The life of a young goalkeeper typically consists of lots of practice and few in-game experiences, but that is not the case for FC Dallas' Jesse Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has gone from seldom-used Homegrown Player learning the ropes of the position to becoming Dallas' full-time starter. The 20-year-old Gonzalez has not only beat out veterans Dan Kennedy and Chris Seitz, but also continues to peform in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Learn more about the confident and talented Gonzalez with these 10 things that you may not know about him:
1. Originally played forward. Before shifting his talents to goalkeeping at age 11, Gonzalez played forward growing up as a child. “I was the best striker out there,” Gonzalez said. His academy coaches, however, said his talents have always been best-suited for being in the net.
“I never saw him as a forward, and I don’t think that would have been pretty,” FCD academy coach Francisco Molina said with a smile. “Maybe in 4-v-4 or something.”
2. Well-Traveled. He may be only 20 years old, but thanks to his international duties with Mexico's youth teams, Gonzalez has seen his passport stamped quite a bit. To name a few: The young ‘keeper has been to Spain four times, Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, Canada, and of course, the United States.
3. Height. A big part of Gonzalez’s success since taking over as the FC Dallas starter on Aug. 22 has been his been his large, lanky frame. While officially clocking in at 6-foot-4, Gonzalez says he’s still growing and is now closer to 6-foot-5. His wingspan is equally as impressive, but he said he has never actually measured how large that is.
“He was probably the height he is now at 12 years old,” Molina said.
- Get more FC Dallas news at FCDallas.com
4. Other sports. Aside from making a name for himself in MLS, Gonzalez also enjoys playing football and basketball. In football, Gonzalez claims to be a wide receiver because of his height and “ability to catch a ball,” and even compared himself to Calvin Johnson of the NFL's Detroit Lions.
When the 20-year-old plays basketball, he described himself as a power forward that can dominate in the post. When asked who he most compares to in the NBA, his answer: “LeBron.”
5. A Carolina Kid? Although he’s lived in Texas most of his life, Gonzalez was actually born in Edonton, North Carolina – roughly 50 miles from the Atlantic coast. He moved to Texas when he was young, so he barely considers himself a North Carolina native. Because of his quick move to Texas, he never had the time to get indoctrinated to the NASCAR culture in the Carolinas.
“I came over here as a baby,” Gonzalez said when asked who his favorite driver is. “I don’t know any of them.”
6. Musical Proficiency. Believe it or not, Gonzalez claims multiple musical talents. In middle school, he played the violin for a year, but in his words was forced to “retire” because he “was too good at it.” He is also a self-proclaimed vocalist.
“I can sing. I’ve got a nice voice,” Gonzalez said, saying he can sing everything from Sinatra to Pitbull. Molina, on the other hand, said he has only heard Gonzalez sing Mexican songs on bus rides to and from Houston and San Antonio when he played for the Academy.
“I don’t agree with that at all,” Molina said of Jesse’s voice, laughing in the process. “I was at the front of the bus, and it was a little annoying at times.”
7. “The Tree.” Because of his large frame and massive wingspan, Gonzalez’s Academy teammates gave him a nickname: The Tree.
“His arms are as wide now as they were then, and he was 15 years old,” Molina said, adding that he’s fairly certain Gonzalez was fond of the alias.
- WATCH: Gonzalez's best saves in MLS
8. Gamesmanship. Physical traits aside, one of the more unseen characteristics that attracted FC Dallas to Gonzalez was his sense of gamesmanship on the field. Even as a young player in the academy, Dallas coaches saw a high intangible soccer IQ while still learning tactical nuances of the game.
“If his team was winning, he would kill a little time, talk to the referees, fix his gloves,” Molina said. “That’s what we liked about him. That’s what caught our attention.”
9. Much more outgoing behind the scenes. While typically pretty short-winded with the media, Gonzalez is much more vocal with his teammates on and off the field. His teammates say he has become an effective communicator in the net, and he also jokes around as much as anyone else on the team when off the clock. Gonzalez is never one to shy away from a challenge from his teammates, whether it is in soccer, another sport, or video games.
10. “The FIFA King.” Like many players on the club, Gonzalez proudly boasts about his ability in the FIFA video game. But the 20-year-old has taken it a step further and dubbed himself “the FIFA king,” claiming he can beat anyone on the team when using any team in the game.
He said he is upset about his rating on the game, a 56 overall, with a handful of teammates claiming Gonzalez should be around an 80. Jesse, on the other hand…
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I think I deserve to be a 99,” he said while bursting out into laughter.
His teammates got a kick out of it, too.