This is Part 10 in a series of articles on the players who make up the 2010 Los Angeles Galaxy.
In our modern day and age, the dictionary will define the idiom known as "the diamond in the rough" as "One having exceptionally good qualities or the potential for greatness but lacking polish and refinement."
Los Angeles Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez is an example of a diamond in the rough. A recipient of the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year Award, Gonzalez stands at an imposing 1.96 meters and has proven to be a stalwart in the G's back line with Todd Dunivant, Gregg Berhalter and A.J. De La Garza.
However, Gonzalez has yet to harness the skills needed conduct-wise to up his game to new heights. At the age of 21, he has plenty of time to improve his game in ways never imagined.
Omar Gonzalez was born on Oct. 11, 1988 in Dallas, Texas. The son of Adrian and Maria Gonzalez, Omar holds a Mexican passport to go with dual citizenship, thus averting the troubles of crossing the border into states like Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
Like a number of places in the Lone Star State, Texas is a hotbed for football talent. Whether it's the familiar American code or the association code that Gonzalez was raised on or even the rugby union code, Texas has a big love for football.
No need to ask the people in Dallas why they love the game of soccer. After all, the nearby suburb of Frisco has their own place of worshipping the beautiful game in Pizza Hut Park, where the hardy souls of FC Dallas take on all visitors inside and outside Major League Soccer.
The Gonzalez family embraces the power of sport. Omar is one of four siblings in his family, and his sister Luisanna played volleyball for the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters.
But Karch Kiraly is not Omar Gonzalez's favorite athlete. On the contrary; it's a certain Brazilian by the name of Ronaldinho.
With a dream to emulate his idol firmly in place, Gonzalez played for youth side Dallas Texans, earning USYSA All-American honors in 2005.
In fact, Gonzalez was so good during his two years at Dallas Skyline High School that US Soccer placed him in their Residency Program.
As a member of the U-17 side, Gonzalez scored three goals in eight appearances, including a game-winner against Costa Rica to secure the young Yanks a spot in the FIFA U-17 World Championship.
The power of a college degree was also too good to pass up. Gonzalez was recruited by the University of Maryland, and a chance to improve his skill set as part of Sasho Cirovski's Terrapins was a swell deal.
In 2006, Gonzalez was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman Team, starting all 22 games for a Maryland side that featured A.J. De La Garza and former Toronto FC forward and current Rangers FC fixture Maurice Edu. Gonzalez was also named to the Soccer America All-Freshman second team.
In 2007, Gonzalez was named ACC Defensive Player of Year to go with NSCAA/adidas All-America Third Team and All-South Atlantic honors, as well as a place on the All-ACC Second Team.
2008 would be Gonzalez's final year with the Terrapins, who won the College Cup, and with it, the National Championship. Gonzalez himself was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, earning NSCAA/adidas All-American First Team and First Team All-ACC.
Named defensive MVP in the cup final, Gonzalez's defensive ability paced the Terps to 15 clean sheets in 26 games, with seven of those taking place in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
This drew the attention of Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, whose club proceeded to pick Gonzalez in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
He was thrown to the fires immediately, debuting at the 2009 opener of March 22 against D.C. United. Gonzalez's first goal came less than a fortnight later, in LA's 3-2 defeat to the Colorado Rapids on April 4.
But the hard work that Gonzalez put in with the US U-17's, with the US U-20's at the Pan American Games in 2007 and his efforts under Sasho Cirovski were bearing fruit under Arena.
At the end of the 2009 season, Gonzalez set new club records for games started and minutes played as a rookie, while tying another for games played. He became just the second Galaxy player (after Sean Franklin) to be named MLS Rookie of the Year.
His scoring ability with the ball inside LA's attacking third was apparent once more during the 2010 season. In the 4-0 rout of the Seattle Sounders on May 8 at Qwest Field, Gonzalez made no mistake off the corner by Landon Donovan in the 52nd minute.
Just for added flair, the ball took one, two, three bounces between the crossbar and end line of the XBOX Pitch's FieldTurf surface before resting into the nylon. Very few defenders can add that much English on the ball after the fact.
But on Saturday against the Columbus Crew, Gonzalez was treated to a piece of humble pie. In the 25th minute, a shove of frustration on the Crew's Steven Lenhert drew an unnecessary yellow card from match referee Michael Kennedy.
It brings up that fair-but-firm realization: while his accomplishments and honors have made him a bookend on the LA Galaxy backline, Omar Gonzalez will need to improve on the little things that will allow him to make the big step in improving his game.
A little polishing, just like a diamond in the rough.
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