LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez is on his way to Mexico after signing for Pachuca on Tuesday.
Former MLS Defender of the Year Gonzalez ended his seven-year stint with the Galaxy in order to make the move to Liga MX. Gonzalez made the MLS Best XI four times and won three MLS Cups with the Galaxy during his spell in southern California. Pachuca unveiled the United States center back as part of several changes to its squad.
“We thank Omar for his contribution and dedication to this club throughout the past seven years,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said in a statement. “We wish Omar the best of luck with Pachuca.”
The move to Liga MX represents the next step in the 27-year-old defender’s career. Gonzalez is finally making the switch after spending the past several years fending off potential interest from Mexican clubs and weighing the possibility of leaving the Galaxy in the process.
“Leaving is never easy and change can be difficult,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “However, this is an opportunity for me to continue to grow as a player and as a person. I will always be a part of the LA Galaxy and this club and you will always be a part of me.”
— Omar Gonzalez (@Omar4Gonzalez) December 22, 2015
Arena and the Galaxy faced significant salary budget issues heading into the offseason, particularly with Gonzalez’s $1.2 million base salary from last season, according to MLS Players Union documents. The arrivals of Giovani dos Santos and Steven Gerrard prevented the Galaxy from classifying Gonzalez as a Designated Player, while Gonzalez fell outside of the parameters for Targeted Allocation Money because he makes more than $1 million.
Those realities pointed Gonzalez and the Galaxy toward a mutually agreeable solution: A transfer outside of MLS. The decision allows Gonzalez to move forward with his career and provides the Galaxy with some necessary salary flexibility to retool ahead of the 2016 season. Arena must now reinforce in central defense with A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo and Dave Romney looming as the primary options at the moment.
Gonzalez is expected to play a key role for Pachuca as Diego Alonso’s side prepares for the upcoming Clausura. Pachuca conceded a league-worst 33 goals during the Apertura and finished in 12th place. Gonzalez’s arrival offers Pachuca a steady, reliable building block in the heart of defense in a bid to locate the solidity required to return to the Liguilla in the spring.