Minnesota United’s new signing Jonathan Gonzalez returns to American football against Nashville

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He left his California home to play in Mexico aged 15, moved from powerhouse youth teams Monterrey to his big Liga MX club aged 18 and opted to play for the team. Mexican National a year later.

Now, four years later, Jonathan Gonzalez is on the 23-year-old comeback trail. He’s also on a 10-game plus playoff trial with Minnesota United in a once-promising career.

The Loons paid Colorado $50,000 in general allowance for his MLS discovery rights and signed him on loan from Monterrey until the end of the year. The club have the option of keeping Gonzalez after that.

“It’s great, I’ve wanted to come back to MLS for a while now,” Gonzalez said after Friday’s practice at Blaine. “I’m so happy to have made this choice. I’m really happy to be here.”

He said he told his agent more than a year ago to bring him to MLS from Mexico, where he was loaned out to other Liga MX teams in 2021 and 2022. He said says he did so after seeing how much MLS had grown since he left the United States. United States eight years ago.

Being closer to his family in Northern California — and them to him — also helped.

“The league was very different back then,” Gonzalez said.

The same was true for Gonzalez in years past when he was considered a rising star. He is now on loan until the end of the season, still young.

“I wouldn’t say I’m too old,” he said. “I am 23 years old.”

He is four years older than when the Mexican-American used a unique option and decided to play for the Mexico national team instead of the USA team. He made headlines, especially in the United States and especially after the Americans’ failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Gonzalez was asked about it on Friday. “Oh, you know, things happen,” he said. “The decision I made at that time, I wouldn’t say I regret it. I’m just working to get back to that level.”

He attributes the career turnaround to a series of muscle injuries.

“I had a lot of games and a lot of experience,” Gonzalez said. “I pretty much say what was holding me back was the injuries. I feel really good, I have a lot of confidence. I think I can really help the team.”

Loons coach Adrian Heath called Gonzalez’s career path over the past eight years a circumstance that happens to so many players.

“We talked about where he was and where he is,” Heath said. “It obviously didn’t go well for him for one or two reasons. It can happen in football, a new manager, someone with a different opinion. Before you know where you are, you left on loan and it doesn’t work out there when people were talking about him being this bright new star.”

Gonzalez joined his new teammates for practice this week, and Heath said he intends to play him in Sunday’s game in Nashville.

“We’ll see where he is,” Heath said. “I think it would be too much of a stretch for him to do 90 minutes. … The one thing about him: he’s come in and is fitting in really, really well. He looks like he’s got a lot of hunger in him. I think he wants it to work.”

Gonzalez played roles 6 and 8 for Monterrey. Heath said he played with “great energy” and enjoyed getting into the penalty area. Heath praised Gonzalez’s work ethic and noted his two-day practices this week to prepare for play.

Gonzalez says he is “really dynamic”, good at regaining possession and playing forward to “help the team”.

Heath said he watched Gonzalez and Monterrey play a CONCACAF Champions League game in 2019 and left thinking Gonzalez was the best player on the pitch. It was their first of two titles in three years.

“The one thing that’s for sure is that he’s got talent,” Heath said. “We know that.”

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