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Omar Gonzalez will be harder to replace than you think

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The announcement of the sale of Omar Gonzalez to Mexican club Pachuca was met with general celebration by Galaxy fans. Once a fan favorite and the anchor of one of the best back lines in MLS history, the general perception of Omar Gonzalez has been that his skills had reached a plateau, and that he was beginning to regress.

While I personally agree with these sentiments, I don't think Omar Gonzalez is being given his due in the general conversation among fans in terms of what the back line is losing with his departure. While I was never a fan of Omar Gonzalez' contract and I am very much in favor of his departure, it would be foolish to think that a Galaxy center back pairing of Leonardo and Romney or Leonardo and AJ DeLaGarza, will be an upgrade.

For all of Omar's faults, he had two things going for him which the Galaxy will have a hard time replacing. For one, Omar Gonzalez is by far the most active Galaxy defender when it comes to defensive actions (tackles, interceptions, blocks) .

Here are all the defensive actions Omar Gonzalez was involved in in 2015, courtesy of Kevin Minkus and American Soccer Analysis.

To put his contribution into perspective, Omar Gonzalez accounted for 22.3% of all LA Galaxy defensive actions in 2015. While Omar Gonzalez was certainly making an unacceptable level of mistakes at the position, it's hard to deny how active he was. Whoever fills his shoes will have to put in a great deal of work in order to match it.

But work ethic isn't all the Galaxy are losing in Omar Gonzalez. Unsurprisingly, the biggest statistical deficit we see between Omar Gonzalez and the rest of the Galaxy's center backs comes in the air. Take a look at the all time aerial numbers from the Galaxy's 4 center backs who have played professional minutes at the position. Using whoscored.com, we can filter out A.J. DeLaGarza and David Romney's fullback minutes in order to just see how they fair in the air from the centerback position.


Mins

Aerial Duels

Aerial Duels Won

Aerial Duels Lost

Aerial Duel Win %

Omar Gonzalez

7740

457

314

143

0.68708972

Leonardo

5546

280

157

123

0.56071429

David Romney

90

6

3

3

0.50

AJ DeLaGarza

3478

79

43

36

0.5443038

While it's unfair to expect a center back to put up Omar Gonzalez like aerial duel numbers, the fact that none of the center backs behind Omar break a 60% win percentage is somewhat alarming. Of course, Dave Romney's numbers are almost meaningless since he's only played 90 professional minutes at center back (a concern in itself), but it seems fairly clear that neither AJ (no surprise there) nor Leonardo are good enough to adequately plug this hole.

This is important because Bruce Arena teams are usually defensively well spaced and force a lot of long balls as a result.  In 2015, the Galaxy were involved in 32.8 aerial duels a game, which was the seventh most in the league. Despite Omar Gonzalez being involved in 15% of them and with a win rate of nearly 69%, the team still only won 50% of their aerial duels, ranking 13th in the league. In other words, losing Omar Gonzalez could make this team go from slightly below average in the air, to one of the worst in the league.

Of course, the major x-factor in all of this is Dave Romney and, to a lesser extant, Daniel Steres. Romney has only played 90 MLS minutes at center back, while Steres has played 0, making it hard to determine how well they might be able to fill in for Omar in these two areas. Given their inexperience, it would be rather extraordinary if we saw anywhere near the level of activity and aerial prowess that we saw from Omar Gonzalez.

Bottom-line, Omar Gonzalez wasn't worth the money, but he'll certainly be missed.