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The Galaxy defender was thrown into the fire against Honduras, and he says that experience helped him cope with hostile conditions at the Azteca Stadium.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann sent shock waves through the U.S. soccer community on Feb. 6, as he named the untested Omar Gonzalez in his starting lineup against Honduras in favor of captain Carlos Bocanegra.

His decision was questioned at the time, and roundly panned after a defensive mix-up between Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron led to the winning Honduras goal, condemning the U.S. to a loss in its first Hexagonal match.

After the game, Klinsmann demonstrated his faith in the 24-year-old LA Galaxy defender.

"We believe Omar is ready for the international level," he told reporters. "The only way you find that out is to give him a chance. Overall I thought he did well."

Following the USA's games against Costa Rica and Mexico, it would appear Klinsmann has been vindicated.

Gonzalez put in two rock-solid performances in Denver and Mexico City, especially at the Azteca Stadium, where he was a physical presence in the air and on the ground.

"I think Honduras, that atmosphere is as tough as it gets with the humidity, the heat, the field, and the fans," Gonzalez told reporters after Galaxy training Thursday. "That was a great way to start off my career with the national team. I think I learned a lot from that game and I felt a lot more prepared going into the Azteca."

Gonzalez has gone from unproved to first-choice in a very short period of time, as the University of Maryland product still only has six caps to his name. Though still green, his comfort level is rising with more national team experience.

"I felt a lot more confident going into this camp than the first one," he said. "I felt a lot more comfortable. So I kind of got settled in and had two good performances."

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