Giancarlo Gonzalez was signed by the Columbus Crew as a Discovery Signing just two weeks before the Black and Gold opened their 2014 campaign. Nonetheless, Gonzalez was an opening day starter at center back for the Crew and has played every minute this season.
Despite 32 international caps for Costa Rica dating back to 2010, Gonzalez's signing came with little fanfare. Since then, the 6'3" defender has been a fantastic partner to U.S. international Michael Parkhurst.
Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter will now have to replace his center backs, as Gonzalez was called into the 30-man pre-World Cup camp for his country.
This is a culmination of years of hard work for Gonzalez - who is expected to be named to the 23-man roster that will travel to Brazil - but he credits his move to the Crew as a major contributing factor in the call-up.
"When I came here, I wanted to get some playing time," Gonzalez said through a translator this week.
"The most important thing is, knowing when I was going to come here, I had a great coaching staff behind me that are very personable. They care about you and about the playing time."
Along with Berhalter - a veteran of two World Cup Finals - the Black and Gold's coaching staff also features assistant coach Josh Wolff, who made 52 appearances for the U.S.A. including two trips to the World Cup. There is also former U.S. right back Frankie Hejduk, the club's Brand Ambassador, who also appeared in to Finals.
The fact that he would be surrounded by former international players who had been to multiple World Cups was not lost on Gonzalez when he signed with the Crew and he has been eager to learn from them since joining the club.
"As a player, I ask a lot of questions. I like to learn," he said.
"I did ask Frankie, Josh, Greg - they've been there so asking them how their experience has been. The main thing that they've told me is just to work hard. That's going to get me to the top and to play at my peak performance when I get to the World Cup."
Gonzalez has been on top of his game so far in Columbus. He is a part of top five MLS defense this year, allowing just 1.1 goals per game. Although the Crew have struggled of late, it has not been on the defensive side.
"We're 10 games in right now and I'm fortunate enough to play all 10 games and that's going to help me a lot moving forward and going to Costa Rica," Gonzalez said.
Despite having to leave the Black and Gold after Saturday's match with the Portland Timbers, Gonzalez is excited to play with his countrymen, playerss who have also done well domestically.
"We have a great squad going in," Gonzalez said of Costa Rica.
"[Joel Campbell], [Bryan Ruiz], and [Keilor Navas], those are great players that have been there. They're playing great with their clubs so we expect the same there. We're fighting for the 23 spots and everybody's going to be hungry down there working hard to make that team."
Gonzalez is familiar with the squad, but he will have a local familiar face as well, as Crew teammate Waylon Franciswas also called in. The more experienced Gonzalez had a few words of advice for his teammate who has only one cap for Costa Rica.
"The only thing I can tell Waylon is to work hard, he's been there before," Gonzalez told reporters. "To work hard on the left side, keep playing, and he'll be able to earn a spot."
Costa Rica begins World Cup play June 14 against Uruguay, competing in Group D along with Italy and England.