LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez surprised to get U.S. World Cup start, but determined to make the most of it

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.”

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Los Angeles Galaxy announce free Redondo Beach World Cup waterfront viewing party at Veteran’s Park for Tuesday’s crucial USA-Belgium game

-L-HERMOSAWorld Cup Watch: Southern California soccer fans celebrate the American win over Ghana in Hermosa Beach earlier this month (Daily Breeze file photo).

Following in the footsteps of two successful free World Cup viewing parties at Hermosa Beach’s Pier Plaza, the Galaxy hosts another at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach when the U.S. takes on Belgium in the knockout round of 16.

If you haven’t yet caught one, this is the day to play hookey from work or school since it’s not only win or go home, but the atmosphere is infectious and about as close to being in Brazil as you can get, Galaxy President Chris Klein told me this morning:

“The location in the South Bay is something you only see down in Rio,” he said.

But get there early (the Galaxy suggest 11 a.m.) given the 1,500-plus or so who showed up in Hermosa:

Parking is available at the Pier parking structure north of Torrance Circle, the George Freeth Parking lot immediately west of the park, the Pier Plaza parking structure at the south end of Harbor Drive and the west end of Pacific Ave. and the Redondo Beach Marina lot on the west side of Harbor Drive, south of Portofino Way.

I’ll have more on the increasing popularity of World Cup viewing parties, including this giant planned party on Pine in Long Beach in Tuesday’s column.

 

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World Cup help is on the way for Chivas USA, eventually

But will it get there fast enough?

Midfielder Oswaldo Minda played for Ecuador, which was eliminated in the groups stages of the World Cup. Midfielder Marvin Chavez played for Honduras, which suffered the same fate in Brazil.

They’re on their way back to Chivas USA, and if they arrived in time to play for in Wednesday’s game at San Jose, it would be not a moment too soon for a team that played Saturday night and plays again next Saturday.

For Chivas coach Wilmer Cabrera, you could almost see the pain of weighing what the duo just went through with their respective nations against what he needs with his own club after Saturday’s win over Real Salt Lake.

“We’re waiting for them,” Cabrera said. “We need to see what kind of condition they are mentally and physically because when you finish a competition like the World Cup, you need to have a little bit of a mental break. Because of the adrenaline you have spent in that tournament, you cannot recover in three or four days.

“We’re going to try to bring them in a very good way, we’re going to try to give them a little break but obviously we need them. We need to have them, because that’s why they’re World Cup players. It’s important for them to be with us.”

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Sunday World Cup Weather Watch: Mexico-Netherlands at 9 a.m., Costa Rica-Greece at 1 p.m. on ESPN and Univision

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Finally, here’s a Greece-Costa Rica preview

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World Cup Watch: The best and worst commercial tie-ins to banned biter Luis Suarez

We’ll start with the worst, which is this YouTube video distributed by the Girl Scouts of America to media types Friday to pump up cookie sales.

That’s right, an organization that purports to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” is exploiting a violent incident seen around the world by a racist repeat offender like Luis Suarez.

“Have you ever wondered what Girl Scout Cookies do in their off-season?” read the accompanying press release. “Girl Scout cookies are biting back and staying active in the off season with a little help from the World Cup!”

In a word: tasteless

And here’s the best, from online casino Betfair, which has a whole host of creative Suarez bets including:

What will be the nationality of the next person bitten by Luis Suarez?

  • Goes Hungry (None, he won’t bite anyone ever again.) – 1/16
  • Fish and Chips (English) – 18/1
  • Paella (Spanish) – 18/1
  • Ratatouille (French) – 20/1
  • Bitterballen (Dutch) – 25/1
  • Bratwurst (German) – 25/1
  • Haggis (Scottish) – 25/1
  • Pizza (Italian) – 25/1
  • Roast Lamb (Welsh) – 33/1
  • Taco (Mexican) – 50/1
  • Hamburger (American) – 66/1
  • Kebab (Turkish) – 66/1
  • Sushi (Japanese) – 80/1
  • Stroganoff (Russian) – 100/1
  • Chow Mein (Chinese) – 250/1
  • Vindaloo (Indian) – 500/1
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World Cup Watch: Round of 16 begins Saturday

WCrankings

After 15 consecutive days of as many as four World Cup games a day, the planet takes a breather today before the knockout round of 16 begins at 9 a.m. Saturday on ABC and Univision when Brazil faces Chile; Uruguay-Colombia follows at 1 p.m.

Chile has injury issues, while snubbed Brazilian star Kaka still believes his nation has the firepower to see off its South American neighbors.

Not surprisingly, World Cup interest is increasing in the U.S.

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Landon Donovan clams up, Bruce Arena talks World Cup

GalaxyLandon Donovan has been all over television delivering his takes on the World Cup. He refused to do so with the local media on Thursday.

“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.

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