Loons’ Jonathan Gonzalez receives fresh start
New midfielder spent previous eight years playing in Mexico
For more than a year, Jonathan Gonzalez has wanted a fresh start in MLS, and the 23-year-old California-born midfielder got his wish with a move from Mexican giant Monterrey to Minnesota United at the close of the summer transfer window last week.
Gonzalez left the U.S. to join Monterrey’s youth academy at age 15 in 2014 and had a breakout 2017-18 season with nearly 2,000 minutes in Liga MX. Midway through that season, the U.S. youth national team standout made headlines when, as a dual national citizen, he flipped allegiances to the Mexican men’s national team.
Gonzalez played three matches for Mexico but has fallen off “El Tri” rosters over the past few years and hasn’t reached the same levels for Monterrey, taking two loans to smaller Mexican clubs Necaxa and Queretaro in 2021-22.
Gonzalez arrives in Minnesota on a loan through the end of the 2022 season and appears poised to make his Loons debut Sunday at Nashville SC.
“It’s great,” Gonzalez said of the change of scenery. “I’ve been wanting to come back to MLS for a while now and glad I was able to make the choice.”
Gonzalez has 18-24 months remaining on his contract with Monterrey, the Pioneer Press learned this week. If he plays well for MNUFC, the club can explore another short-term loan deal for next season or a purchase of the rest of his contract, a source said.
Gonzalez, who prefers to go by the nickname Jona, said he doesn’t regret the move to Mexico’s national team at the age of 18. “Things happen,” he said Friday. “It was a decision I made in that time. I wouldn’t say I regret it, but I came back to get to that level.”
Michele Giannone, a reporter for TUDN, said the question out of Mexico is: What happened to Gonzalez?
“With Monterrey (in 2017-18), he was all over the field, could step up, was good on the ball, crashed the box, dominated on offense and was strong in defense,” Giannone told the Pioneer Press. “But he has switched teams and has barely played. People are still wondering what happened and what is he exactly?”
Giannone theorized that Gonzalez, a Liga MX Apertura Best XI, succumbed to the pressure of playing for a super-club in a soccer-obsessed country. Yet Gonzalez did play well in big moments in the CONCACAF Champions League and said the overall experience helped him grow as a player.
“I had a lot of players come in from Europe, elite players; you see how they work daily, and it’s incredible,” he said. “Just the way in Mexico they breath and live soccer is amazing. I’m starting to see that here, as well.”
Gonzalez said a couple of musculature injuries set him back over the past few seasons.
“I wouldn’t say I’m too old. I’m 23. but I’ve had a lot of games and a lot of experience,” Gonzalez said. “I would probably say the only thing that was holding me back was injuries. Feeling really good (now) and having a lot of confidence, I feel like I can really help the team.”
Giannone compared Gonzalez’s upside to U.S. and LAFC’s midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Giannone believes Gonzalez wouldn’t do well as a lone No. 6, defensive midfielder, so, in other words, don’t consider him to be the second coming of former Loons great Ozzie Alonso.
But Gonzalez could thrive in manager Adrian Heath’s double-pivot midfield, where defensive responsibilities are shared in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Heath said Friday they are still determining Gonzalez’s best role and are working on his fitness level.
Gonzalez is not ready to play a full 90 minutes.
“Overall, I think it’s a great signing,” Giannone said. “But he needs to get out of his own way and clear his head and not be in the pressure cooker.”
Emanuel Reynoso, who tweaked his ankle injury in the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, trained Friday and is available to play Sunday at Nashville. Kervin Arriaga (ankle) and Robin Lod (calf) also are available, Heath said. … Wil Trapp, who injured his hamstring July 16, has returned to training, but won’t play this weekend. … Nashville has one win in its past eight games (1-3-4) but enters the weekend above the playoff line in sixth place. … Nashville provides MLS All-Star Hany Mukhtar a lot of freedom to create, and the German has 13 goals and five assists in 24 games this season. … Loons right back Romain Metanire is expected to travel to Clairfontaine, the home of the French football federation, for other opinions on his nagging hamstring injuries. … Sunday’s game is on FS1, with No. 1 crew John Strong and Stu Holden on the call.
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