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CARSON, California (Reuters) - L.A. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez's year started terribly but ended in triumph when he scored in his team's 3-1 MLS Cup win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday and was named Most Valuable Player.
Gonzalez spent the first six months of 2012 rehabilitating a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, which he sustained during his first training session with German club FC Nuremberg in January.
He returned to fitness mid year and it was no coincidence that Los Angeles experienced an up turn in form when he came back into the side.
"Probably the turning point in their season was when he got healthy," said Houston Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear. "His timing today (in the MLS Cup) was excellent. He changed the momentum."
A 6-foot-5 tall (1.96m) defender who is a strong presence in the air, Gonzalez has impressed former England captain David Beckham, who left the Galaxy after Saturday's match.
"He works hard, he listens. He is a young player with a lot of talent," said Beckham.
"He deserved the MVP and we are lucky to have a young player with his talent on this team."
Gonzalez lived up to his ability on Saturday, heading in the equalizer in the second half.
"Juninho put up a great ball and I was able to get over my guy and put it in," Gonzalez told reporters. "It was fantastic. I didn't think it would be happening to me."
More challenges are surely in store for Gonzalez especially with the U.S. national team, where has only made two appearances, but is now firmly on coach Juergen Klinsmann's radar.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who called Gonzalez "the best centre-back in the league", is confident he will soon be a regular on the international stage.
"Omar belongs on the national team," the former U.S. national coach said.
"I am confident that Omar is a player that can play internationally for the United States."
Editing by Greg Stutchbury