EDGAR ZUNIGA - Thursday, August 15, 2013
In what was no surprise to anyone, Los Angeles Galaxy announced on Thursday that their third Designated Player slot will belong to current defender Omar Gonzalez.
"It's a great day for the Galaxy and MLS," said Dan Beckerman, CEO of AEG. "Omar had opportunities all over the world and chose to play here, with the Galaxy. We've always wanted to be a league of choice and team of choice ... be a destination for world-class talent."
Gonzalez, who has been with Galaxy since his rookie season in 2009, had been entertaining possible transfers to Europe and Mexico.
Many will remember his very short stint with 1. FC Nuremberg in January 2012, which ended in mid-February after tearing the ACL of his left knee during a collision with national teammate Tim Chandler.
This effectively ended his time with the team, whereupon he returned to Los Angeles to recover, eventually returning to be a crucial part of Galaxy's MLS Cup 2012 run.
"Omar is the Galaxy," said Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena, addressing the media assembled at the StubHub Center. "He is a fierce competitor and has a hell of a lot of fun out there."
Arena then turned to Gonzalez with a sly smile, "Omar, welcome..."
As Galaxy's third DP, Gonzalez becomes the first US and Galaxy defender to be given such a distinction. Gonzalez made it clear he understood the significance of this announcement, thanking everyone from the front office to the fans.
"I think the support from everyone around me has been amazing," a beaming Gonzalez said. "I'm really excited to take on the task and helping the Galaxy go for a consecutive third MLS Cup. After looking at all my options, I couldn't be happier with my decision. I've loved my time here and I am happy that I will continue to be here."
Gonzalez continued by stating that the support he has received from Arena and the training staff in his time with Galaxy weighed in on his decision.
"In staying here, I see myself growing as a player," he said. "I want to be part of this league and help it grow. With the Galaxy, we're on a major platform. I really couldn't be happier about staying in L.A."
Throughout his time with Galaxy, Gonzalez has grown to be the centerpiece of one of the best defenses in MLS, helping lead the team to MLS Cup victories in 2011 and 2012. His MLS success translated well to the National Team, eventually earning his spot among Jurgen Klinsmann's starting 11 and will likely be on the front line in Brazil 2014.
"I did speak with Jurgen. He thinks it's fine that I stay in MLS. Hearing him say that put my mind at ease," Gonzalez said.
With Gonzalez remaining state-side, along with the return of Clint Dempsey to MLS and other American players in Europe claiming they would like to play in MLS, it seems that the league has reached another stage in its evolution.
While the golden standard may remain playing in Europe's top leagues, that MLS is able to maintain a hold on some of its top American talent will surely raise eyebrows.
"We are pleased that Omar will remain with the Galaxy," Arena said. "In the past five years, he has arguably developed into the top defender in MLS. I believe he can continue to grow as a player and leader of our team. We're growing the league and the sport in this country."