Toronto FC signs veteran centre back Omar Gonzalez
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, center, fights for the ball with United States' Omar Gonzalez (3) during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP / Felipe Dana)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, June 3, 2019 12:20PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 3, 2019 8:23PM EDT
TORONTO -- Veteran defender Omar Gonzalez says he is coming to Toronto FC to chase titles.
"I feel like with the team that we have, we can make another run at it," the U.S. international centre back told a media conference call Monday evening. "And that's what I'm going for. I'm a guy who likes to win. I like to make it into the playoffs and see what we can do.
"And so I plan on bringing that winning mentality to TFC and I hope we can make some memories together."
Subject to passing a medical, the 30-year-old Gonzalez, will be added to the Toronto roster on July 9 when the transfer window re-opens. His contract is believed to cover two and a half years.
The Texan had long been rumoured to be a Toronto target. He acknowledged he was close to striking a deal with Toronto prior to the May 7 closing of the primary MLS transfer window. But Club Atlas, his Mexican team, was up for sale, which impacted his move.
"This deal could have got done a while ago but it fell through. I'm really happy we were able to finalize a deal this time around."
Toronto is hoping Gonzalez will shore up a defence that ranks 17th in the league on defence, conceding 1.64 goals a game. Toronto (5-6-3) is winless in six games (0-4-2) and has given up 23 goals on the season while conceding two or more goals nine times in MLS play.
He joins a centre-back corps that includes Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga, Laurent Ciman and Eriq Zavaleta.
Gonzalez went to Mexico after seven successful seasons with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He played 205 regular-season and playoff games for the Galaxy from 2009 to 2015 before heading south to join Pachuca and Club Atlas in Mexico.
A former MLS rookie of the year, he was named the league's defender of the year in 2011 and to four MLS Best XI's (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014). He won three MLS Cups (2011, 2012, 2014) and two Supporters' Shields (2010, 2011) with the Galaxy.
"He's won championships everywhere he's been essentially, so a good addition to our group," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said.
"Another valuable experienced guy in the backline," he added.
Vanney also cited Gonzalez's "good solid professional decision-making as a centre back," something most would say has been missing in recent weeks for the Reds.
At six-foot-five and 205 pounds, he also gives Toronto an aerial presence.
Toronto acquired Gonzalez by virtue of holding first spot in the league's allocation order.
Major League Soccer uses the allocation process as its way of acquiring select U.S. internationals, elite youth U.S. internationals or former MLS players returning to the league after joining a non-MLS club for a transfer fee greater than US $500,000.
Toronto used targeted allocation money to sign Gonzalez. Under league rules, TAM can be used to sign new or re-sign existing players whose salary and acquisition costs are more than the maximum salary budget charge ($530,000) but less than $1.5 million.
Gonzalez made $1.45 million in 2015, his last year in MLS.
"Adding Omar will improve our team," GM Ali Curtis said in a statement. "He is a great competitor that will approach every training session and match with a high level of intensity. He'll also be able to add a greater presence in the air for us, both offensively and defensively.
"And, while he has won numerous trophies during his career on the club and international level, he is hungry to be part of championship team in Toronto. We were looking for a very specific profile of player. Omar's a good guy. He will fit in well with the group and he will be a welcome addition subject to passing a medical, to the locker-room and daily environment."
Gonzalez, a Mexican-American dual citizen who grew up in Dallas, earned his first U.S. cap in 2010 against Brazil. He has made 49 appearances for the U.S. with three goals.
Gonzalez is currently with the U.S. team preparing for June 5 friendly with Jamaica at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. He is expected to be part of the U.S. team for the Gold Cup.
Toronto, meanwhile, continues to search for an attacking winger.
TFC hosts Sporting Kansas City (3-5-6) on Friday and, because of the league's Gold Cup break, doesn't play again until June 22 when it goes to Dallas.
Vanney will be without U.S. internationals Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and Canadians Jonathan Osorio and Ashtone Morgan this week. All four are on international duty ahead of the Gold Cup.