The return of Jonathan Gonzalez: Minnesota United signs Mexican-American midfielder

Subject of the most dramatic USA-Mexico dual-national tug-of-war, Californian Jonathan Gonzalez has been in Mexico since joining Monterrey Rayados at age 14 in 2014.

He's returning to the USA to play for Minnesota United, which signed the midfielder on loan through the rest of the 2022 MLS season from Monterrey. (Minnesota also paid the Colorado Rapids $50,000 in General Allocation Money to attain "discovery rights" to Gonzalez.)

Born and raised in Northern California, Gonzalez accepted an offer to joined Monterrey's youth program after his MVP performance at the 2013 Sueno Alianza national showcase  for U.S. Latino youth players. He remained in the U.S. youth national team program from U-14s to U-20s before becoming a focal point of the Mexican federation's increased courting of Mexican-American talent.

In the wake of the USA failing to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Gonzalez made his one-time FIFA-approved national team switch after a remarkably successful rookie Liga MX season in 2017.

Playing for one of LigaMX's richest teams — few clubs match the payroll of the FEMSA-owned Rayados — Gonzalez won a starting a spot at age 18. He helped Los Rayados finish Liga MX runner-up and win the Mexican Cup — and was named to the Liga MX Best XI.

The extraordinary six months of league success led to the Mexican federation closing on his commitment to El Tri and weeks later the defensive midfielder earned his first cap for Mexico in a February 2018 friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina, coming on for the final 33 minutes. The last of his three Mexico caps — all friendlies, coming off the bench — came in a 2019 October win over Trinidad & Tobago.

Gonzalez was also denied a chance to play for Mexico in the 2019 U-20 World Cup by Monterrey's refusal to release him.

While Gonzalez arrives to MLS with 94 appearances in all competitions in top tier Mexican pro ball — Liga MX, Mexican Cup and Concacaf Champions League — his playing time steadily decreased after his breakout rookie year.

When Rayados won the Apertura 2019 title, Gonzalez didn't see Liga MX postseason action after playing in five (four starts) regular-season games. In recent loan stints to Queretaro and Necaxa over the last year, he appeared in 10 games.

“While the year or so have not gone the way he would have liked, there’s no doubt there is a lot of talent there," said Minnesota coach Adrien Heath. "We are hopeful he can resurrect his career here because a couple of years ago, he looked as though he was going to be one of the bright things of Mexican football."

Heath said he remembers watching Gonzalez play a Concacaf Champions League game a couple of years ago and thought he was the best player on the field.

"We started the season with five players for two defensive midfielder positions and now we’re at a stage where that’s not the case," Heath said. "If Jonathan can help us between now and the end of the season, we feel as though that is an area where we might get stuck if we receive more injuries. The risk-reward for Jonathan is huge and we’re quite excited to get him in here and start to work with him.”

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10 comments about "The return of Jonathan Gonzalez: Minnesota United signs Mexican-American midfielder".
  1. R2 Dad, August 8, 2022 at 6:21 a.m.

    So many questions. 

  2. John Polis, August 8, 2022 at 7:51 a.m.

    So this is where it winds up with Jonathan Gonzalez? All the hubbub and gnashing of teeth about him supposedly being ignored by US Soccer and US pro environment, supposedly "forcing" him to head south to be with someone who cares? The phenom gets a cup of coffee with the "do-everything-right national team of Mexico" (3 games) and never plays again in three years? All this for a then teenage defensive midfielder? Turns out it was apparently an overblown story created in the wake of disappointment of the USA's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Remember Soccer America giving Brad Rothenerg the public forum to blast everyone at US Soccer as incompetent? "If anybody at U.S. Soccer thinks they did enough to keep Jonathan, then they should resign before the new Federation president fires them." Everyone jumped onboard, even that "great soccer publication" Sports Illustrated, which every four years seems to trot out some "expert" to comment on something it hasn't covered for the previous four years. How things change. The savants (Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio) is gone, moving on to four jobs in four years, and the Mexico director of player selection Dutchman Dennis de Klose (another person supposedly smarter than everyone in the US), lasted 2 years, the went to the LA Galaxy for three nondescript years) before returning home to Holland. My point is taking a young kid like this and putting him in the spotlight to plead incompetence for all of US Soccer was apparently knee-jerk on the part of a lot of people. Only time will tell if Gonzalez reaches his full potential. But prematurely raising the stock and reputation of a young kid (yes he had potential and still does) to make a political point that castigates all US soccer leadership was premature at best and at worst (looking back) an unnecessary, collective cheap shot. 

