United States international Omar Gonzalez has been transferred from Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy to Liga MX’s Pachuca, the Galaxy announced on Wednesday. The move ends the defender’s seven-year stay at the MLS club.
“We thank Omar for his contribution and dedication to this club throughout the past seven years,” Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena said in a statement published by the club. “We wish Omar the best of luck with Pachuca.”
Gonzalez, 27, is a 30-time US international who helped the Galaxy to three MLS Cups and two Supporters’ Shields during his time in Los Angeles. He was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2011 and was voted to the league’s Best XI four times between 2010 and 2014.
That level performance earned Gonzalez a Designated Player (DP) contract in 2014, with the former Maryland Terrapin guaranteed $1.45 million in salary during the 2015 season. But Gonzalez’s DP status, alleviated by targeted allocation money (TAM) last season, limited the Galaxy’s flexibility, with Steven Gerrard, Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos set to occupy the team’s three Designated Player spots. Though the Galaxy could have tried to use TAM to offset Gonzalez’s DP status in 2016, they’ve instead allowed their best defender to move to Mexico.
Pachuca has won five Mexican league titles but have not claimed a crown since 2007. In Liga MX’s just completed Apertura, the Tuzos finished in 12th place, six points out of the league’s playoffs. Pachuca, having allowed a league-worst 33 goals in 17 games, will hope Gonzalez quickly forges a partnership with veteran Alquivaldo Mosquera in a solidified central defense.
For the Galaxy, it was a move that had been rumored since the team’s disappointing loss in the first round of MLS’s playoffs. Expected to maintain his performance as one of the league’s best defenders, Gonzalez say his performance wane in 2015, so much so that Jurgen Klinsmann left him off the 23-man roster for the United States’ CONCACAF Cup showdown with Mexico this fall. Given a choice between Gerrard, Keane, Dos Santos and Gonzalez, and with defenders Leonardo and AJ DeLaGarza still in the squad, Gonzalez was the obvious choice.
Along with a likely pay raise, the move gives Gonzalez a new challenge, one which could propel him into the rest of his prime. It also represents a risk. Gonzalez has spent his entire career in Los Angeles, leaving him with no experience adapting to new clubs.
For Los Angeles, this may have been a necessary move, but it’s one that lowers the ceiling on their potential, with the team’s most talented defender leaving the club. It also marks the end of an era, with a player who was a key component to three titles in four years forced to leave the club.
Perhaps forced too strong a word. Given Gonzalez’s transfer fee remains undisclosed, it’s possible the Galaxy received an offer they could not refuse. Or maybe Gonzalez wanted to move. But on the surface, this move looks like a function of the Galaxy’s strategies and the league’s restrictive rules.