Omar Gonzalez experienced many of his career highs, as well as lows, playing for Bruce Arena from 2009-17. And Gonzalez is looking forward to reuniting with Arena after being signed by the Revolution as a free agent on Wednesday.
“I’m excited to be back with Bruce,” Gonzalez said during a Zoom call. “It was really incredible to watch them last year and see what they were able to do and break the record that they broke in the style they did. I was a fan while watching from afar, and I’m just absolutely thrilled to be a part of this organization, thrilled to be joining the team, and I can’t wait to get started.”
This past season, the Revolution finished 20-5-7, setting a record for points with 73, before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Gonzalez, 33, who played the last three years with Toronto FC, started in central defense as the Los Angeles Galaxy won the 2011, ‘12, and ‘14 MLS Cups under Arena.
“A lot of winning, I mean, that’s what I remember the most,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just winning, and a good environment, a positive culture, a place you wanted to be every day, where you loved coming into work. I remember Bruce gave a lot of leeway but he expected the most from his players. It’s the same sort of culture here.”
After Arena took over the national team, the United States captured the 2017 Gold Cup, but Gonzalez surrendered an own goal against Trinidad and Tobago as the US was eliminated from World Cup qualifying.
“Ultimately everyone’s worst nightmare was the game against Trinidad,” Gonzalez said. “And so I think that sat with me for a really long time, for years. And it’ll always be something that stays in the back of my mind, to keep pushing me forward to be the best version of myself. And so it’s there but it’s not holding me back, and it’s definitely not holding Bruce back. It’s not holding any of those players that were on that field back. I mean, you see guys all around the world doing their thing and everyone now is thriving, the program’s looking great, and so we just keep on moving on.”
In 2009, when Arena was rebuilding the Galaxy, his central defenders were Gonzalez and current Revolution reserve A.J. DeLaGarza, who had been teammates at the University of Maryland. Gonzalez was named MLS Rookie of the Year as the Galaxy reached the 2009 MLS Cup, the first of four finals appearances. Two years later, Gonzalez was voted Defender of the Year as the Galaxy took the 2011 MLS Cup.
With the national team, Gonzalez made his debut under current Toronto FC coach Bob Bradley in 2010, going on to win the 2013 Gold Cup, and starting twice in the 2014 World Cup for the US. Gonzalez has earned 55 caps, scoring three times, for the US, his last appearance during the 2019 Gold Cup.
Gonzalez also performed in Mexico with Atlas and Pachuca, winning the 2016 Liga MX title and 2017 CONCACAF Champions League playing for Pachuca coach Diego Alonso, who then went to Inter Miami and is now coaching Uruguay’s national team.
Gonzalez, 6 feet 5 inches, is strong in the air, positionally sound, and provides leadership and consistent distribution. In 420 career games, Gonzalez has converted 26 goals, 23 on headers.
Arena has attempted to upgrade the roster and add depth, as the Revolution will be competing in the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, beginning with a visit to Cavaly AS of Haiti Feb. 15. Last week, the Revolution acquired US national team midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who teamed with DeLaGarza and Gonzalez with the Galaxy.
Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler have been the Revolution’s starting central defenders the last two years.
“They played really well last year,” Gonzalez said. “I think I’m coming in to add to the competition. I want to be on the field just as much as they do, and I think as a player you should never be satisfied, and you should always be trying to push to be your best, and so I’m coming in to push them. I’m coming to push myself, and hopefully we can all make each other better, and we can make it an even better 2022 than they had in 2021. That’s the goal. We want to win MLS Cup. We want to win Champions League.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.