Union hope to build upon Gomez's dead-ball prowess

CHESTER, Pa. – Moments before Gabriel Gomez lined up to take a free kick in the 51st minute of the Philadelphia Union’s season opener against Portland on Monday, his teammate Brian Carroll offered some advice, as best he knew how.

“I made sure I told him through broken English-slash-sign language, to make sure you keep it on frame and drop it in front of the goalkeeper so it will skip in,” Carroll told MLSsoccer.com. “And that’s exactly what happened. I was happy to see him put us up 1-0.”

GOAL: Gomez free kick slips through

For the Union, the goal was one of the few bright spots of a 3-1 defeat to the Timbers. And for Gomez, the 27-year-old Panamanian international who came to Philly in the offseason, it was a certainly an exciting way to start his MLS career.

He only wishes the game could have ended better.

“When I took the free kick, my intention was to pass it to one of my teammates because those kicks are hard to block for the opposing team’s defense and goalkeeper,” Gomez said through a translator. “Generally, nobody touches the ball and it ends up being a goal. The moment was gratifying as we were winning 1-0 during a difficult match. Unfortunately, we lost but right now we are lifting our moods to win Sunday [vs. the Rapids].”

Perhaps the best part of Gomez’s goal was it proved just how dangerous he can be on set pieces. The new midfield acquisition already showed some skill in that department when, in a Feb. 18 preseason game against Orlando City, his free kick found the head of Danny Califf, who cashed it in for a goal.

And Gomez plans to continue helping out with the club’s set pieces, an area the Union struggled with for much of last season.

“In all the teams I’ve been a part of, I’ve had the opportunity to score goals,” Gomez said. “I like to take the penalties and the free kicks. On Panama’s national team, I take the free kicks. It’s something that’s already in me.”

While his free kicks have proven equally dangerous in the preseason and the regular season, just about everything else seemed different for Gomez, who fully enjoyed the Portland aura in his MLS debut.

“It was a beautiful stadium and they had really loyal fans,” said Gomez, who played on 10 different clubs before coming to the Union. “I was very shocked with everything I saw. This demonstrated how MLS is growing. People are following soccer more.

“I hope to continue the hard work we are performing as a team and to win Sunday. Right now, we just have to focus on winning. We lost in Portland and we now have the opportunity to improve at home.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com