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Gonzalez’s inclusion proves Berhalter wants veteran leadership


U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter has made it clear from the start that he will give opportunities to veteran players. Just ask Michael Bradley, Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez, whom all of which were included in Berhalter’s March squad on Tuesday.

The most surprising inclusion by Berhalter was Gonzalez who has not earned a cap in 17 months. The 30-year-old has not played for the team since their 2-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago back in 2017, ultimately ending the USMNT’s dreams of making the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Even with plenty of young and promising defenders to choose from – Walker Zimmerman, Auston Trusty, and Mark McKenzie – Berhalter went with a guy who has been here before and can provide a lot to the rest of the team.

“One thing we’ve looked at specifically is age at positions and it’s common to see goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders older and still be able to perform at high levels,” Berhalter said in regards to the addition of Gonzalez and fellow veteran Tim Ream. “I value veteran leadership, I valued the opportunity of playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team and I think it’s important to have players that have been through it. This is a good opportunity to evaluate two guys that have been through it.

“In this camp, it’s a little different because we’re competing against a top-level opponent. We called in 24 players and now will prepare them to play two games against two good opponents. We’re looking forward to having the guys back in camp and if you look at the roster we balanced guys who are in for the first time of this coaching staff and guys who have spent time with us. We did that purposely.”

Gonzalez is no stranger to Berhalter as the two were teammates during Gonzalez’s rookie season with the LA Galaxy. After a subpar stay with Liga MX side Pachuca, Gonzalez has been a regular for Mexican side Atlas where he’s made 26 appearances since his debut for the club last July.

Even in the latter stages of his career, Gonzalez has been able to continue playing at a high-level. Like Ream, Gonzalez is good in the air and is a physical defender who several of these young centerbacks can learn from in this camp. It’s no guarantee that Gonzalez will be a part of the Gold Cup roster later this summer or the future World Cup plans, but for now, it’s a move that Berhalter believes in.

“We are looking at 2022, looking at this roster we think every one of these guys can play at that time,” Berhalter said. “Some of them will be pushing the limit, some of them might not make it just due to the physicality, but we’re projecting that you can’t just have young players. It’s step two in the evaluation process, it’s a balancing act with this roster.”

Gonzalez was on the field for that forgettable night in Couva and how he will hope to help the USMNT avoid anything like that again.



  1. Maybe and lets hope this is a maybe, Gregg called him in because he wants to get a look at him before the gold cup because he won’t call in the other CBs because they will be fighting for their club spots in preseason like CCV, Miazga, EPB and not wanting to take away MLS players like Long for a month. Don’t get me wrong I hate the choice but this a new coach with new ideas. Same with no Weah and sargent. I don’t agree when everyone is available but it is what it is.

  2. This thread is filled with a lot of stress about a FRIENDLY. Come back later if Omar is on a tournament roster like the Gold Cup. Like the young people say “take a chill pill” and enjoy the game. In the end Coach Berhalter does not have to be transparent, if you don’t like the roster don’t watch the game.

    • It obviously doesn’t matter for these 2 friendlies. However, this is the first time Berhalter has had a chance to put together a full squad from everyone together. And there won’t be a lot of other chances before the Gold Cup . The problem is what this signifies for future personnel choices by Berhalter. If he is making poor choices now, how can w3e have confidence about the future?

  3. We don’t need Gonzalez for “Veteran leadership”. Brooks & Yedlin provide that for the defense & Bradley provides that for the Midfield.
    There are any number of players as good or better than Omar, and are younger. (Alvarado, CCV, EPB, Parker, Zimmerman, Long). Bringing back a player who was never all that good to begin with is a waste of a roster selection and stinks of the continuation of Arena’s failures last cycle.

    To say I’m disappointed with how this roster was built would be an understatement. It represents a step back and is killing any good will many of us were giving USSF after the last cycles failure.

    I almost hope that these crap players actually get on the field and are abused to the point that GB & USSF won’t ever call them up again.

  4. This is like Arena and Garber trying to prove that 2 years ago was not a fluke. These people will never leave the program alone to develop to new levels. Its got to be there way or no way. They always can make the profits from SUM games of Mexico, brazil, etc. so USMNT is just a hobby that they always want their name a part of and in control of

  5. Look, part of the “leadership” deal here historically has been having some older players off our forever-qualifying teams to teach standards of professionalism and convey nuggets to people almost fresh out of college soccer. The pool has professionalized, you have kids from elite European teams as opposed to UCLA, the NT is not wanting to continue what we did last cycle, and some of the “leaders” being called in lately like Lichaj or Omar are neither the sort of names that will command respect, nor long term team leaders I recognize. I can’t help but feel that a coach who is about to do GC wants to fall back on some old school players, and that leadership is the post facto excuse. Thing being if he was transparent what he is doing, well, Omar was brought back in for 2017 GC, blew TnT by himself, and it’s basically repeating Arena’s mistake. And what on earth do people who can’t qualify — some of whom are fairly flawed players — have to teach the ones we want to qualify? The reality is — whether I like them or not — the roster already has Brooks, Yedlin, and Bradley who have already been around forever. It’s not like you have to call in more old farts to have a few guys with experience. It’s not like the whole team is green.

