The 21-year-old Montevideo native hails from Uruguayan side Sud America, where he spent the last three seasons. Gonzalez last year helped Sud America attain promotion to the first division, and he’s led the team in scoring with five goals in 14 games this season while playing predominantly on the left side of midfield.
Impact sporting director Nick De Santis, who did the bulk of the scouting ahead of this deal, said in a news release Friday that he hopes Gonzalez can help provide a spark for the Impact in attack.
“Santiago is a young striker that has already played three professional seasons,” De Santis said. “He is a dynamic forward that moves very well and can play with his back to the goal. It will take a bit of time to adapt, but I think he can bring a different element to the team.”
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Gonzalez was expected to be signed as a designated player, but has been signed under an obscure "special discovery" rule instead, whereby, according to De Santis, a significant portion of the player’s salary doesn’t impact the team’s salary cap.
“It means that the league acquires a young player and that the contract is amortized [over several seasons] so the player’s cap hit reaches between $125,000 and $150,000, give or take,” De Santis told assembled media Thurday. “That helps the team a lot. Those are young players with experience."
The term “special discovery” was introduced by Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson on his Twitter account last summer (which he would later remove) to describe forward Maximiliano Urruti, a player the Timbers acquired from Toronto FC.
De Santis mentioned Real Salt Lake forward Olmes Garcia, who signed with MLS last year, as another existing example of a player falling under the special discovery rule.
Since Gonzalez won’t count as DP, the Impact will still have room to add a third DP this year. De Santis, who returned from another scouting trip to Argentina last week, denied reports that the Impact were targeting Valencia midfielder Pablo Piatti and Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri.
Gonzalez will join the Impact in Orlando, Fla., this weekend for the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic preseason tournament.
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