Former Terrapin Omar Gonzalez an all-star in only his second MLS season

Former Maryland player Omar Gonzalez will face Manchester United on Wednesday.
Former Maryland player Omar Gonzalez will face Manchester United on Wednesday. (Jeff Golden/getty Images)
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By Joseph D'Hippolito
Monday, July 26, 2010

CARSON, CALIF. -- When Omar Gonzalez came to the Los Angeles Galaxy from the University of Maryland last year, he received a simple assignment: help renovate Major League Soccer's worst defense.

In 2008, the Galaxy conceded a league-worst 62 goals while using 12 defenders in finishing tied with San Jose for the fewest points and victories in MLS.

Gonzalez, 21, not only fulfilled his assignment but in the process has become one of the league's best defenders -- as his most recent honor demonstrates.

The all-American at Maryland will play in Wednesday night's MLS All-Star Game against Manchester United in Houston after being voted to the MLS All-Star First 11.

"Being a part of the All-Star First 11 is just amazing," said Gonzalez, who received the largest percentage of overall votes for defenders and led each voting constituency: players, fans, reporters, coaches and general managers.

"I think the best part about winning it is that my peers and the coaches thought I was one of the best the first part of the season," Gonzalez said. "It means the world to me."

Since joining the Galaxy, Gonzalez (6 feet 5, 210 pounds) played all but 18 minutes in MLS games until July 10, when he was suspended for the game against New England after receiving too many yellow cards.

Last year, Gonzalez was named the league's rookie of the year as Los Angeles halved its total of goals given up and set a club record for shutouts (12). This year, the Galaxy has given up 10 goals in 18 games while amassing 10 shutouts.

Bruce Arena, Galaxy coach and general manager, said he had no idea Gonzalez would play so well when he selected the defender with the third pick of the 2009 draft.

"I'm being completely honest," Arena said. "We never anticipated that he would play the caliber of soccer that he's played in his first two years. We thought he was going to be a good player but he has exceeded our expectations."

So what made the difference? One factor was Gonzalez's collegiate experience.

Gonzalez started all 69 games he played at Maryland. As a sophomore, he was the ACC defensive player of the year. In his final season as a junior, he helped the Terrapins win the 2008 NCAA championship.

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