U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann took a chance on the Los Angeles Galaxy star for Thursday’s Group G finale against three-time champion Germany, inserting Gonzalez for struggling right center back Geoff Cameron in the 1-0 loss that was still enough for the U.S. to advance in Brazil. Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 at the same time.
“I did my job,” Gonzalez said. “I haven’t been getting much luck since the very beginning of camp with my little injury, but I’ve always said I was going to stay ready. I got my opportunity today, and I’m just happy I could step on the field and do whatever I could to help this team go through.”
“No one has a perfect game,” Gonzalez said. “That was a little scare. It’s what you do after a little hiccup.”
The Americans have defied expectations by getting out of one of this tournament’s toughest groups. The U.S. is headed to the knockout round in consecutive World Cups for the first time.
“Everyone is so important in our group and we wanted to give Cam a break, and we don’t kind of have the luxury to say that all the players can come and go every four days in games and be always on the highest level,” Klinsmann said. “We were sure now with Omar coming in he was ready. He worked so hard the five, six weeks we had camp. And he was ready for it, and he showed that on the field.”
He hoped it wouldn’t put him behind. Clearly, Klinsmann trusted Gonzalez to take over a big responsibility on a new-look back line that has been scrutinized from the start for its youth and inexperience on soccer’s biggest stage.
“Jurgen has always said this is a group of 23 players,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said.
He received a quick congratulatory pat on the backside from goalkeeper Tim Howard when he cleared a ball in the 14th minute, then a high-five from fellow center back Matt Besler after another hard tackle against Thomas Mueller.