Defender – Los Angeles
Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg, Photographer, J. Fischer, Videographer: C. Wild
Caution: Omar Gonzalez is Eating Up Attackers
Known for his physicality in the backfield, Omar Gonzalez is not a defender that most strikers want to meet on-field. His animalistic play is deeply engrained, starting with the first time he bought the adidas Predator at age 14.
"Ever since I was young, I've stuck with the Predator. What I love about the Predator LZ now is that they're really lightweight and comfortable. The Lethal Zones give me extra control on the ball. There's no other cleat I would rather wear."
Omar purchased that very first pair of Predators right from Eastbay. "Every kid had the magazine growing up and we were all checking out the latest gear and the latest boots. I ordered the Predators when I was starting club ball. Now, being on the cover of Eastbay is pretty cool. Eastbay has grown even more since I was a kid, so imagining everyone checking out the magazine and the latest gear with me on the cover is pretty cool."
Omar has undoubtedly worn many pairs of Predators since the originals, but once they're on, it's time to get serious. Every game, Omar looks to accomplish a laundry list of tasks required of elite defenders: "You have to be able to understand when pressure's coming and how to deal with that. It includes being a vocal leader, getting people in the right positions, taking on 1 v 1 defending, attacking everything in the air, and not being scared to put your body on the line to save a goal."
That willingness to dive into the action can be dangerous. Omar suffered an ACL tear in a training session last year. Now that he's recovered, his efforts are focused largely on injury prevention and staying healthy.
"Getting injured really gave me time to reevaluate how I work as a pro and now I'm really involved in injury prevention. I'm in the gym right before practice, working on strengthening my leg, strengthening my core, doing those little things. I do just enough to get my muscles going and get the right technique in the way I run. When I'm out on the soccer field, I just give it everything I have, day in and day out, and work on doing every single play the right way so when it comes down to game time, I'm ready to go."
He takes that preparation seriously and encourages up-and-coming athletes to follow suit, telling us that while his youth teams were practicing two or three times a week, he was on the practice field for at least five days a week.
"My main advice for kids trying to make it to profession soccer is to never give up. Always work to try to reach that next level. There are always things to improve on and I'm learning that now, even though I've been playing professionally for five years. There are always things you can improve on and you have to have the willpower to put in that extra work and it will pay off."
To see how Omar's hard work is getting results, look out for him and his Los Angeles teammates as they set their sights on another MLS Cup. You'll also seem him make appearances with the US Men's National Team throughout the World Cup qualifying season.
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