Gonzalez said the team was not affected by Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s pre-tournament assertion that “We cannot win this World Cup because we are not at that level yet.”
“I tried not to pay attention too much to the media and how they can take things people say and flip them and things like that,” Gonzalez said. “Would I have liked to say, ‘Yeah we can get as far as we can.’ Maybe it could have been worded differently. I think that’s all it is.
“From inside the locker room he was nothing but supportive. He was probably our biggest cheerleader. He might have said that, but when we were interacting with each other, there was no doubt that he believed that we could do it.”
Photos and video by Staff Photographer Sean Hiller.
Photo and videos by Staff Photographer Brad Graverson
— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) July 1, 2014
- Here’s your detailed World Cup weather forecast from Accuweather.
- Striker Jozy Altidore returns from injury for the U.S., but how many minutes will the Americans get out of him?
- How much should the U.S. respect Belgium?
- We are the World Cup generation. Fans 25 of age or younger have never known a time when the U.S. was not in the World Cup. Revisit that era here.
Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, who got a surprise start in the third and final U.S. group game in Brazil, said today in a teleconference with local media arranged by the club that he was taken aback to get the chance in the middle of the defense after largely missing out on the first two World Cup outings:
“I was definitely surprised about getting the start,” he said from Brazil. “Jurgen wasn’t making too many changes in the lead up matches.”
And Gonzalez said his personal goals went out the window when the tournament arrived. He went from wanting to establish himself as an automatic first-choice regular at the start of the year to just hoping he would make the roster after the injury that disrupted his run-up to the World Cup.
“My mindset the whole time was I was going to be ready (if called upon),” he said. “I wasn’t worried too much about what are the coaches thinking. … I was happy my name got called and basically got out there and do what I do.”
Meanwhile, Gonzalez said he’s become more motivated by the level of interest in the World Cup indicated by the reaction from social media and the large crowds gathering for viewing parties that are becoming ever more prevalent:
“It makes you want to work harder for all the people who are watching,” he said on the eve of the crucial game against Belgium. “Hopefully we can get them a win.”
“I have an obligation,” he said after finishing practice with the Galaxy, which resume MLS play Saturday against San Jose at Stanford.
That didn’t sit well. His opinion is exclusive to TV viewers for a certain network? Never mind the fact that the dozens of current and former athletes in all sports who have broadcast duties are happy to share their thoughts with anyone who asks from a different platform.
It was a completely strange juxtaposition, then, to have Galaxy coach Bruce Arena happy to opine on the United States’ standing in the World Cup. The Galaxy held off their practice until 11:30 on Thursday so they could watch the Americans face off against Germany.
And give a little leeway for Donovan’s segment of Q&A.
Arena, it should be mentioned, has time and again in the past been reticent to assess the play of the U.S., not wanting to step on the toes of his successors as the national team coach.
But he didn’t mind talking about the road of the U.S. and the tournament in general as it headed into the round of 16.
“It’s good to advance. The game wasn’t particularly good,” Arena said after Germany’s 1-0 victory. “They are playing one of the better teams in the world but that’s the way the U.S. is going to play. They’re going to grind it out, get good goalkeeping, create an odd chance every now and then but they’re a battling team, they’re a fit team, they’re an organized team.”
Arena on the next U.S. challenge:
“Belgium’s certainly a good team. It’s not a bad matchup for (the U.S.). It’s a good matchup for the U.S.”
Arena, of course, was coaching when the U.S. reached the final eight in 2002 following a landmark win over Mexico. The U.S. hasn’t been that close since, but has now advanced out of the group stage in two consecutive tournaments for the first time.
“I think it’s a sign of progress,” Arena said. “I think we need to obviously improve as a team but that’s not going to happen in this World Cup. We’re one or two World Cups away from competing with the big boys.”
And surviving the “Group of Death” with Germany, Ghana and Portugal?
“It’s good. There’s one very good team in the group in Germany,” Arena said. “The others were pretty close to each other and we managed to be the team that came out in the end. Ghana was a pretty talented team. Inconsistent, obviously, going into an important game more worried about the cash being on the plane. Very odd preparation.”
“Give the U.S. credit. They persevered in a very difficult group. I thought all along that they needed to get three points against Ghana and one point against Portugal and that’s the way it played out.”
And that means what?
“I should do (prognostication) rather than coaching,” he said with a smile. “I’m better at that I think than working with this team right now.
“Believe me, I don’t think anybody could have predicted this World Cup. At the end of the day when the dust settles, the big boys are going to be around, there aren’t going to be any Cinderellas. However, I think Costa Rica may make it to the last eight.”
Sorry, Greek fans.
And Arena on the first start for Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez:
“He did a good job.”
And Donovan would rather have talked about the Galaxy against San Jose.
World Cup crunch time: The tension mounts at The Arena in Upland (Photo by Staff photographer Jennifer Cappuccio Mahr).
The scene at Clearman’s Galley in San Gabriel today during the game (Video by Keith Birmingham)
Fans at Legends Sports bar in Long Beach celebrate the U.S. World Cup result. (Video by Sean Hiller)
Fans cheer today at Dillon’s Irish Pub in Hollywood as the U.S. goes through to the last 16 in the World Cup. (Video by John McCoy)
Read more about the Alpine Village viewing here.
Here’s how it went down in Hollywood.
— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) June 26, 2014
Omar playing confidently. Biggest game of his soccer career.
— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) June 26, 2014
Aside from an early blip, Omar Gonzalez repaid the faith U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had shown him by handing the Galaxy central defender his first World Cup start in the crucial game today against Germany with a solid performance when it was needed most.
It was a showing that gave the U.S. defense much-needed stability even in the narrow loss.
Read more about the performance of the Galaxy star here.