Omar Gonzalez is used to seeing things from above. At 6-foot-5, the LA Galaxy and US National Team center back stands about half a foot above the average American male, and that’s before he leaves the ground – Gonzalez is arguably Major League Soccer’s best defender in the air.
But that hasn’t kept Gonzo from getting even further above his competitors – and everybody else in general. Just before last year’s World Cup, Gonzalez purchased a drone – a DJI Phantom 2, to be precise – and sent it skyward, using the quadcopter to get a unique perspective on goings-on down below.
"I just thought it’d be fun to fly this quadcopter around and have a camera on it and see what kind of shots I could get,” Gonzalez told MLSsoccer.com via telephone earlier this week. "I felt like every time we’d go on trips for soccer we don’t really see the city for what it is, because we’re just at the hotel, or taking trips from the hotel to practice or the stadiums or whatever. I figured if i had the drone maybe I could get a different perspective on the city, maybe get some other shots that you otherwise wouldn’t see and do it in a pretty reasonable amount of time – while not doing a lot of walking.”
Gonzalez has done a bit of globe-trotting with his four-bladed friend. He gave us a birds-eye view of Montreal (no word on whether any airspace violations occurred while he flew the thing a few feet away from several local monuments – WATCH IT HERE). He also managed to do the same in Sao Paolo, Brazil (no word on what Jurgen Klinsmann thought of the drone’s fitness level; they can only stay aloft for 12-15 minutes or so.)
He’s also brought us beautiful vistas of California beaches, patching together several different clips to make his “directorial debut” (no word on any Academy Award nominations as of yet.)
Perhaps most importantly, he finally answered the age-old question: What would it be like to slowly fall into Graham Zusi’s outstretched arms? Behold here.
There are, of course, more practical uses for a quadcopter. Drones are becoming increasingly popular with sports teams, from American football teams that use the devices to get a better look at spacing and movement, to Formula 1 teams that use them to analyze a driver’s path through the course. Even the U.S. Polo Association makes use of the things, sending them high above polo matches to more accurately critique the positioning of their officials.
"During our games we have a camera on top of the stadium so that the coaches can see every player’s movement,” said Gonzalez, "so obviously there’s a use for those overhead shots and obviously a drone can go much higher than the roofline of the stadium – and can be mobile. I think it could definitely be useful depending on what the coach would want."
One place Gonzalez didn’t take his drone, thankfully, was the White House. Just a week before the Galaxy’s most recent visit, the entire facility was locked down after a drone – the very same make and model that Omar uses – zipped over the fence and crashed on the grounds. Gonzo also happens to have the same name as, well Omar Gonzalez, a Virginia man who last year hopped the fence at the White House, making it all the way to the East Room before being apprehended.
“Basically, they had a close eye on me,” said the Galaxy’s Gonzalez, chuckling. "The President didn’t mention anything to me, but as we were entering security the guy who was checking ID’s turned to me and said 'Hey. I have my eye on you.’ That really did happen."