Omar Gonzalez predicts MLS teams will struggle vs. Liga MX sides in CCL

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- United States and Pachuca center-back Omar Gonzalez is predicting that Major League Soccer sides will have a difficult time against Liga MX teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League next week.

The former LA Galaxy defender made a high-profile move to Liga MX in December and has performed well enough to get back on Jurgen Klinsmann's radar for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March vs. Guatemala.

With the MLS season yet to begin and Liga MX already nearly two months into its season, Gonzalez feels the Mexican teams will have a clear upper hand when CCL play resumes on Tuesday.

"Well, [MLS teams] are still in preseason, it's not like their games have started yet, so that's where the difficulty lies," Gonzalez told ESPN FC after Pachuca's 1-0 loss to Atlas in the Estadio Jalisco on Saturday. "We're seven games into the season and we're pretty much hitting full stride, so it's going to be very difficult for the MLS teams to be match fit."

Gonzalez played 21 times for the Galaxy in CONCACAF's club tournament and said it's "crucial" that the MLS teams do not concede away goals to opposition if they are to advance to the semis.

Gonzalez said he is excited to watch his former club's series against Santos Laguna and knows a tough pair of matches await for some of his ex-teammates, starting with Wednesday's first leg at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

"Obviously, the Galaxy picked up a lot of talent this offseason," said the 27-year-old. "It's how quickly they can build that chemistry on the field. They are a little bit older. They're all coming off a long offseason. Are they going to be fit enough? I don't know."

"Santos started the season off great," Gonzalez added. "I watched some of the games and they started off flying. They've lost a couple of games now. I think it's going to be a fun game and could go either way."

The World Cup 2014 defender for the Americans has started well for new club Pachuca this Clausura 2016 and says he is happy with how the transition to life in Mexico playing with Los Tuzos has gone so far.

The positive words last week from Klinsmann didn't escape Gonzalez, but with World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Guatemala coming up next month, the Texan isn't getting carried away.

"It was great to see the article that came out, but I try not to read too much into it," said Gonzalez, admitting there has been no contact directly with the coach since they spoke shortly after he moved down to Mexico. "I've got to worry about what I'm doing down here. If I get too happy with what he says, I'll lose focus on what I've got to do here.

"I think I've got to take it with a grain of salt, keep on working towards my goal and try to be as consistent as possible and help this team get the results we need."

Next up for Gonzalez and Pachuca is a trip to Monterrey -- where Gonzalez has family -- in the Copa MX and Los Tuzos will then look to get back to winning ways in the Liga MX next Saturday away at Toluca.