CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Monday, January 9, 2012
Despite continued success in Mexico, Herculez Gomez has been a journeyman by playing for four teams in two years. His latest move, however, looks like it will be the best fit for the striker.
In December, Gomez left Estudiantes Tecos and signed with Santos Laguna who were coming off a fourth place finsih in the Mexican Apertura in 2011.
Gomez made his debut over the weekend for Santos Laguna when he came off the bench in the 74th minute in a 0-0 draw with Pachuca.
While he is still in his initial stages with the club, Gomez is excited for the move to Santos.
"It's a huge step, not only in my career but as far as me trying to achieve things with this club. They're arguably one of the most successful teams in the past decade. In four tournaments, I think they've made three finals so they're a pretty impressive team on paper and I think can go out and play and hopefully make an impact. It won't be easy, they have a great crop of players. It's a challenge, but it's a good step for my career and I'm looking forward to it."
With hard work come rewards, and Gomez has certainly locked himself in as one of the top goal scorers in Mexico. His reward is a move to an offensive minded team that led the 2011 Apertura in goals, assists, shots, and shots on goal. Santos Laguna's high octane offense runs at a blistering pace, and the addition of Gomez doesn't appear to be a luxury purchase. A just reward for a hard working career, Gomez thinks he'll step in and impact the team right away.
"I hope I can make an impact in any way that affects the club in a positive manner, I mean- to be quite honest, I don't think anyone in their right minds thought I was going to have the success that I've had in Mexico, with my move to Puebla. And now, not only am I one of the most efficient goal scorers, but you'll be far-fetched to find forwards who have scored more goals than I have in the past two years. I think it speaks very well about my work rate."
With that offensive philosophy and the support for the team's forwards, on paper Santos Laguna looks like a dream move for a forward, where they can be free to do what they do best, which is score goals. With that offensive-mindedness comes a lot of offensive players, making Gomez just one amongst many, and leaving him with the need to prove himself. While previously mostly coming off the bench in a "super sub" role, he doesn't see that as being his role with Santos Laguna.
"They made a great effort to bring me down (to Santos Laguna). I think some people kind of confuse, see me as a super-sub, but if that's the case, they're paying a lot of money and making a great effort to bring me down here for that."
The opening game for Santos Laguna's 2012 season comes against Gomez's former team, Pachuca, where he may get to square off against fellow American Jose Francisco Torres. It's always an exciting and nervous thing, playing the first game with a new team, and Gomez knows that there's work to do to get in step with his new teammates who finished a successful Apertura together and then went to the playoffs.
"These guys have been going on for a while. They've had like a week off (from the end of the regular season), and my team (Estudiantes) didn't make the playoffs so it's going to be me kind of starting behind the 8-ball. All these guys have already worked out, and they're all pretty much in game shape. I've gotta do everything I can to get on the field as quickly as I can and get on the same rhythm and pace as everyone else."
The fans of Mexico's soccer teams are passionate, and Santos Laguna's fans are no exception. Gomez took note of this as an opposing player, and is excited to be able to play in front of them as one of their own.
"It's going to be special, putting on that uniform, being in that stadium. They've got great facilities and from what I've seen already, they have very passionate fans so it's going to be exciting."
It should be easy for Gomez to earn favored status in the bleachers of his new surroundings, as that's what he does wherever he goes. A favorite amongst U.S. National Team fans, Gomez remembers his beginnings as a fan himself, and understands that being an efficient player earns just as much respect as being a flashy player, if not more.
"The fans are great. I was a fan before I was a player, that's number one. Before I on was on the Galaxy, the Galaxy was my team. I was a fan. I think they (fans) just respect the hard work. There's nothing flashy with me, it's almost not even pretty, but it's efficient. I work hard, and I train hard, and when I get on the field I try to maximize my opportunities and manage everything in front of me. I come from humble beginnings, and I think they know that. They see that. It's great, and I think they identify. It's great."
Despite his continued run of success, Jurgen Klinsmann has not called Gomez into National Team camp, making him one of the biggest points of contention with the head coach, for fans. After more than a year of not playing for the National Team, Gomez has turned his attention solely to his club, and letting whatever happens, happen.
"You know, those are things that come with the territory. At this point right now in my career, I consider myself an ex-National Team player. I haven't played in over a year, so I'm just focusing on my team, and improving as a player. If the call comes, great, but I'm focused on my team right now."
Gomez and Santos Laguna return to action next Saturday when they visit Atlante.