Giancarlo Gonzalez, Schelotto reunite at LA Galaxy after Palermo stint

Giancarlo Gonzalez - LA Galaxy - holding jersey

CARSON, Calif. — Giancarlo Gonzalez had been in the LA Galaxy's web once before, and he worked with Guillermo Barros Schelotto during the Argentine coach's abbreviated stint three years ago with Palermo, so when the club and its on-field boss came calling ahead of the 2019 campaign, the decision wasn't a difficult one.

It just took a little time to work out the details.

The 31-year-old center back arrived this week in Galaxy camp, trained a bit Wednesday and had his first full session with his new teammates Thursday, when the club announced they had acquired him from Serie A side Bologna after making trades with Orlando City SC and Toronto FC to climb atop Major League Soccer's allocation order.

Gonzalez, a standout for nearly a decade, including two World Cups, with Costa Rica's national team, says he's fit, focused and ready to start his second MLS stint, but he'll likely have to wait for LA's April 19 home game with Houston while the club awaits arrival of necessary documents.

Schelotto will likely pair Daniel Steres and, returning from an abductor strain that sidelined him last weekend, Diego Polenta in the middle Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union at Dignity Health Sports Park (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada). Gonzalez, who spent part of the 2014 season with Columbus Crew SC, probably forces one of them to the bench next week.

Gonzalez brings international and European experience while broadening the Galaxy's depth at the back, which has been a weakness the past two seasons.

“I think he's professional,” Schelotto said following Thursday's practice. “He knows the league, because he spent one year in Crew, he has a lot of experience in Italy and national team and gives us a lot of things to improve the team. And maybe a young player like Steres or [fellow defenders Dave] Romney or Tomas [Hilliard-Arce], he can teach them a lot of things. ...

“I think he will push the level a little more higher.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic admitted he doesn't “know so much about the player, have to find out now, but if he's here, it means he's a good player.” Jonathan dos Santos has played against Gonzalez with the Mexican national team and calls his new teammate “a great player who is going to help us a lot ... a player we needed.”

The deal had been in the works for about two months, Schelotto said, but the Galaxy had “to wait because his team is fighting relegation in Italy” and wanted to bring in another defender before letting Gonzalez go.

The Galaxy first made contact several years ago.

“It's a curious thing, because in 2012 when I left Costa Rica, the Galaxy showed interest in me when Bruce Arena was head coach,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. “It didn't happen then, so I left for Europe. But recently the contact again was there, and I never doubted coming here.

“I have strong faith in God, and he showed me the first time in 2012 and the second time now, so I think it was meant to happen, for me to be here. I'm happy to be here and excited to get to work.”

Gonzalez played the first half of the 2014 season with Columbus, then departed for Palermo after an impressive World Cup performance in Brazil. He said he “was treated very well, and I had a great experience playing [with the Crew]. ... The league has grown so much, and I think as a player, you have everything here you need to grow and succeed.”

Schelotto was hired as Palermo's manager in January 2016 but had to step away when UEFA declined to give him a coaching license.

“I was with [Schelotto and his staff, all now with LA] a couple of months, so that, of course, also had a play in my decision to come here,” Gonzalez said. “I know their work and I know they're going to provide me a good environment to grow.”