MEXICO CITY – Not even missing out on the chance to meet President Obama and a passport disaster that cost his father a dream trip could take the shine off one of Omar Gonzalez's finest hours on Tuesday.
Gonzalez, the United States' 24-year-old defender in his first World Cup qualifying campaign, was outstanding as the side battled to a 0-0 draw at Mexico's feared Estadio Azteca to give its chances of reaching the 2014 tournament in Brazil a huge lift.
Yet helping the U.S. to avoid defeat for only the second time in a qualification game on Mexican soil came at a price for the 24-year-old. Firstly, this fixture coincided with the Los Angeles Galaxy’s visit to the White House along with the L.A. Kings to meet the commander in chief, a reward for winning the 2012 MLS Cup and Stanley Cup, respectively.
"I would have loved to have been back with the Galaxy," said Gonzalez. "Something like going to the White House doesn't happen too often but coming here and representing my country and getting the point is huge."
[Related: Why a draw is as good as a win for the U.S.]
Gonzalez also suffered personal disappointment in the lead-up to the game, with his father Adrian denied the chance to witness his son in action as he had mislaid his passport.
Gonzalez had arranged for a ticket to the match for his father, who was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and holds a lifelong dream to watch soccer at the famed Azteca, the only stadium to have hosted two World Cup finals.
Yet just as he was preparing to book a return airplane ticket from Southern California to Mexico's capital, his father phoned him with the news that his inability to locate his passport meant the trip could not happen.
"I couldn't believe it," Gonzalez told Yahoo! Sports. "I had it all set up and ready to go and it was going to be amazing – both for him to come to the Azteca to see me play and for me to have him there watching.
"But I don't know what happened. He told me that he had looked everywhere but couldn't find the passport. I was ready to book the plane ticket and there was a seat for him and everything."
Gonzalez was pivotal in the U.S. containing Mexico's dynamic attacking line, led by world-class stars such as Javier Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos. Hernandez's combination with Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler, also a recent addition to the squad, was one of the biggest high points on a satisfying night for the Americans, and did much to showcase the increasing standard of MLS.
"We felt comfortable out there," Gonzalez said. "Obviously you hear a lot about the Azteca and the atmosphere and how difficult it is, but I thought we handled everything they threw at us and it gives us a lot of confidence."
The U.S. now sits in a three-way tie for second place in the CONCACAF final six-team qualifying pool. The top three finishers will reach the World Cup in Brazil next summer, while the fourth goes into a playoff eliminator against New Zealand.
Although Panama tops CONCACAF with five points from three games, the U.S. is now arguably the favorite to win the group, sitting just one point back and having already completed two of its most difficult road games.
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