In August Clint Dempsey found his way home from London. Shortly after Michael Bradley proudly returned home after success in Rome. Between these two signings Omar Gonzalez signed a Designated Player contract with the Galaxy making him a rare and expensive breed in the world of MLS defensive salaries. There is no doubt that the quality of play in MLS is growing in exponential ways and is keeping its best players longer while luring top-talent back home to play their game. I believe that this league is going to great places and have no doubts with how far it has come since the early days of its existence. However, as much as fans like to think that passion leads the way in this sport, soccer is a business – money is king.
On MLS Media Day, Gonzalez stated his belief in the league and pleased many fans when he claimed that he was fine with finishing his career in MLS if that’s what ends up happening.
#@Omar4Gonzalez on decision to stay in MLS: “Great to have life exp. in Europe, but if stay here rest of my career I’m fine w/that.”
I love this professional enthusiasm. I really love the way that Omar plays for us. If I had it my way, the crowd will be chanting “Omar smash” in the stands for the next decade as Gonzalez continues to be a wall of defense for the Galaxy. There is only one problem: I don’t believe him. We should believe Omar when he says he is fine with staying in MLS – he has earned a healthy heap of money and is certainly comfortable in a league where he is one of its most well known defenders. What we can’t believe in Omar’s words is just how fine he is with not going to a foreign league. Placing his comments in the storyline of this summer and the looming World Cup makes Omar’s words smart PR for a player who is developing his career. Omar is simply hedging his bets by giving Galaxy fans confidence with his level of commitment to his current team in the event that he is not sold after his performance in the World Cup.
“Sure, if I get a better option, I would want to go to Europe. But I wouldn’t do it for a mid-table team. I’d rather stay here and get better.” Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles Galaxy Defender
To the Galaxy, signing Omar Gonzalez benefits both club and player. For Omar, guaranteed playtime is a must before Brazil 2014. Being sent to a European team where his position is not cemented like it is in Los Angeles could prove to be a disastrous move for Omar’s chances of playing on the international stage. For the Galaxy, raising Omar’s price tag just before a possibly impressive World Cup performance creates profit for the club. When Omar was signed as a Designated Player many people expressed confusion over giving a defensive player such a large contract. Giving a defender such a huge chunk of budget seemed like desperate management from the Galaxy if there are no plans on selling him. The Omar-sized-hole in Los Angeles would be huge but not unfixable — especially with money and an open DP spot. Avoiding the defensive collapse of 2012 would be a hard but accomplishable task. Ultimately, Omar’s desires to stay in Los Angeles may not even be up to him. Viewing this signing as the investment it appears to be makes it a move that hints at the Galaxy’s future plans.
Soccer is a business and the event of not selling Omar Gonzalez for a profit before his contract expires would be a possible failure of management on the part of the Galaxy. While MLS is growing, it is silly to think that it is immune to selling its local talent. I don’t doubt that Omar could settle here. I do doubt that he is truly done with Europe. Sure, Americans have returned to MLS. But these players gave Europe a shot and are now experiencing some pretty steep financial benefits for coming home. Europe has only given Omar a torn ACL and he has so much more to prove. We should be happy to have Omar’s talent and we should be enthusiastic about his vocal dedication to Los Angeles. We should also be aware of how fast things can change in soccer. Omar’s future in Los Angeles may rely on finance as much as it does on talent.