Monterrey refused to release young midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez for World Cup duty with the Under-20 team, claiming they needed him for the playoffs. It didn’t work out that way.
Jonathan Gonzalez is sitting at home now with nothing to do. His club team, Monterrey, was eliminated from the Liguilla at the semifinal stage last weekend. Right now, he could be wearing an El Tri uniform because as a 20-year-old, he is age eligible for the Under-20 World Cup taking place in Poland. But he is not in Europe, and for that Monterrey should be ashamed.
Gonzalez – a midfielder by trade – was invited to be on the Team Mexico roster last month, but Rayados management blocked the move, asking national soccer federation officials to excuse him from the squad, arguing that they would need him in the playoffs.
Monterrey still had potentially 10 games remaining in the season when the invitations were sent out – two Liga MX games, two Concacaf Champions League matches and six playoff games (if they made it to the Final). So perhaps this was a defensible position. Only one problem … Gonzalez rarely saw the field.
Gonzalez started against Necaxa in a Matchday 16 game, but was subbed out after 51 minutes. He did play all 90 minutes in the club’s final Liga MX regular-season game against Atlas. He saw less than 15 minutes of action for Monterrey in the two Concacaf Champions League final matches against crosstown rivals Tigres, which the Rayados won. And in the playoffs, Gonzalez played a total of 13 minutes (in the quarterfinals) and did not get a single second of playing time in the semifinals where Monterrey was eliminated by the Tigres.
Compare Gonzalez’s treatment to Jose Juan Macias, the 19-year-old striker who plays for Leon. The Esmeraldas did not refuse to release Macias (the team’s No. 2 leading scorer), but asked for a late release so he could play in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals before traveling over to Poland to join up with his U-20 teammates. Macias scored a goal in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals. He is a key contributor to the Esmeraldas (unlike Gonzalez who is a bench player for Monterrey) yet the club allowed him to play for the national team instead of keeping him for the final.
The Under-20 national team opened the 2019 World Cup in Poland with a loss to Italy and Macias was there, but Gonzalez – who likely would have been a starter – was at home in Mexico. The Mini Tri looked worse in their second game against Japan (3-0 loss that ended their chances of advancing to the knockout stage) and pointed observations were made that Team Mexico could have used more players with first division experience … like Gonzalez.
The situation must be difficult for Gonzalez who early last year petitioned for a national team switch, preferring to play with Mexico rather than with the United States. Gonzalez had played for Team USA throughout his junior career, but became a pro with Monterrey at the age of 18. As a dual national, the California native had the choice of making a one-time switch and he chose Mexico.
The switch came well before the 2018 World Cup and Gonzalez must have hoped to make El Tri’s World Cup roster. He was a regular starter for the Rayados – a powerful team – in 2017 and early 2018, but he picked up a few injuries and Mexico’s coaching staff opted for a more veteran bench.
Gonzalez’s injury issues continued in late 2018 and he lost his starting position to another Monterrey academy product, Carlos Rodriguez. This has knocked Gonzalez further down the list of midfielders for the senior team, so he was not invited to El Tri for the upcoming Gold Cup. His one chance to play for Team Mexico this summer was with the U-20 team and Monterrey refused to release him, preferring to tie him to their bench and use him for a grand total of 170 minutes in 8 games.
Shame on the Rayados!