  3. humble 1 replied, August 8, 2022 at 10:40 a.m.

    Don't look at it like that at all, look back to those days and USSF was not performming well by any measure.  The young man's decision reflected that, and as is well documented his families legacy.  He took his shot, but over the period he's left, there were many many changes in USSF and MLS.  Both have outperformed their Mexican equivalents.  Maybe there was culture shock for him as a young man as well, maybe he found being a Mexican-American in USA and in Mexico are totally different.  Nothing more nothing less here.  Ironic that Minnesota is about as far from Mexico as you can get in USA.  Wish the young man the best in his endeavor in Minnesota.

  4. R2 Dad replied, August 8, 2022 at 1:21 p.m.

    I remember a couple years back centering a BU12 match at a tournament in which JG's hometown club was playing. When I asked the boys about him, they were very proud and excited to talk about him. Great memory.

  5. Grant Goodwin, August 8, 2022 at 10:22 a.m.

    John-Those are some really good points.  It just goes to show you that young players too often don't continue their early success at the senior level and sometimes you can just never tell.
    -Good luck to Jonathan as i am rooting for him to resurrect himself and his career.

  6. Gary Zelazny, August 8, 2022 at 12:37 p.m.

    I think that the Mexican Federation wants to insure that these binationals do not play for the USMNT knowing that they may not play for Mexico! My conspiracy theory. 

  7. Paul Krieg replied, August 8, 2022 at 12:55 p.m.

    At times, I do get into the conspiracy theory thinking, as well. 
    Generally speaking, though, I think there is a simpler explanation.  Mexico wants to have the broadest pool with the most quality, the same that the US does.  I think Mexico has really struggled with the generational hand-off in the Gonzalez era, and he got caught in that.  In the Octagonal, Mexico was the oldest and the US the youngest.  So it's not only Gonzalez who got impacted, it's his generation.

  8. Timothy Stanton, August 8, 2022 at 1:39 p.m.

    I had to go back and check the byline to see f this was written by his agent. The critical piece of his situation is not his history but is between the lines of "In recent loan stints to Queretaro and Necaxa over the last year, he appeared in 10 games." 

    The majority of the article should have focused on this aspect of his career and the fact that he was residing in the "Where are they now file?" 

  9. Santiago 1314, August 8, 2022 at 2:31 p.m.

    All's Fair in Love, War and Soccer.... We go for Germans, English, French, Liberian, ... I'm not into this Conspiracy of Anti-Hispanic,,,, I think it's more a Anti-Tiki-Taka thing.... Tiki-Taka ( in it's Purest, Catalan/Barca style)  is for Smaller, Quicker, Clever Players... USA Style is Turbo... We can Throw-The-Baby-Out-With-The-Bathwater, and Bring in Pep, and Transition the Whole National Team Program to Tiki-Taka; But, then... WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH ALL OUR BLACK PLAYERS !?!?!?... Racism Cries would go out from the other side(As they Used To)... Forget about the White Boys... They too Slow and Clumsy for either.!?!?!?... If Current League Form holds,  and CP gets injured(or continues riding the Pine @ Chelsea) and Reyna doesn't make it back; this should be your Starting XI for WC22; (Notice any Hispanics in there.???)

                           Pefok.        Weah
          Tillman
                      McKenNIE
                                  Musah
                         Adams
    Jedi.                                   Dest
                 Richards.  CCV
                       *Steffen*

  10. frank schoon, August 8, 2022 at 4:21 p.m.

    A lot sofar is commented on about this kid and I have no clue even why? If he does well at Minnesota, more power to him but if he doesn't ,well that's the way the ball bounces....There are a lot more interesting things to talk about than this kid who has basically done nothing sofar in the annals of his soccer life to even warrant so much discussion...

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