Home MLS More MLS Gonzalez’s Defender of the Year nod highlights Toronto FC’s draft-day mistake

Gonzalez’s Defender of the Year nod highlights Toronto FC’s draft-day mistake

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The scene: The 2009 MLS Superdraft. With the second pick, Toronto FC chose midfielder Sam Cronin, passing up on University of Maryland defender Omar Gonzalez, who the Los Angeles Galaxy took with the third pick.

On Wednesday, Gonzalez became the youngest player, at 23, to ever be named MLS Defender of the Year.

Cronin plays for the San Jose Earthquakes, banished there by Preki in 2010. TFC got allocation money in return.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, led a Galaxy defensive back four that gave up just 28 goals — less than a goal per game — in 2011. MLS let it slip in its announcement that Gonzalez is also on the league’s First XI (not a surprise, but that’s not supposed to be announced until commissioner Don Garber’s press conference on Thursday).

Gonzalez’s success as arguably the premier centre back in MLS has to hurt a bit for Toronto FC fans, knowing that their team has struggled to find someone to lead the defence.

Now, that’s not to say Gonzalez would have been quite as successful as a member of TFC. Different coaches, different systems, different mentors. But, in 2009, TFC chose to ignore the spot in the formation in which it needed help the most, and chose Cronin over Gonzalez.

Sam Cronin in his TFC days.

Cronin had a very promising first season with TFC; he played well in a variety of positions on the field. But, when Preki took over as coach, Cronin was one of the many players who went into the doghouse for reasons that were unclear to the fans and the media. And, eventually, Preki’s decision not to play Cronin eroded the midfielder’s trade value. At the 2010 draft, sources in MLS told me at the time that TFC could have had a shot to draft striker Teal Bunbury if it was willing to offer up Cronin. Director of soccer Mo Johnston refused. By June of 2010, when TFC unloaded Cronin, the club had destroyed its own asset’s value.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez thrived in coach Bruce Arena’s system — the more responsibility he was given, the better he adapted to it.

Gonzalez got one third of the votes from club officials, nearly 40 per cent of media votes and 21.34 per cent of the player votes. Second-place finisher Jamison Olave of Real Salt Lake got just under 20 per cent of the club votes, 12 per cent of the media votes and just under 19 per cent of the media vote.

And, because this article rubs a little salt in some lingering wounds of TFC fans, it needs to be mentioned that former Toronto FC defender Todd Dunivant, now with the Galaxy, finished fifth in the Defender of the Year voting.Dunivant was dealt to the Galaxy for, ahem, allocation money.

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2 Comments

  1. Soccerpro

    November 10, 2011 at 4:49 am

    It sure would have helped TFC to pick Omar. However, hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t remember the buildup to the draft and if he was labelled as a “can’t miss pick”. The Sounders skipped him with their first pick. Keep in mind central defense was TFC’s only solid piece last year (Cann and Nana). Also, who’s to say he would have flourished and developed in the same way with all of TFC’s garbage coaches. I mean look at O’Brian White, he tore it up at UConn. Who knew he sucked?
    The article is a good one, but it’s one you could write about any team in any major North American sport with a draft.

    Reply

    • Steven Sandor

      November 10, 2011 at 7:09 am

      And we do, don’t we? We write about the NFL teams that drafted quarterback a over b, the Canadiens taking Wickenheiser over Savard, etc. In the days leading up to the draft the people around MLS I spoke to had said they felt Gonzalez was the most likely to play right away. Zakuani was the Akron star and consensus No. 1, but the Gonzalez/Cronin debate was an interesting one. Of course, who knows how much better Cronin could have been (and he can still get there, it’s not like he’s old) had TFC’s brass at the time not mismanaged his career?

      Reply

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