GOMEZ WRITING HIS OWN STORY
While getting named to the United States World Cup squad was a special moment for Herculez Gomez, the Los Angeles-born striker believes that only now is his work beginning.
Gomez's rapid ascension up the US Soccer forward ladder started this past January when he signed with Mexican club Puebla and then went on to become the leading goal scorer in Mexico's BiCentenario.
That momentum carried over into last month's US national team pre-selection camp in Princeton, New Jersey where the Las Vegas-raised Gomez impressed head coach Bob Bradley enough to garner a spot on the 23 man roster.
Upon learning that he was selected to the World Cup squad, Gomez was understandably thrilled, yet grounded.
"I've never experienced anything like this," Gomez told YA. "It's been very special and unforgettable, but now I am concentrating on the World Cup. Obviously I'm excited and I've been dreaming since I was a boy about representing my country on the biggest stage. But when I look back on what I did in the last six months, I don't think that it's over, but rather it's just beginning."
The former Kansas City Wizard also tallied a goal in last week's friendly versus the Czech Republic, a score that may have been the deciding factor in earning a seat on the plane to South Africa.
While the gambling analogies of a Las Vegas native beating all odds to make the US roster are apt, Gomez believes that as long as his parents and immediate family are taking pride in his efforts, then he can be at peace with how everything else plays out.
"I really had nothing to lose and I felt like I was playing with free money," stated Gomez. "I just have to keep that mentality and keep working hard, but honestly, for me, as long as my family is proud and that I've represented them in a dignified manner, then that's all that really matters."
Before getting called to the 30 man provisional roster, Gomez had not been part of the US national team player pool since 2007 when he competed with a younger squad at the Copa America in Venezuela.
Any trepidation that he says he might have felt after arriving at Princeton quickly diminished as he was warmly welcomed by his compatriots.
"It was a little different at first not knowing what was in store, but everyone made it a smooth transition," he noted. "This is a close knit group. It's a good group of guys and they've all been helpful offering advice both on and off the field."
The focus that Gomez has on this month's tournament is unquestionably beyond reproach as any outside distractions, including his recent signing with Mexican club Pachuca, do not even factor into his mind.
"I'm really not interested in talking about Pachuca," said a serious Gomez. "I'm only focused on and talking about the US national team."
It would be easy for media and fans alike to paint Gomez's story as a fairy tale, that of the Mexican-American player who faced adversity at every turn of his career only to overcome those hurdles to compete in the world's most renowned sporting event.
But that label does not suit the new Tuzo who waves off any comparisons to some of sports' other cinderellas.
"I don't really want to be a feel good story," he concluded. "I'm very grateful for this opportunity. I know the odds were against me but I know who I am and I am writing my own story."
Gomez and the US team will face off against Australia this Saturday in their last friendly before their Group C opener versus England on June 12th.