CARSON, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez has long been regarded as one of the most important players to the LA Galaxy’s success and on Thursday, he was rewarded with a contract befitting his importance.
The Galaxy announced that they had signed the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and current U.S. international to a multi-year deal as the club’s third Designated Player. As per league and club policy, the terms of the agreement were not announced.
Gonzalez becomes the first defender to be awarded with a DP contract in MLS history and the fifth DP for the Galaxy, joining the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juan Pablo Angel, and Robbie Keane. Although such deals may not have been possible in years past, to join such respected names is an incredible honor for the 24-year-old Texan.
“My dream when I was young was just to become a professional soccer player, but to get to this point; I never imagined it to be like this. I think that I’m really living my dream,” said Gonzalez. “I couldn’t be happier. Everything is going right, right now and I just want to continue this path. I just want to continue working hard with my teammates on and off the field, and building friendships. I think that this is the place to do it.”
It wasn’t always a lock that he’d sign such a deal with the two-time defending MLS Cup champions; however, as Gonzalez admitted that he had numerous conversations with clubs in England, Germany and Mexico ahead of his contract running out in the end of the year. However, Gonzalez’s desire to remain with the Galaxy and other options abroad falling off the table allowed the contract talks to escalate to Thursday’s unveiling.
“After looking at all my options at this point in my career, this is where I want to be. I want to continue my relationship with the Galaxy. I want to continue the success that we’ve had and continue to build on that,” said Gonzalez, who admitted that LA’s deal was on par with any offers abroad. “In the past four years since I’ve signed here, it’s been amazing ride and I don’t see it getting any worse, I see it getting even better…Everything about playing here and living here is top notch and that’s why I decided to stay.”
As he decided to make the move to remain a member of the Galaxy for the next several years, the defender reached out to U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. boss has made Gonzalez a regular for the U.S. team over the past year, and he is considered a favorite to be on the roster for the 2014 World Cup.
Over the last several years, Klinsmann has stressed his desire for his national team players to test themselves in the leagues of Europe, but Gonzalez admits that Klinsmann was completely on board with his desire to stay in Southern California.
“We were at the Seattle game [against Panama in June] and I pulled him aside to ask him a few questions. He told me that he thinks that it’s fine that I stay here in MLS,” said Gonzalez. “Hearing him say that put my head at ease and made it easier for me to make this decision. I’m going to be here. I’m going to be playing games and I feel comfortable in this environment. Everyone pushes me; I think that I’m going to get better.”
The statement that Gonzalez’s signing makes is of major significance as he becomes the sixth American Designated Player in league history as he joins Chris Wondolowski, Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey, Claudio Reyna, and Donovan.
“Omar is what we’re about in the United States and MLS,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “He came through out collegiate system and the club system in Dallas, and I think this signing is significant for all American players. It gives them something to shoot for.
“He grew up in our system; he proved it on the field in MLS and is being rewarded accordingly,” the Galaxy coach added. “It’s our mission as the Galaxy to have the best American players and continue to grow our Academy system and have our players aspire to be Omar Gonzalez.”
And Gonzalez does not intend to shy away from the responsibility that comes with his new deal.
“I think there are kids around on this area who are going to look up to me, who already look up to Landon and Robbie. I’m now on that type of level,” said Gonzalez. “I’m really looking forward to putting in the hard work and continuing my growth as a player and continuing to be a leader in the L.A. community, and help anyway that I can.”
With the new responsibility and title as the Galaxy’s third Designated Player, Gonzalez doesn’t believe that he has to validate his new standing. He’s simply focused on doing more of the same, which means helping LA to the dizzying heights that they’ve enjoyed throughout his tenure.
“I don’t think that I have to prove anything. I just have to continue doing what I’ve been doing and that’s being solid on the backline. The past four years have been great,” said Gonzalez. “I just have to continue being a good teammate, being a hard worker, and doing everything that I’ve been doing. I think that if I keep doing that then things will take care of themselves.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com