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If you thought that Dempsey's move to Seattle was a coup for MLS and a sign of the league seeking to sign players in their prime then you thought right. Two days ago the LA Galaxy confirmed that their 24 year-old center back Omar Gonzalez, a US international, would be signing a Designated Player contract and would remain in MLS for 3 more years.
For years now, Don Garber has been adamant about MLS keeping local talent. They have kept Donovan, Zusi, Besler and repatriated Bocanegra, Davies and Goodson. They went after Dempsey and got him. But the fact that they resigned Gonzalez and at a DP salary is another story all together.
At $1.5 million Gonzalez became the first pure center back to gain a DP in league history. Also, at 24, he is one of the youngest. It is now clear that the league is serious about not only keeping and buying American, but continuing on its way to become a top league in the continent and perhaps, in a decade or so, the world.
There are some minuses to Gonzalez staying home. He may not be able to continue development in a more difficult environment such as Europe. Would he keep the starting position in the full national team by staying in MLS? With players like Besler and Goodson also in the league, the competition isn't as stiff. But, if this is the case, how will USA fare in the World Cup? However, Geoff Cameron, when in form, and a surging John Brooks are other potentials Omar needs to worry about.
Gonzalez said it himself in an interview. He stayed because the product on the field is getting better, the owners are more active, the fans are getting louder and the stadiums are rising in quality. Who doesn't want to continue being a star instead of potentially waiting on the wings and losing your edge in Europe? Omar might have a point here and it is time for soccer "purists" that don't watch MLS to start paying attention.
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