Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Omar Gonzalez reigns in central defense
by Ridge Mahoney, December 14th, 2011 11:46PM

TAGS:  mls


[BEST OF MLS 2011: Center Backs] The Galaxy conceded just 28 goals in 34 matches, thanks to a resilient defense led by Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year who also tops our Positional Rankings of center backs.

SA's Top 12 Center Backs
1. Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles)
2. George John (FC Dallas)
3. Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake)
4. Carlos Valdes (Philadelphia)
5. Jeff Parke (Seattle)
6. Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake)
7. A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles)
8. Chad Marshall (Columbus)
9. Bobby Boswell (Houston)
10. A.J. Soares (New England)
11. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Seattle)
12. Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City)

No players on the field are more dependent on each other than defenders, and particularly essential is the communication and cohesion among those who play in the middle.

Most MLS teams feature a four-man back line, and in such systems the most successful central pairs work in unison, so assessing them individually often rewards one at the expense of the other.

One of the most important decisions by Galaxy coach Bruce Arena in 2011 was to move DeLaGarza, a college teammate of Gonzalez at the University of Maryland, from outside back into the middle when injuries sidelined Leonardo and Gregg Berhalter. The Galaxy set a league record by conceding just eight goals in 17 home games and led MLS with 17 shutouts.

In his third professional season, Gonzalez responded to the mentoring of Berhalter, a former U.S. international who took on coaching duties. He anticipated situations more, and relied less on his height (6-foot-5) and strength to chase down opponents, break up plays, and collect second balls.

John drew interest from the Greek national team, for which he could qualify on parentage, and English Premier League club Blackburn during a season marked by sharper concentration on and off the ball. Borchers soldiered on when injuries sidelined Olave and RSL gradually regained its swagger after a stumbling start. Valdes, a formed a solid partnership with Danny Califf to shore up what had been a very leaky Union defense in its expansion season, though both are prone to foul excessively.

Parke cut down on his mistakes and took on a more prominent leadership role when his partner, Hurtado, sat out injuries and suspensions. DeLaGarza’s speed, savvy and tenacity meshed well with Gonzalez’s attributes, and there were games where nearly nothing got through the middle to trouble the Galaxy goalies. Marshall and the Crew were strong at times but faded down the stretch as he topped the 200 mark in career appearances.

Boswell stepped up his game late in the season when a team makeover paired him with Geoff Cameron. Soares labored stoutly amid defensive breakdowns and collapses during a very difficult rookie season. Newcomer Collin needed some time to adjust to MLS, and overcame minor injuries to aid SKC’s late-season run of just four goals conceded in the final seven games.

  1. Barry Thomas
    commented on: December 15, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.
    When will Omar get a decent USMNT call-up? I'd hate to lose him to Mexico!
  1. Scott O'connor
    commented on: December 15, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.
    This should send a message to Klinsman. Every eligible player to win MLS defender of the year has gotten plenty of caps for the USMNT. Omar should get his chance in January. Is he under-23 and possibly eligible for the Olympics too?

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Daily
U.S. Abroad: Fabian Johnson is on fire    
American midfielder Fabian Johnson is suddenly one of the hottest scorers in Germany. He scored two ...
What They're Saying: Jurgen Klinsmann    
"Watching the MLS playoffs has been tremendously exciting. The games in the first round with the ...
Klinsmann: Nagbe is a 'great fit' for national team    
One of the standouts in the MLS playoffs has been Darlington Nagbe, who has helped the ...
What They're Saying: Didier Drogba    
"It's a different challenge [in MLS]. People think it's easy to play there. Believe me, it's ...
What They're Saying: Stocksbridge Park Steels chairman Allen Bethel    
"I can't believe what I've been seeing on Saturday nights. He's always on his own. Why ...
MLS: Sporting KC continues talks with five free agents    
Sporting Kansas City re-signed 12 of the 13 players it had options on -- all but ...
MLS: Orlando City declines option on Hall    
Stemming from the roster moves announced Wednesday, Orlando City SC may not look radically different in ...
MLS: Revs re-sign Kobayashi, send three to Portugal    
New England announced Wednesday it has renewed the options on 14 players, signed midfielder Daigo Kobayashi ...
Sacramento wants to show it's ready to roll    
While efforts by David Beckham's group to find land for a soccer stadium in Miami appear ...
Johnson scores again in Champions League    
Fabian Johnson scored in his second straight game for Borussia Moenchengladbach in the UEFA Champions League ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives