BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, May 24, 2010
With the US national team entering its second week of World Cup preparation at Princeton University, Herculez Gomez looks to continue his incredible year and put himself into position to make the 2010 World Cup team.
When 2010 began, the 28 year old Gomez was out of contract after his deal with MLS expired at the end of the 2009 season in October.
Shortly after the New Years, Gomez signed with Mexican club Puebla, an opportunity that he admits was unexpected.
"It was after New Years and I was with my two really close friends and we do New Years every year together," Gomez recalled to YA. "We were in San Francisco and I literally got off the plane and [my friend] was picking me up. All of a sudden I am getting voicemails from my agent. I am getting phone calls from some Mexican number. I had no idea what is going on. And I am like 'what's happening?' And then I was susposed to be on a plane in like a day and half."
To say that Gomez's deal with Puebla worked out would be an understatement. Gomez began the season on an intense scoring streak and he never let up.
He ended up finishing the year with a share of the Mexican scoring title and forced US head coach Bob Bradley's hand into being included on the national team's preliminary roster.
"I mean I can't tell you how many times I was in Las Vegas without a job and no kind of options," Gomez said after a practice in Princeton. "I was working out by myself, doing double days by myself, and I would imagine myself having a good season and being on the national team. So when this all kind of came to fruition it was really wild and crazy."
Over the weekend, Gomez's news continued to get better as he signed with Mexican club Pachuca and will join fellow US national team player Jose Francisco Torres at the club which will participate in the Club World Cup in the fall.
Gomez did not wish to speak about his new deal while with the national team at Princeton.
"You know a friend asked me in Mexico what it would take to make this 30 [man US roster]," Gomez said. "I pretty much jokingly said that I would have to win the Mexican goal scoring title. So here I am."
Gomez scoring streak not only gathered interest among fans of the USMNT, but he also began earning the support of his Mexican teammates and the Puebla fans.
Despite playing for the Mexican national team's archrival, everyone at Puebla wanted to see him take his game to the international stage.
"We are a small club in Puebla," Gomez described of his old club. "There is a lot of humility in that club. The players aren't very big and a lot of those players haven't played on national teams. They started asking me questions and they wanted to know what the possibilities were."
During the middle of Gomez's goal scoring title, he received a boost in confidence when his former Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan publically said that he thought Gomez deserved an invitation to be included in the 30 man preliminary World Cup roster.
Gomez was both grateful for the gesture and motivated by it as well.
"To be honest, it was unexpected but very welcomed," Gomez admitted. "It's Landon and when you think about US Soccer, he is US Soccer. So for him to say something like that and to stick his neck on the line for you, it makes you want to work even harder."
"So I am grateful and he's a good guy," he continued. "But we are all here because the coach saw something in all of us. So we are all working hard and we are all trying to achieve the same goal."
Bradley's announcement last week that he would make his final cuts for the World Cup team following Tuesday's friendly against the Czech Republic means that Gomez will know his World Cup fate in just a couple days.
While the game against the Czechs will go a long way to determining whether or not he will go to South Africa, Gomez is reluctant to admit that it will be one of the most important games of his career.
"I don't think of it that way," Gomez insisted. "I think it's much more than just that game. Bob is a smart guy and he's been evaluating players since the moment we walked into that hotel. I think it's much more than that [one game] but I am hoping to give him a tough time in deciding things."
Gomez enters into his second week of camp and Tuesday's game with no pressure. He feels as if he has nothing to lose since only six months ago, he never thought he would be on the verge of playing on the sport's biggest stage.
Despite that, he is still determined to make the most of his opportunity.
"I am playing with free money," Gomez concluded with laughter. "That's what I feel like. I am a Vegas kid. I am having a blast. Even though it has been a lot of fitness, it's been well worth it. I haven't work this hard in a while and I haven't been around this type of atmosphere in a while. I am enjoying it. I really am."