Patrolling the center of the defense for the LA Galaxy for the past several seasons, including their 2011 and 2012 MLS Championship seasons, Omar Gonzalez has established himself as one of the best defenders in American soccer. Along the way, he’s become a regular member of the United States Men’s National Team set-up, as well, and is a hopeful for the squad as they prepare for the World Cup in Brazil in June.
For a player known for intensity and competitiveness on the pitch, Omar is a disarmingly nice dude in person. A Galaxy fan favorite, Omar has made Los Angeles his home for the past 4 years, exploring the city and following the LA culinary scene. He and fellow Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza repped their squad on Thursday night at UNDFTD in Santa Monica — unveiling a collab clothing line between the Galaxy and the LA-based sneaker shop.
Are you a sneakerhead? Earlier on in my life it was hard for me to get nice kicks, because I would get ‘em dirty so fast. But I do collect some sneakers now, and try to keep ‘em clean (laughs). This is a place I’ve come to get some pretty unique shoes because Undefeated has some cool collaborations.
Favorite classic kicks? I do like Chuck Taylors — I actually came here to get the Chuck Taylors when they collaborated with Missoni.
You wear adidas when you play — has it been interesting to see the technological innovations they’ve incorporated into soccer shoes? Yeah — any athlete wants an edge, some little edge to be a bit quicker, to be able to get to the ball faster, shoot better. And the colors that they’re coming out with are pretty insane.
How many soccer shoes do you go through, with training and games? I run through quite a lot of boots in a single season. In any given season, I go through something like 10 to 15 pair… but that’s because once a shoe starts to stretch a little bit I ask for a new pair. I like my foot to be nice and snug and a new boot always feels better to me.
Do you keep up with boot styles, what’s new or about to come out? I do keep up with what’s coming out, because my adidas rep sends me pairs and tries to make sure we’re pushing the newest product. Just recently I was watching Real Madrid play, and the pair of boots that Gareth Bale was wearing — those were pretty sick. No one else has those yet.
What international teams or players do you follow? I watch the top competitions — Premier League, Champions League, Bundesliga, La Liga. For the Galaxy, we’ve had friendlies against some of the biggest teams in the world: Real Madrid, Juventus. Names like Pirlo, Buffon, Ronaldo, Benzema… being able to step on the field with them was pretty cool.
They’re huge stars, but you competed with them. Yeah, I competed with them on their level. And this Summer [at the World Cup] is going to require another level; I know that I can compete there.
What’s the element of the sport that the average fan probably doesn’t understand? The speed, the physicality? The average fan might miss just how aggressive the sport is, how competitive it is on the field. People who don’t know the sport can be misled. There’s a lot of grabbing, pushing, hitting — and the tackles can get pretty rough.
When you’re not training or traveling, do you get a chance to explore Los Angeles? Yeah, definitely. I kick it around Abbot Kinney in Venice a little bit, Hollywood, Santa Monica — I try to get around as much as I can. I haven’t been Downtown too much yet but I know there’s a lot going on. But if there’s any new restaurants, I’m there.
Favorite restaurants? As far as classic places, recently I went to Giorgio Baldi’s — I’d never been there before, and I really enjoyed that. Their corn ravioli was incredible. For January camp I was staying here in Santa Monica and I went to Capo, that was very good. And I did try Rao’s recently, that was real cool.
And most importantly, what is your favorite taco? The one taco spot I like when I’m in that part of town is Escuela Taqueria — I enjoy that place.