CARSON, Calif. – Traditionally Designated Players have been perceived to be about box office value or triumphant national teamers returning from abroad. With the LA Galaxy’s signing of Omar Gonzalez as the club’s third Designated Player, those days are officially done.
Rather than make a splash for an international, the Galaxy utilized their third DP slot to lock down the U.S International and 2010 MLS Defender of the Year, who has long been considered one of—if not the—best defender in the league. A player that has grown in his five years with the Galaxy from the third overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Maryland into a force in MLS and internationally.
With his deal, he joins esteemed company as the fifth LA DP in club history joining David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Angel, and Robbie Keane. He also becomes the sixth American DP in U.S. history as he joins Claudio Reyna, Chris Wondolowski, Clint Dempsey, Freddy Adu, and Donovan.
The signing of Beckham, Henry, and even Dempsey ushered in new eras of spending in MLS, but the Galaxy’s signing of Gonzalez to a DP deal offers another facet in league history. The U.S. international has long been linked with deals in Europe and Mexico, but by signing a multi-year deal with the Galaxy, signals his intent to remain with the club in the pursuit of trophies.
Take that in for a second. This is a deal not for the benefit of the ticket gate, but for the team to compete on a national and international level. By locking down Gonzalez, the Galaxy retain a player, who has shined on multiple stages for years and has still not yet reached his prime.
Simply looking at the last two seasons, Gonzalez has shown that he is worthy of the type of commitment that the Galaxy have bestowed upon him.
Last season, he battled back from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his first training session with German club Nurnberg. After the injury occurred, Gonzalez’s prognosis stated that he’d miss seven to nine months, but the defender returned ahead of schedule eventually practicing in June. By July, he was back in the lineup and from the start of August on; he was a near-permanent fixture in Bruce Arena’s starting XI.
Eventually, a year that began with such disappointment ended in elation as he tallied the tying goal in the 61st minute of the MLS Cup Final against the Houston Dynamo. Eventually the Galaxy battled back and sealed their second consecutive MLS Cup title with Gonzalez being awarded the AT&T Most Valuable Player.
On the international level, not only has Gonzalez locked down a regular spot with the U.S. National Team, but he shined in CONCACAF Champions League play this season—particularly during LA’s road match in Monterrey, where Gonzalez seemingly kept the Galaxy in the match with his defending during their fateful second leg in the CCL Semifinals. All in all, Gonzalez has shown throughout his years with the Galaxy that he was more than deserving of the club’s substantial investment.
But not only does the deal allow the Galaxy to keep one of their best players, but it sends a powerful message to soccer playing youth in Southern California, North Texas and across the country. No longer will a player have to turn to Europe or Latin America to have a fruitful and lucrative soccer career. Players can remain in the United States and see their hard work rewarded by clubs in MLS.
Ultimately, Gonzalez’s signing will be judged based on the Galaxy’s success at home and abroad, but with the past as a marker, it appears that LA are poised to challenge for years to come with their star defender staying close to home.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com