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Omar Gonzalez, the 6’5” L.A. Galaxy and USMNT center-back, has had a whirlwind two years.
After winning MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2011, Gonzalez earned a call-up to the USMNT’s annual January camp. However, before that camp even began, Gonzalez withdrew from the roster to go on loan to Nurnberg in the Bundesliga.
That loan stint didn’t last very long as Gonzalez injured his knee in his first training session in a collision with fellow USMNT defender and Nurnberg player Timmy Chandler.
Out for several months after surgery to repair his ACL, the Galaxy struggled, only winning three of their first 13 games. Gonzalez, however, made a relatively quick comeback, returning to the team in July and helping to lead the Galaxy on an 11-4-3 run and eventually the MLS Cup. In the 2012 MLS Cup final, Gonzalez scored the game-tying goal, starting the Galaxy’s comeback, and was named the MVP of the game.
Since then, Gonzalez has continued to get call-ups for the USMNT and played particularly well in the team’s March World Cup qualifiers.
With his contract with the Galaxy expiring at the end of the season and his value never higher, the Galaxy and Gonzalez have difficult choices lying ahead.
There has been talk of the Galaxy signing Gonzalez to a designated player contract to keep him in MLS, but he may also desire another move abroad. He is only 24 years old and is about to enter the prime of his career. The Galaxy will have to decide whether or not Gonzalez is worth DP money (he is) and Gonzalez himself will have to decide whether he wants to stay in MLS.
From a USMNT fan's perspective, one must wonder how much Gonzalez, if at all, will continue to grow as a player in MLS. However, the past is littered with the careers of American players who made the move abroad and were never able to find consistent playing time—Gonzalez is virtually guaranteed to be a starter if he stays with the Galaxy.