GOMEZ COMES FULL CIRCLE
After starting his youth career south of the border, Herculez Gomez says he is thrilled to be returning to Mexico to play in the Primera Division with Puebla F.C.
Gomez inked a deal with the club earlier this month and featured in his first match this past Sunday in a 2-1 Interliga loss to Apertura champions Monterrey.
The native of Los Angeles, California, who started his professional career back in 2001 with the Cruz Azul reserve team, says that the opportunity to play with a team in the Primera Division has been a lifelong goal and that he plans to make the very most of it.
"I decided that this was the time in my career to play abroad," Gomez recently told YA. "My contract with MLS expired so my agent started contacting teams [in Mexico]. We talked to a couple teams and decided on Puebla."
The 27 year old went on to indicate that the playing atmosphere in Mexico was a major factor in his decision.
"I've always wanted to play where soccer is a big deal and where it is lived for. I'm very thankful for the opportunity… It feels like I've come full circle considering I started my career in Mexico."
Gomez joins a club whose fans are starving for a championship as Puebla have advanced to the Clausura or Apertura playoffs just twice in the last decade. However things for the south central Mexican club are on the rise after a run to the semifinals in last year's Apertura which landed them a spot in the current Interliga.
Should Puebla go on to defeat Tecos on Wednesday evening, they will claim a berth in this year's Copa Libertadores where the former LA Galaxy man could find himself going up against legendary South American giants like Colo Colo of Chile or Flamengo of Brazil.
The prospect of playing a match in stadiums like Rio's Maracana is not daunting at all for the striker who has faced adversity his entire career including loans to two different clubs and having been traded twice while with MLS.
"I'm really excited that right now we're in the Interliga and trying to earn a ticket to the Libertadores," continued Gomez. "I've always worked hard in my career since I grew up playing with very few resources. I think I have a lot of attributes to lend to the team and I plan to help any way I can."
The ex-Kansas City Wizard spent the bulk of his childhood in Las Vegas where there was little emphasis on youth soccer making it a challenge to get noticed within the US youth team ranks. His success in MLS finally got the attention of US Soccer and in 2007 Gomez was rewarded with a spot on the squad that played at the Copa America.
The attacker played in two matches during the tournament in Venezuela, but since then he has not been a part of head coach Bob Bradley's regular player pool.
Now with this summer's World Cup looming, Gomez hopes he can once again attract Bradley's attention and garner a place on the 23 man roster for South Africa.
"Playing every day can only make me better and I can only benefit from playing in Mexico. I think playing abroad will also help get me noticed so hopefully I will have a chance at getting a look for the national team."
The Nevada resident is now the fifth current American to ply his trade in the Primera Division, joining the likes of Jose Francisco Torres at Pachuca and Edgar Castillo at Tigres.
Even though the icy relationship between the US and Mexican national teams persists, Gomez does not feel like there is any bias against American players on the club level.
"I feel like we're accepted as equals. I've been well received here. I think the attitude of the clubs is that if you can help the team, then they'll [the club] will bring you in," he concluded.
Before starting their 2010 Clausura this weekend against Tigres, Gomez and Puebla will square off against Tecos on Wednesday evening in Carson, California with the winner earning a spot in the Copa Libertadores.