After bringing in US international Michael Parkhurst in January, many assumed that the club would bolster their attacking quality. Columbus Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said he's had his eye on Gonzalez since his playing days in MLS.
“I've followed him for the last couple of years,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “We played against his team in the [CONCACAF] Champions League with the Galaxy, and I was impressed at his age with his poise and leadership and how he read the game.”
Years later, Gonzalez has become an important piece for the Costa Rican National Team, and has earned worldwide interest. Berhalter confirmed that the acquisition did come at a price.
“He was in contract in Norway, and he had another year and a half left on his contract, so we did have to pay a fee for him,” Berhalter said, noting that the Crew still didn’t break the bank on Gonzalez. “Part of our thinking is to bring guys in a certain [financial] structure, and he fits that nicely.”
Early in his tenure with the Crew, Berhalter said that the club had been spending excessively on defense. After parting ways with the high contracts of Glauber, Chad Marshall and Danny O'Rourke, Berhalter and the Crew have added Costa Rican Waylon Francis, Parkhurst and now Gonzalez. But Berhalter said there's more value in the squad now.
“We've gotten a little bit younger, in terms of that group,” he said. “And maybe a little more high profile, with internationals, and we've probably reduced the spending a little bit, so that's good.”
Those high-profile players include four on the Crew squad who seem to have a legitimate chance of making a World Cup roster. Gonzalez, Francis and forward Jairo Arrieta have all been recently involved with the Costa Rican team, while Parkhurst started in the most recent USMNT friendly.
Berhalter said the club is looking to have more players involved at the international level.
“You get a high-caliber athlete, and you get a guy who's playing on a world stage for exposure for them individually and also for the club,” he said. “Obviously, every time his name is mentioned, it's, ‘He plays for the Columbus Crew.' We like that.”
The acquisition did put the Crew at 31 players on their roster, meaning Berhalter will have to trim at least one before the March 1 roster deadline. Berhalter said he still isn't sure what changes may come.
“We're going to have to get creative with that type of thing,” he said. “In the next couple days, we'll have to sort that out.”