New England Revolution defender José Gonçalves chased a move to MLS with certain goals in mind. He linked up with the club for a training spell during the fall of 2012 and surveyed the scene. He reached the conclusion that he wanted to continue his career in the United States. And he vowed to make an impact when he did.
“When I decided to move to the US for my first season, my mind was set that I had to do everything I can to be at my highest and that my team would be at the highest [level] in the league, too,” Gonçalves told MLSsoccer.com by phone from Europe on Tuesday. “That was my main focus. It was not only for myself. My teammates had the same mentality. And that's why it helped me a lot to achieve what I wanted to achieve.”
Gonçalves established himself quickly as a key figure in the Revolution's revival efforts. He provided a sense of comfort and solidity in central defense. His assured displays set the tone at the back for a side in need of a firm foundation to pursue its ambitious brief moving forward.
His leadership supplied a guiding force for a young team in need of the experience culled from spells in Germany, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland. His consistent and imposing presence in every minute of every MLS match this season transformed a series of talented players into a cohesive and compact defensive unit.
Those diligent efforts received their just rewards on Tuesday when Gonçalves was announced as 2013 MLS Defender of the Year. He shielded off competition from Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler and the LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez to join Michael Parkhurst (2007) on the short list of Revolution players to claim this particular award.
“It's nice,” Gonçalves said. “It's very nice to be honored for your work and for other people to realize you did a good job this year. It's a honor for myself to be Defender of the Year. This is why I play soccer: to win titles. I'm very happy about that.”
The former FC Sion man will remain in Foxboro to pursue more achievements next season. New England exercised the contractual option to purchase Gonçalves outright from his Swiss club after the season and reached a deal with the player and MLS for the 2014 campaign. The permanent move erased any lingering doubts about Gonçalves' future and fulfilled his desire to remain with the club for another year.
“For myself, the most important thing is that I brought the effort and I brought everything I could to help through this season in 2013,” he said. “At the end of the season, we'll always discuss about the security. As soon as I knew I had the chance to come back to the Revs, I said it from the start, if there's a big chance to come to the Revs, then I will be here next year. This is going well. I am looking to bigger things now.”
The loftier objectives involve more collective success for a team coming off its first postseason berth since 2009. The core of the side is now in place. Now it is just a matter of cultivating the talent in place and maintaining the commitment and the effort from a year ago.
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Gonçalves understands the task ahead. He knows he must sustain his high level of play to fuel the Revs' collective ambitions. It is an assignment he accepts with relish as he prepares to pursue his collective and his personal goals again next season.
“There is a lot of quality in this team,” Gonçalves said. “There is a lot of talent. I think there's a lot. I think everyone can profit from that and learn for the next year. I believe the club has a big, big future. To be a part of this future is something very important for me. I enjoyed this year and working with the guys and the club. I know it's a new year. Hopefully, the story will continue.”