LOS ANGELES -- Omar Gonzalez could have been playing in the Bundesliga by now. Though that dream is on the back-burner for the time being, 10 months after knee surgery, the news is almost as good.
"I think I'm back to my normal self," Gonzalez told reporters after LA Galaxy training Thursday. "I had my doubts about me being the same player but now those are all gone."
Gonzalez's return to full fitness has been a godsend for the Galaxy, who started off the season in a rut and rounded into form just as their hulking central defender was returning to full fitness remarkably quickly.
Last January, the 24-year-old was sent on a six-week loan to Bundesliga club FC Nurnberg, which had the option to buy him permanently. Coming off a MLS Defender of the Year campaign, the center back looked a good bet to move on to greener pastures.
Then, in his first training session in Germany, disaster struck. Gonzalez was tackled by international teammate Timothy Chandler and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Just as quickly as he had arrived in Europe, he was on his way back home.
Back at home, Gonzalez focused on his rehab and attempted to eliminate distractions.
"I didn't watch any soccer, I didn't play any soccer, I just got away, got my head out of it," Gonzalez said. "I just worried about getting healthy and I think that was key."
His focus paid off quicker than anybody would have imagined. On July 4, less than six months after his injury, he was named to the Galaxy’s starting lineup and played the first half in a 2-1 loss against the Union.
"Coming back at five and a half months, it was pretty scary coming back so soon," Gonzalez admitted.
On July 28, Gonzalez entered the starting lineup for good and he and the Galaxy haven't looked back since. The team is 7-2-3 since the defender's return to the starting XI and find themselves back in MLS Cup for the third time in four seasons.
"You never know how those things go, you kind of just wait and see, but Omar's work ethic and his ability to get back was impressive. He was hungry," Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant said.
"It was the worst timing for him, first day on trial and it was difficult for him to go out like that, but he's come back strong and I'm sure he'll get plenty of chances."
Gonzalez is hopeful that he'll continue to get chances with the U.S. national team as well, where his last appearance was in January 2011. His main focus this week though, is winning a second straight MLS title.
"I think it will hold some water [with the national team] if I do really well," Gonzalez said. "But I'm not worrying about that, I'm worrying about winning. That's just something that can come from having a great game."
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