TORONTO – The transfer process has been testing Toronto FC’s patience this year.
First it was the protracted negotiations that held up Alejandro Pozuelo's move from KRC Genk to TFC. A similar wrinkle delayed the arrival of Omar Gonzalez from Liga MX side Atlas, where he was on loan from CF Pachuca, but on Monday it was announced that the Reds had got their man and the defender would be joining on July 9 when the summer window opens.
The 30-year-old center back returns to the league where his professional career began in 2009. Gonzalez won three MLS Cups and numerous other awards during his time with the LA Galaxy before moving to Mexico, where he won the 2016 Clausura and 2017 Concacaf Champions League trophies with Pachuca.
Hungry for more, Toronto was the place to be.
“Since I left in 2015, I've kept in touch with the league, watching games,” said Gonzalez on a conference call Monday evening. “Throughout that time Toronto has become a force: making it to two finals, back-to-back, winning, and then going to the final of Concacaf.”
“Being in Mexico, I was rooting for them to win, I wanted to see an MLS side lift the trophy,” he continued. “For the past few years, I've been keeping a close eye on Toronto and when the opportunity arose to come back and they were first in the allocation list, it just made sense because they're such strong team, have a streak of making it in late into the playoffs, and have aspirations of winning a Concacaf title. That's everything that I want to be a part of.”
In Gonzalez, TFC are getting “A veteran defender, a center back with size, a lot of experience; has won championships everywhere he's been,” according to Greg Vanney.
“A good addition to our group, as we look to the health and stability of our backline,” continued Vanney. “He works hard, his mentality is to try to be the best, all good additions to [what] we want on the team and the direction that we want to take the group.”
Toronto nearly added Gonzalez before the primary transfer window snapped shut.
“Before the May 7 deadline, we were really close,” revealed Gonzalez, noting that TFC general manager Ali Curtis visited him in Mexico to start the process. “Unfortunately, it wasn't able to get done because Atlas was selling the team and I think they had to stop all movements. This deal could have got done a while ago, but it fell through.”
“I know from speaking with Jozy in the past, how much he loves being in Toronto, loves playing for the club. That speaks volumes about a place,” said Gonzalez. “With Michael, we were roommates in last camp back in March. Mike was talking to me about what the possibilities could be – just us having a conversation – spoke really highly about the club, the city.
“It really made my decision easy.”
Though he had aspirations of playing overseas, this homecoming of sorts was always in the cards.
“I always did have a dream of coming back to MLS, finishing my career here,” said Gonzalez. “The time happened to be now: the perfect time to come back.
“I'm really excited about the opportunity I have in front of me. With the team that we have, we can make another run at it and that's what we're going for,” added. “I like to win. I plan on bringing that mentality to TFC and I hope we can make some memories together.”