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Two elements missing in Omar Gonzalez contract talk

Aug 19, 2013, 6:51 PM EDT


The obvious talking points on Omar Gonzalez’s new Designated Player deal last week were, well, obvious.

It’s always right to stamp “Big News” on top of the print when a U.S. man is made a DP. There have been just three previously.

And it does my heart good to see MLS arrive at a place where defenders are valued thusly; it says good things about how long-term results are gaining ground on short-term marketing maneuvers when these important DP decisions are made.

But there are two elements that perhaps have not generated sufficient talk, both revolving around player choices and how staying in / returning to MLS could impact their ongoing development or performance.

Yes, Omar Gonzalez needs to be in Europe at some point to be the best possible Omar Gonzalez he can be. So there was some disappointment when the big center back signed on for another three-year Galaxy hitch. But before judging the U.S. center back too harshly, consider two things.

(Well, actually consider that we really need to stop pretending like these guys owe us something; they all have a right to play wherever they want … it’s not their problem if we are disappointed that they aren’t representing the Red, White and Blue of soccer in England or Italy or wherever. But that’s beside the point here …)

First, this does not necessarily mean Gonzalez (pictured, in the center of the bunch) is staying in Los Angeles for three years. What the Galaxy has done by offering a salary commensurate with the wages he would earn abroad is to secure his rights for three years. Los Angeles stood to forfeit somewhere north of $5 million by not signing Gonzalez, leaving him available on a free transfer at season’s end.

How silly would that have been? AEG brass may as well drive up and down the 405 flipping $100 bills out the window if they just want to throw money away.

Assuming good health, Gonzalez will surely fetch what Geoff Cameron did a year ago and then some; Cameron moved from Houston to Stoke 13 months ago for just under $3 million.

Second, nothing is more important to a soccer player than a World Cup. Right now, Gonzalez is well positioned for a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster next summer in Brazil. He may be slipping a wee bit in the order, as Matt Besler keeps up his good work and John Brooks crowds the field of central defensive competitors. Still, Gonzalez would be a roster lock if Klinsmann had to choose today.

The deal killers would be an injury, obviously, or if Gonzalez gets himself into a bad club situation. Say he went to Stoke City (a lot of that going around for Americans, you know) but could not break up the Ryan Shawcross / Robert Huth stranglehold on the two center back spots?

(MORE: Has Omar Gonzalez slipped a bit lately?)

If he sits on the bench all spring, the best possible likely outcome would be losing the U.S. starting spot while still making the roster. Again, that’s probably the best possible outcome.

If he stays in MLS he has a great chance of holding that starting spot. Then, if the man has a good World Cup, he’ll be 25 years old and in an outlandishly great position to make a move into Europe.

When you think about it that way, another go-round in MLS starts to look and feel like the right choice. Maybe not forever, but quite possibly for the time being.

  1. dfstell - Aug 19, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Great points. I’d love to see him do a loan to a top European league this winter just so he can get exposed to the better strikers and creative players in those leagues, but he can do that within the confines of this deal.

    • charliej11 - Aug 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      Well.the last loan deal went so well for him, I am sure he wants to do that again.

      You guys are mssing the point. He is making the same money and playing iin a real league, one where you cam win titles. Not some rediculous situatulion where you waste a career losing at Stoke hoping you can beat out the top ten center backs in the world to get on team that can win.

      This is what we hoped for. Almost 40 years of waiting for this and you want him to leave for a team that can’t even get a shot off against Houston. Wow. The inferiority complex strikes again.

      • jpan007 - Aug 19, 2013 at 11:13 PM

        some people will prefer players being in the bench for a whole season

  2. bellerophon30 - Aug 19, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    You have to think that his agent did some Euro exploring and didn’t like what he found, and that LA’s offer was either better from a financial aspect or a playing time one. Either that or he pulled a Landon and just decided that he would be happier playing near his home. Something to be said for that.

    • takethelongview - Aug 19, 2013 at 10:34 PM

      Along those lines, the question I wish someone would ask him is whether watching talented players like Feilhaber, Goodson, Buddle, and Rico Clark sputter along in Europe and ultimately return to MLS factored in any way into how he looked at his options. And, of course, there’s the cautionary tale of Tim Ream and Maurice Edu, who can’t get stable club situations at all.

      It seems like for every successful American player in Europe, we can point to two others who may have been better off staying in MLS and not only playing regularly but doing it in a position of leadership within their club.

      I’ll never begrudge any player the chance to go try it in Europe (as Steve observed, it’s his life!), but I think more of them profit from thinking the way Landon Donovan thought. And letting their careers grow here….

  3. pjbowmaster - Aug 19, 2013 at 9:07 PM

    Charlie…..well said!

    • midtec2005 - Aug 19, 2013 at 10:15 PM

      I agree… MLS standards have risen greatly. MLS players perform well on the international stage on a regular basis at this point. So I think the idea that you have to go to Europe is starting to become less and less true.

  4. takethelongview - Aug 19, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    The reasons Steve cited apply as well to the situation faced with its USMNT players, Zusi and Besler. (And, Kei Kamara as well, minus the implications for the USMNT.) In the interview with prior to the ASG, Robb Heineman was quite explicit that re-signing with MLS did not preclude moving abroad before the deal expires. I have to think this pattern will become more prevalent moving forward.

    • takethelongview - Aug 19, 2013 at 10:35 PM

      The above will make ever so much more sense if the Reader inserts an “SKC” between “situation” and “faced” in the first sentence above.

      • midtec2005 - Aug 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM

        I think an edit button would be a nice addition to this cite :)

      • randomhookup - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        That would be great for the bloggers, but what about us commentators? :)

  5. charliej11 - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    Thanks for everything Steve ( and all the rest, including commenters ).
    I will pop in from time to time, when Sounderatheart links through.

    Fun reminising with you about the old days and conversing about the new with a good perspective.
    If you are ever in Seattle, and I mean this, I would love to buy you a beer before the game.

    Email me.

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