CARSON, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez's decision to sign a Designated Player deal with the LA Galaxy, rather than pursue options in England, Germany or Mexico, came down to a conversation with Jurgen Klinsmann about two months ago in Seattle.
The US national team was preparing for its World Cup qualifier against Panama, and Gonzalez asked Klinsmann what he'd think if the big center back spent a few more years in MLS.
“He basically told me he thinks it's fine that I stay here in MLS, and hearing him say that really put my mind at ease and really made it easier for me to make this decision,” Gonzalez said Thursday, when the Galaxy introduced the fifth-year veteran as their third DP in a press conference at the StubHub Center.
“I really wanted to know what his thoughts were, because I was already thinking maybe I wanted to stay here with the Galaxy, and to hear him validate it and say it's fine if you stay for a couple of years, but at some point you should go to Europe, you should see what that's like to to test yourself. I think I agree with him, but, you know, I decided to stay, and I'm happy with my decision.”
The new deal is for three years, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, and talks have been going on in one form or another since the beginning of the year.
It was, at that time, “more it's a possibility but it's a long shot,” Gonzalez said, “and then toward the middle of the year, the Frank Lampard [DP bid] goes under, and then I do a pretty good job with the national team, and with the Galaxy I was playing well, and so things just start escalating pretty quickly. Right when summer started is when things come into focus, and I could see that maybe this might happen.”
The Galaxy had hoped to sign Gonzalez, whose previous contract was to expire at season's end, but they pursued Lampard and Giovani dos Santos for their last DP slot and were linked to several other players.
“Omar was always a player that we wanted to keep here,” said club president Chris Klein, a former Galaxy winger. “A lot of names get tossed around, but one thing stayed consistent: If we could come to an agreement with Omar, then we were going to keep him here.
“When talking about this internally with Dan [Beckerman, CEO of owners AEG] and our ownership group, Mr. [Phil] Anschutz and with Bruce [Arena] about what exactly we need, it was always consistent and everyone was unanimous: We have to do everything to keep Omar Gonzalez.”
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Gonzalez said the support from the club and its management was vital in making up his mind.
“I think the deciding factor was that over the past four years, these guys [running the club] have been supporting me, they believe in me, and they want me here,” he said. “And I really felt that, and I think in staying here, I really see myself growing as a player and getting even better, and I want to be a part of this league and help it grow. That was one of the major deciding factors.”
The DP status comes with greater responsibility, but Gonzalez said he doesn't “think I have to prove anything. I think I just have to continue doing what I've been doing, and that's being solid on the backline. I have to continue being a good teammate, being a hard worker, doing everything I have been doing. I think if I stay true to that, things will just take care of themselves.”