Herculez Gomez has his sights set on a USMNT call-up. (Photo courtesy Chivas USA).
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Watching former Galaxy striker Herculez Gomez practicing at Home Depot Center Monday – in a Chivas USA shirt, no less – took me back a few years.
There were those unmistakable ears, but after being told he was unwanted by the Wizards and a season basking in the limelight in Mexico, this was a very different Gomez than I remembered.
This Gomez was no longer a wide-eyed kid, but a man with maturity and resolve:
“I feel like I’ve grown up so much this year,” he said. “In the off-season I didn’t know if I was going to have a job. I was by myself doing literally double days, keeping myself lean. If something did happen with a Mexican club they were already going and I needed to get going, so I was trying to catch up.
“I learned a lot about what it really takes to be a professional,” Gomez added. “I want to stay in shape. I know that nothing is guaranteed, but from my end I’m going to do everything I can to be ready (for a USMNT call).”
Here’s Gomez on the type of striker he is and why he has played out wide – not his preferred position – with some clubs:
“It just so happened that on a few of the teams I’ve played on they felt I could most help the team out wide. I guess I’m not your typical MLS striker, I’m not that all speed striker and I’m not that big player, I’m not the big number nine.
“The one thing that sets me apart (from other USMNT strikers) is I don’t really fit any protocols of players that they have so maybe that’s to my benefit.”
I was a little surprised that only two reporters were on hand Monday to chat with Gomez. It certainly was a lot different than the environment Gomez had just left:
“People down there wherever I go they know who I am. It’s very scary going somewhere and having flashes and pictures taken, people coming up to you. They know everything about you and you’re a public figure. I’ve never been a public figure before. At first I thought it would be cool, but it’s pretty scary, to be honest. Let’s be honest, it’s a beautiful country, but there’s still a lot of dangers.
“It’s a crazy feeling (being a celebrity), but there’s almost a sense of responsibility that comes with it, so I’ve definitely been learning to deal with that.”
Gomez said he and former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz of Guatemala, who can speak fluent English these days, were known in the Puebla locker room as “The Americans (!) and often spoke English with one another just to get under the skin of their teammates.
The other reporter, a recent college graduate named Adam Serrano who is now the Southern California correspondent for the blog Soccer By Ives, had a different take on the 20-minute interview we conducted with a gracious Herc.
Here’s the story Adam filed (In the accompanying picture to the blog post that’s me on the left and Adam to the right, in case you’re wondering).