The LA Galaxy officially announced today that they've made Omar Gonzalez their third Designated Player signing him to a new multi-year contract. The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and 2012 MLS Cup MVP is now the first American defender to receive the honor of Designated Player status.
Since his arrival, the Galaxy are 64-23-32 in games in which Gonzalez appears compared to just 11-16-5 in those he doesn't. That means the club has earned 62.7 percent of the available point with Gonzalez and 39.6 percent without him. His anchoring of the back line and stepping in seamlessly to the Gregg Berhalter vocal role has played a large role in the Galaxy defense being as solid as it has been.
"To be the first Galaxy and U.S. defender to be named as a Designated Player is a great honor for me," said Gonzalez. "The Galaxy are the premier club in MLS and I'm looking forward to growing as a professional in LA while working towards winning a third consecutive MLS Cup."
Twenty four year old Gonzalez has appeared in 119 regular season games since joining the Galaxy, scoring six goals and adding five assists as a defender in that time. He captained the club for the first time in last month's 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps and has started in all but one of his appearances. He'll move into a tie with Ezra Hendrickson (1997-2003) for tenth most starts in Galaxy history.
In the press conference Omar Gonzalez talked about getting the okay from Jurgen Klinsmann to stay in MLS. As a young player this is a sign that up and coming stars are no longer told that Europe is the only option for furthering their career. As a defender this is a sign that MLS is no longer a league where a half decent back line playing defensively for 90 minutes can secure points.
As an American, especially coming quickly off the heels of Clint Dempsey returning to MLS, it shows that under new management there is a respect for MLS at the national team level. Klinsmann may wish MLS played more matches, or moved to the international standard schedule, but concerns about the level of play being too soft are shrinking.
"We are pleased to that Omar will remain with the Galaxy," said LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena. "In the past five years, he has arguably developed in to the top defender in MLS. I believe he can continue to grow as a player and leader of our team."
Part of becoming a top ten league worldwide is the retention of talent. Even if the product isn't the best, having pride in what you're putting on the field enough to want young talent to stick around. Competing with Europe for players like Gonzalez and Dempsey.
This was a good day for MLS.