Going into the pre-World Cup camp Omar Gonzalez had been a starter for the United States throughout qualification, but an injury just before camp set him back a ways. Today against Germany not only did he start and go ninety minutes, but he made several key defensive stops to keep the US goal differential in the range to go through. It was redemption for a player who has slipped in the minds of many US national team followers.
Gonzalez' first two major defensive stops came back to back in the fourteenth minute when the Germans found some space on the right flank and Jerome Boateng crossed hard on the ground. Gonzalez beat the attacker to the ball and cleared the ball away across the face of goal. Seconds later Thomas Muller got through on a quick pass into the box and would have had a clear shot on goal, but Gonzalez slid from the side to knock the ball out of danger while avoiding a penalty kick conceding foul.
It was Gonzalez' strength inside the penalty area that likely gave him the start in the first place. Jurgen Klinsmann put together a lineup capable of defending inside their own half where Gonzalez' height and awareness give him an advantage. Where he's struggled is on counter attacking play keeping up with the pace of speedy forwards.
In the forty-seventh minute Gonzalez was able to track back quickly on a curving cross from the right jostling Mesut Ozil enough to make him head the bar over the crossbar.
Against Portugal, Omar Gonzalez was sent in for an ill fated defensive midfielder assignment that wasn't able to prevent the equalizing header. Here against Germany, Gonzalez was the right player to get stuck in and prevent several German chances as Klinsmann was practical while preaching to the media his desire to play for a victory.
With Belgium up next, I expect the United States to play more as they did against Portugal. Excluding the defensive flub that gave Portugal their first goal, the US will want to push forward and test the Belgium back line. Two of Belgium's wins were of the 1-0 variety, and with Vincent Kompany's fitness an issue going forward (a groin injury kept him out of the group finale against Korea) there's reason to want to really push Belgium's defense.
That likely sends Gonzalez back to the bench for this upcoming Tuesday, but should they advance and have to face the Argentina of Messi the US might try to go more defensive minded again.