The Columbus Crew announced on Friday they have signed Costa Rican international Giancarlo Gonzalez.
The 26-year old spent the last year and half in the Norwegian First Division, playing for Vålerenga, where he made 27 appearances and scored three goals. Previously, he was playing for Alajuelense in the Costa Rican Primera Division, making 57 regular-season appearances and scoring six goals over four seasons.
Gonzalez has earned 31 caps for Costa Rica after making his debut in a friendly against Peru in 2010 and has scored two goals for his country. The 6'3" defender featured in 14 World Cup Qualifying matches on Costa Rica's successful run to the 2014 World Cup Finals, including both games against the United States.
"We're happy to have him here and happy to have him joining the club," Berhalter told TheCrew.com.
The center back brings experience to a club featuring many young players, but Berhalter believes he will bring more than that.
"I think there's a lot of aspects that he brings," he said. "First and foremost is his leadership. He has a good history of winning. I think he has good arability, both on defensive and offensive set pieces and he's a good passer of the ball. So he ticks a lot of boxes in that defensive area."
Gonzalez has some familiarity with the MLS and new head coach Gregg Berhalter, having faced off against him and the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League group play.
"We played them twice," Berhalter said of their encounters. "It was actually a game that I had to leave the game injured early in the first half. It was disappointing."
Berhalter's excellent memory of his playing days may have helped him decide to pursue Gonzalez, despite minimal time with him on the pitch.
With this signing, the Crew add to a back line that is quickly becoming a strength on the team, on paper at least. Gonzalez will compete with U.S. international Michael Parkhurst, Josh Williams, Tyson Wahl, and Eric Gehrig - among others - for a starting spot in the middle of the defensive line.
Gonzalez could make his first appearance for Columbus on Saturday, as they take on the Philadelphia Union in the second game of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
Crew to Debut New Jersey
The Crew will unveil their new 2014 primary jersey on Tuesday, March 4 as part of the MLS Soccer's Jersey Week from March 3-March 7, leading up to opening weekend.
The event, which will feature the full team, will take place at Bar Louie in downtown Columbus from 6:00-8:00 ET.
The unveiling will be private, but will be streamed live on the TheCrew.com