I am looking to start writing a player profile once a week on a player who is 25 or younger and can contribute to the USMNT. These players will range from the obvious, superstars like Christian Pulisic, to the budding talents like Jonathan Gonzalez. Obviously many of the diehard USMNT fans will have heard of most of these players, but I plan on providing information and opinions that can spark discussion. Hopefully with this series I can bring hope and excitement about the future of the USMNT when the fans need it most. I would appreciate any comments, suggestions, criticisms, or thoughts on the player or my information. I will try and include pictures or videos whenever I can, but understand that the copyright laws surrounding that material is very strict. Thus, it will probably only be available on the most popular players.
Jonathan Gonzalez is an 18 year old central midfielder who plays for Monterrey in the Mexican top flight. He was born in Santa Rosa, California, and played youth soccer there until 2014. In 2014 he moved to Monterrey and slowly progressed to the first team, making his debut in July of 2017. Since then, Gonzalez has gone on to accumulate 10 starts in a thus far 1st place campaign for Monterrey.
As the title suggests, Gonzalez is a central midfielder. He operates as a number six and picks the ball up off of CB's and acts as the transition to attack. However, unlike many number 6's (I'm talking about you Michael Bradley) he has energy and is able to generate a strong counter-press whenever he, or the team, loses the ball. On the ball he is tidy, rarely taking more than 2 or 3 touches before finding an open player. For Monterrey, in the games I have seen at least, he doesn't appear to get forward often and likes to play between the CB's whenever the team is enjoying possession.
Gonzalez appears to have great awareness both on and off the ball. He is always looking to find space to pick up the ball (although his teammates often don't pass to him). He has the ability to control a game from the midfield if he is consistently being found in space.
Gonzalez has excellent composure on the ball and will almost never be seen aimlessly kicking the ball up the field. Although the stat isn't kept for him, I imagine he has an extremely high pass completion percentage. Additionally, when a pass isn't available, he has the ability to turn and move into space until an option becomes available.
He possesses the ability to chase down the ball carrier and keep them from turning and finding a forward pass. This ability is extremely useful whenever a team needs pressing to win back the ball after a turnover. Additionally, he does a good job of covering for fullbacks and CB's whenever they move forward.
Most sites list him as 5'9" but that seems a little big to me. Gonzalez is small, and he looks it. While he is tenacious as I said before, it is impossible to escape your height. His height particularly hinders him in the air, as sometimes a deep lying midfielder is expected to win headers. Also he is only 18, so he could still have some room to grow and most certainly has some weight to gain.
At times Gonzalez can be too eager to win the ball back. This can leave the team in trouble when his press is broken, as he is often times the furthest midfielder back. This skill will improve over time, particularly if he moves to a club with a pressing philosophy.
There is a slight wrinkle in this case; Gonzalez is a dual national. This means that he has the ability to play for either Mexico of the United States. Even though he has consistently represented the United States at the youth level, it is not impossible to imagine that he could be lured away by Mexico. Though, based on the information I have read, it seems that he is committed to playing for the United States.
Among a very talented group of young American central midfielders, Gonzalez stands out as one that I could see making it to the senior national team. He is consistently starting in a crucial position for the best team in Mexico right now, a level and position that few young Americans can compete with. I see him as the natural (and better) successor to Michael Bradley if he can fulfill his massive potential.