Omar Gonzalez is the 6’5 Mexican-American that will be defending for the U.S. national team in the World Cup. He was the only one of six Mexican-Americans that will be appearing on the field for the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup. Watch the video above to see his part of the MLS series, “One nation. One Team. 23 Stories.”
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. He Led the University of Maryland to a National Title
Omar played for the University of Maryland before being drafted by the Galaxy as the third overall pick in the 2009 MLS draft. Gonzalez was recruited heavily by other top Divison I schools such as SMU, but shose Maryland probably based on the fact that it was located near where his brother was trying out for the Washington Redskins.
The Terp tallied the second most minutes played when he was just a freshman. The next year he was awarded the Atlantic Coast Conferense defensive player of the year in just his second year. The young star didn’t make it to his senior year before graduating, but ha was named All-American as a junior, along with the MVP on defense in 2008 when Maryland won the national championship.
Click here to see his college stats.
Gonzalez’s Coach at Maryland, Sacho Cirovski said of the star player:
“Omar had a great season last year which was reflected by him being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He is a tremendous athlete and has improved each season, which we expect to continue. I believe he will be the best center back in the country by season’s end.”
2. His Parents Are Mexican Immigrants
Omar is one four children of Mexican immigrants Adrian and Maria Gonzalez.
They were married three years later and as their family blossomed, Maria had time enough to volunteer at her children’s school, Sidney Lanier Elementary, where she eventually evolved into a bilingual teaching assistant.
His parents moved across the border to Dallas, Texas where they raised their children, all of whom were athletically skilled and eventually received scholarships for college via sports.
His mother told dallasnews.com before sitting down to watch Omar represent the U.S. in a World cup warm-up game:
“We have been truly blessed with all four children God has given us.”
Gonzalez is one of many dual citizens on the U.S. national team. Although he has both a Mexican and American passport, he was raised in the U.S., fueling his easy choice to play for the U.S.
3. His High School Teammates Funded His Dream
Adrian Gonzalez was never able to witness his talented children play when they were in youth leagues due to his demanding job. The Mexican immigrant spent all hours of the day and night driving a dump truck that provided concrete and gravel for construction projects while Maria worked two jobs to help provide for her family while driving them to all of their extracurriculars.
Gonzalez’s mother knew how much potential her son add and was torn apart about the fact that there was no way her and her husband could come up with the $1,500 in fees her son needed in order to play for the Texans, a team that would catapult his soccer career. She thought her only hope was by scholarship, but she was wrong.
Max Korenvaes was a good friend of Omar’s through his youth playing soccer and was also recruited to play for the 1989 Texans. The Korenvaes saw the potential their son’s friend had and felt they had to do something to make sure he succeeded. The family decided they would pay for Gonzalez’s fees to play on the Texans, unable to let such a hard working young man be denied his destiny.
Amy Korenvaes told dallasnews.com of Maria Gonzalez:
“Whatever we did for Omar, Maria gave back to the whole team. She volunteered to do anything that was needed. He was great on the field. She was a dynamo off of it.”
Maria was constantly cooking meals for the team to show her gratitude towards the Korenvaes and other families that supported Omar. Omar and Max are still friends today as Omar became a fixture in the Korenvaes family from his tight bond with their son.
Max Korenvaes, now a finance guy in New York City, told dallasnews.com of his close friend:
“He may have been the best player out there, but Omar never once acted like he was better than anyone.”
Gonzalez was also recruited by the U.S. national U-17 team thereafter and was known by his coach for staying the latest late and showing up for any extra session that was offered.
4. He Was Targeted When He Was Young Because of His Large Size
Gonzalez’s parents grew up in towns close together in Mexico and connected while playing volleyball at Reverchon Park in 1977. His father, Adrian stood at 6 feet 4 inches while his mother, Maria, stood at 5 feet 8 inches, making them a great pair in the coed volleyball league they joined.
Gonzalez can thank his size and athleticism to his parents, but his size caused him some trouble as a youth. His mother and sister whom attended all of his games were forced to carry around his birth certificate to every game because the opposing teams never believed he was the legal age for the league he was playing in.
His salary at the LA Galaxy is $1,000,000, the highest he has ever been paid by almost $800,000 form his $205,000 salary in 2013.
5. He Got Married in March
Gonzalez married his longtime girlfriend, Erica Gonzalez this past March.
Click here to view Gonzalez’s instagrams featuring photos of him and his new bride.
He and his wife are close friends with teammate Brad Evans and his wife, Becky.