  6. I am growing tired of seeing all the apologies here for the inclusion of Gonzalez. I saw him from when he first started for the Galaxy, saw most of his MLS games, CCL games with the Galaxy, and probably all of his USMNT games. When he played in the Germany game in the 2014 WC he was truly outstanding. However, I can remember at least 4 times in crucial games, especially toward the end of games, where he just falls asleep, or at least loses focus and costs his team a goal and the game. And, if you want senior leadership, then why wasn’t Fabian Johnson called in? He can play LB, which is our greatest need, plays at a much higher level than OG, is faster, and is just a better all around player. Even Villafana would be a better choice than Omar since he can play LB. Or, if you want a CB, Alvarado is a veteran who has been playing regularly in Mexico and is younger and a better passer. The explanations given here are not grounded in facts or logic.

    • Does anyone know what the story is with Alvarado? I thought he at least average when he was called in to some friendlies and he was pretty young and raw at that time. It appears that he’s found a club team trusting him with regular minutes. Seems like he’d be worth a look again at some point. If for no other reason, than to build as much depth as possible.

      • I too was surprised that Gonzalez was chosen over Alvarado. Berhalter’s personal acquaintance with him might partly explain it, who knows.
        Ream apparently used to be more solid when Fulham was in the Championship, but this year he has not been able to keep his back line from embarrassing itself in the Premier League, with flat-footed, sluggish displays on more than one occasion.
        That said, I don’t see that Besler, Zimmerman, or CCV is noticeably enough more consistent (still / yet) to deserve a call-up. The sobering truth is that all these guys, even Brooks, have had occasional lapses and need to concentrate and be clear-headed but still fast off the mark to have a good game on any given day.
        I also have some sympathy with the idea of letting at least some veterans prepare for the Gold Cup as a chance to wind down their USMNT time on a more positive note. WCQ is still some way in the future. That’s when more forward-looking team selections will matter more.

  7. i don’t get it.

    he doesn’t bring exceptional passing, vision or high line defending

    he doesn’t bring great form; while he is a regular starter for Atlas they are one of the worst LigaMX defenses this year. and his MNT confidence has to be rock bottom after Couvo. has not been a confident national team defender in years before that.

    he isn’t a January Camp holdover that can help convey the game plan to the players at their first Berhalter camp

    he isn’t young or a realistic 2022 option..

    Walker Zimmerman would have been a much better option. if Berhalter wanted a odd vet pick Ream fills that option, or at least Besler is better form. even CCV would have been a more productive pick.

    Really don’t get this call up, unless its to give Gonzalez a fell good moment, which is the dumbest i thing i have heard in a while…

    • you ever played sports?? Athletes tend to get over bad performances and good performances pretty quickly because other games are deck, so allowing a let down linger is a detriment. That result was over a year ago, i’m sure he’s been over that result

  8. I don’t have a problem with it.

    Gonzalez was not good, that last cycle. A lot of people were not good that last cycle. I know it’s tempting to summarily swing the axe and start over fresh but at the end of the day you do need a balance of youth and experience, and you need good leaders, and Gonzalez is that. I do think he ultimately gives way to younger and more technical guys, but at the end of the day you can’t take a squad full of 100% newbs and count on any degree of consistency.

    At the end of the day this is Berhalter’s squad and he gets to choose the players he feels fit what he wants to do best, and he will be judged accordingly. Still way too early in the game to see what his endgame is…and the team did look vastly improved in January.

    • I think this isn’t a bad move for the Gold Cup. Omar’s past experience in these games will be beneficial.
      Tactically, I would be somewhat surprised if he’s starting every game, but Berhalter has been able to turn guys to do what he wants in the past so we’ll see what he can get out of Gonzalez.

    • Agree w both quozzel and silver rey. Omar does not inspire me a ton either, but lynching everyone not named Pulisic from the last cycle will not magically solve everything. I’m giving Berhalter through the gold cup to let his thoughts play out on all this. Still not sure exactly what he is up to, but he deserves a chance to implement his ideas.

  9. I’m happy for him that he gets a chance to come in and not have that T&T game be his last US match. I was as disappointed as any about his and the team’s performance then, but I’ve never talked to a defender who hasn’t scored an own goal at some point from an unlucky bounce, bad deflection, trying to make a play on ball, etc. I know I have. That said, I’m a little puzzled how he fits with Berhalter’s system. I thought he wanted great passing centerbacks, and that has never been Omar’s forte.

    • I think you are right about what GB wants from CBs. Ream is a better passer than Gonzo, I do not understand why both of them. If they have anything in common it is the tendency to make a bone-headed play or take a nap when they should be playing.

      OTUH each of them does do what he does do well and maturity can make for better attention to detail. So another look may be worth it.

      • What they both do well is get burned. They are both slow and get abused by speedy & crafty players. If you want to bunker down they’re can serve a purpose, but if the idea is to press the opponent we’re in trouble.

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