MLS Cups, in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

USMNT’s Gonzalez: “I think that we’re in good hands”

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Omar Gonzalez might’ve planned to be doing promotional duty ahead of this summer’s World Cup, but not solely as an observer of the biggest tournament in the world.

But Gonzalez, 29, and his United States men’s national teammates fell short in their World Cup qualifying bid, losing in Trinidad and Tobago when a draw would’ve done the trick.

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Despite his own goal and a still bewildered disappointment in his voice, the Liga MX center back says he’ll be watching and cheering for fellow CONCACAF nations when the tournament starts next week in Russia.

“I am Mexican, I’ve lived there now for three years and I have friends on the team, some of my teammates are on the team,” said Gonzalez, who was born in Texas to Mexican parents.

“I have a friend who plays for Costa Rica, so I’m definitely not bitter. I’ll be cheering them on and I hope they represent CONCACAF well. I’m looking forward to seeing Mexico hopefully get past the group stage and see how far they can go. My teammate Erick Gutierrez and my former teammate Chucky Lozano, I’m really pulling for them and I hope they have a good tournament.”

Gonzalez was speaking to ProSoccerTalk on behalf of Clamato and their promotion of a michelada, a drink made when the tomato and clam juice drink is mixed with beer and spices (Gonzalez suggests hot sauce).

Like many of his veteran USMNT teammates, Gonzalez has not been called into national team camp since that fateful night at Ato Boldon Stadium. That evening saw him produce an own goal and the United States end a seven tournament run as World Cup participants.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

That also loss cued up a number of big changes for U.S. Soccer. Bruce Arena resigned his post, and president Sunil Gulati did not run for another term. Carlos Cordeiro is now in charge of the federation, and the USSF has hired team centurion Earnie Stewart to help find its new manager.

Gonzalez is hoping things calm down a bit around the team.

“I think that we’re in good hands,” he said of the Stewart hire. “Everyone knows that change was needed. Change has happened, and now it’s about moving forward.”

As for his hopes of returning to the team — 29 is not old for a center back — Gonzalez looks forward to a chance for redemption, but is not expecting anything. What he would like to see is a little more organization, hunger, and commitment from the men who are called into the team.

“I just like for things to be running smoothly and when guys go into camps, they are there for the team, to wear their jersey with pride and get along with everyone. It doesn’t happen all the time, but knowing what’s happened with not qualifying and all the things that went wrong, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put everything behind themselves. When they do get together, it has to be all about the team and how they can come together to get the results they need to get.

“I’m liking the changes that are happening with the GM, and looking forward to a new coach, and seeing the direction they takes. I’m happy they are giving these young guys opportunity. I’m think they are moving in the right direction and I’m interested in seeing how it all comes to fruition, and I hope to still be a part of the group and do what I can to help the program and help the young guys if that’s what I have to do, just whatever it takes.”

Is he hopeful of a return to national team duty? Yes, but he’s not necessarily expecting it.

“I’m at the point where I’m just hoping it does come at some point, but if it doesn’t, I’m totally fine with that. I have to focus on my club play and get better every day. If I do happen to get a call-up, I’ll be super excited and ready to go in and join the team. Until it happens, it’s not going through my mind.”

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It so happened that our conversation took place hours after a reported agreement to send Gonzalez from Pachuca to Atlas. Gonzalez says “nothing’s done yet” regarding the proposed transfer.

“It’s been all over the Internet, but either I’m going or I’m staying at Pachuca. Nothing is official.”

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

A product of Maryland, Gonzalez was the third overall pick of the LA Galaxy in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He was Rookie of the Year, won three MLS Cups and two Supporters Shields, and was in the league’s Best XI in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

He transferred to Pachuca in 2016, winning the Clausura in his first season and then the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017.

The split season is the biggest difference between MLS and Liga MX, Gonzalez says, adding that the desperation is consistent.

“Both leagues are very competitive but the biggest difference for me is that every game is really tough,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes in MLS, the season is long and there are some games, you hate to say, but that don’t really matter. You hit that period in May and April and the games just aren’t that interesting. For Liga MX, there are two short seasons, two playoffs, you only have 17 games, and there’s that stress that goes along with losing a couple of games and feeling the pressure from everywhere. Every game matters, and every game is a big game.”

Would he like to see that in MLS?

“It could be fun to have that implemented but it’s difficult because how big the U.S. is and the differences in how cold it can get and how hot it can get.”

As for the World Cup, Gonzalez thinks the winner won’t be coming from UEFA for the first time in more than a decade.

“I’ve been saying I want Brazil to win it. I feel really bad the way it ended in Brazil in 2014. They have a great team, and I think they can make a final and maybe finish this one off.”

Trouble brewing: USMNT trails T&T after early Omar OG (video)

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All the U.S. national team had to do to officially qualify for the 2018 World Cup on Tuesday was to avoid falling flat on its collective face.

[ MORE: 3rd? 4th? 5th? USMNT scenarios on the final day of WCQ ]

Through 30 minutes of Bruce Arena’s side’s Hexagonal finale, it’s not gone according to plan. After failing to control the game through possession whatsoever, the USMNT went a goal down when Omar Gonzalez looped the ball high over the head of Tim Howard and into the back of the Yanks’ goal in the 17th minute.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USA 4-0 PanamaThree things we learned ]

Gonzalez looked lost on the botched clearance, but Howard has never before shown his age so severely… or so costly.