LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez was today named the MLS Rookie of the Year by Major League Soccer. In his first full season with the Galaxy, Gonzalez appeared in and started all 30 of the club's regular season games, playing a team-high 2,672 minutes, the seventh most in MLS this season. The 21-year-old Dallas native missed just 28 minutes all season long and set Galaxy rookie records for games started and minutes played, while tying the club record for games played by a rookie.
Gonzalez claimed the award, edging past fellow finalists Stefan Frei and Chris Pontius, after garnering the most votes in polling of MLS players, general managers, coaches and members of the media. He is the second straight Galaxy player to win the award, following fellow defender Sean Franklin, who was the 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year.
The Galaxy selected Gonzalez in the first round (third overall) of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft after he helped lead the University of Maryland to the 2008 College Cup title. A big and physical center back, Gonzalez stepped right into the mix for Bruce Arena's team, winning one of the two starting roles in the middle of the Galaxy defense early in the preseason. He would remain in that role all season long, starting all 30 of the club's regular season games, as well as the high profile international friendlies against AC Milan and Barcelona. His partnership with Gregg Berhalter in defense helped the Galaxy keep a club record 12 clean sheets and allowing just 31 goals on the year, one year after the Galaxy conceded a league-high 62 goals and tallied just two shutouts.
One of the Galaxy's prime targets on set pieces, Gonzalez helped out in the attack as well, scoring the first goal of his MLS career in the first half of a 3-2 loss to Colorado on April 4. He also registered one assist on the year, heading a long Todd Dunivant throw-in into the path of David Beckham for the game-winning goal in LA's 1-0 win over Chivas USA on August 29, a win that clinched the Honda SuperClasico title for the Galaxy.
MLS Rookie of the Year Winners:
2009: Omar Gonzalez - LA Galaxy
2008: Sean Franklin - LA Galaxy
2007: Maurice Edu - Toronto FC
2006: Jonathan Bornstein - Chivas USA
2005: Michael Parkhurst - New England Revolution
2004: Clint Dempsey - New England Revolution
2003: Damani Ralph - Chicago Fire
2002: Kyle Martino - Columbus Crew
2001: Rodrigo Faria - MetroStars
2000: Carlos Bocanegra - Chicago Fire
1999: Jay Heaps - Miami Fusion
1998: Ben Olsen - D.C. United
1997: Mike Duhaney - Tampa Bay Mutiny
1996: Steve Ralston - Tampa Bay Mutiny