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Omar Gonzalez returns to training after knee injury

The central defender has recovered from his knee injury and now has a starting spot to fight for.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Omar Gonzalez finally got the go-ahead to return to training on Sunday, joining the United States on the pitch for the first time in training camp. Gonzalez had been doing work on his own, but he participated with the full team on Sunday, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told Jeff Carlisle.

Gonzalez hurt his knee two weeks ago playing for the LA Galaxy. He had to leave that match at halftime and while Bruce Arena said after the match that he "will be fine," eventually a 1-2 timeline was put on his recovery. His Sunday return makes it exactly two weeks and he is reportedly at 100%.

The first step for Gonzalez will be to get back to full fitness. The rest of the U.S. team has been doing intense fitness work since Wednesday so he is behind on that, but he has more than a week before the Americans' first Send-Off Series match to get back into shape.

Gonzalez will need to be ready to go come next week because he is in a battle for a starting spot in Brazil. Matt Besler appears to have one locked up and while Gonzalez was the clear frontrunner a year ago, the last 12 months have seen him put in far too many shaky outings for him to have a lock on a starting spot now. Clarence Goodson and even Geoff Cameron may rise to starter now, putting Gonzalez under the microscope as he tries to show the form that catapulted him to frontrunner status in 2012.