[MLS TRANSACTIONS]To the surprise of nobody, the Galaxy announced Thursday that defender Omar Gonzalez has signed a new contract that increases his compensation into that of a Designated Player.
As is always the case in MLS, this deal creates much speculation. Does it mean Gonzalez commands a seven-figure salary as that earned by Galaxy teammates and co-DPs Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, or does it mean he earns something closer to the $500,000 threshold (including acquisition costs, such as a signing bonus) that separates DPs from the rank and file?
Either way, it’s a milestone for the league: the first American defender to sign a DP contract with its most glamorous club.
“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.”
It also doesn’t necessarily mean what many observers are surmising, that Gonzalez will stay with the Galaxy for several more years. (The term of his new deal was not disclosed; most MLS contracts for high-profile players in the early years of their career are four-year deals.) All it means is that if a foreign team opens up a transfer discussion, it will need to pay a lot more to get him.
For now, suitors in Europe and Mexico will have to wait for Gonzalez, with probably the first realistic window for him to leave opening up after the 2014 World Cup, assuming he’s a regular for the national team and performing well. And if such offers are not forthcoming or not sufficient, he's joined an elite level.
Still, it was a day for the Galaxy and MLS to reward themselves as well as one of the top defenders to be produced in recent years.
“We are thrilled that Omar has chosen to remain with the Galaxy and Major League Soccer for years to come,” said Dan Beckerman, CEO of the club’s ownership body, Anschutz Entertainment Group. “Omar's commitment is a clear indication of our continued appeal as a destination for top soccer talent.”
That Gonzalez, 24, has fulfilled the promise and potential he displayed as a youth player and at the University of Maryland is unquestioned. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft has been named Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year in 2011, and an MLS All-Star three times. With him in the lineup, the Galaxy has won back-to-back MLS Cups the past two seasons and also reached the 2009 final against Real Salt Lake that it lost on penalty kicks.
“We are pleased to that Omar will remain with the Galaxy,” said 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.” He has played 119 regular-season games for the Galaxy and 17 more in the playoffs.
In the past year he’s established himself with the U.S. national team, playing in all six Hexagonal matches as well as coming on as a late sub in the 2013 Gold Cup final. Ten of his 12 caps have been earned in 2013.
The deal cools, for now, talk of a big foreign signing to take up the DP slot vacated when David Beckham left MLS for French club Paris St. Germain last winter.Frank Lampard, Kaka, Giovani dos Santos, Didier Drogba and several other foreign stars were churned through the rumor mill as serious discussions with Gonzalez commenced.
Donovan’s contract expires in December. Last January Keane signed an extension of undisclosed length believed to be two years plus options.