The Throw-In: What's left for Herculez Gomez to prove? Plenty, in MLS
Alright, Herculez Gomez, you’ve made your point. Loud and clear.
We get it. There is no one – not one single player in all of CONCACAF – who is more cold-blooded against Major League Soccer opposition when it comes to Champions League play.
That wicked poach job you emphatically deposited on the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday was your ninth goal in your last eight CCL games against MLS teams. And you seem to save it for knockout matches. The back-breaker against Houston in the quarterfinal second leg last month. The six goals in four games last year against those same Sounders and Toronto FC.
That’s ice-cold, Herc. Marcus Hahnemann is going to be seeing that most recent violent blast into the upper corner of his net in his dreams. And it will no doubt have some death-metal soundtrack.
I got a particular kick out of this latest piece of work because of the extra mustard you put on it. It’s becoming more and more clear to me that every time you take the field against an MLS team, you’re trying to get our attention. Well guess what? Message received. We’d have to be idiots not to see it.
Most fans know by now that you’ve been motivated over the years by being told repeatedly that you’re not good enough. It’s this massive chip you’ve carried on your shoulder since your pro career began. I didn’t know a thing about you back in 2002, but then-Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid told you to consider another line of work.
But when I saw what you went through over the past 11 years, it all made sense.
Fighting your way to a starting role with the Galaxy, despite playing out of your preferred position, then being shipped off to Colorado after LA’s disastrous 2006 season.
Traded again by the Rapids – despite having a good run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – after tearing your ACL in ’08.
Deemed a substitute at best in Kansas City – despite producing immediately for the Wizards at, again, a midfield position you never liked – and being offered a new contract you deemed so underwhelming, you nearly quit.
You took all that disappointment and unleashed it in one of the more remarkable career renaissances I’ve ever seen in this game. Over the last three-plus years in Mexico, you’ve won a scoring title and a league title, gone to the FIFA Club World Cup, almost literally forced your way back onto the US national team, played in a World Cup and entrenched yourself as a starter for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Since you’ve been gone from MLS, you’ve scored close to 50 goals for four different Liga MX clubs – and one-fifth of those have been against MLS teams.
Which leads me to my big question. What have you got left to prove? You’ve done it all. You’ve shut everyone up who ever doubted you, all those people who over and over again somehow misjudged your talents. You’ve evolved as a player, and you’ve grown up as a man. You have made yourself a star and done things most American players only dream about.
You say you want to come home. You say a return to MLS is in the cards. And not just as some victory lap for your sunset years, but the next stop on a career that seems like it’s still on the upswing.
Well, Herc, you’ve made your statement. Everyone knows what you’re capable of now. MLS is here waiting for you. So make it happen.
I get it. It’s nowhere near as simple as all that. Sporting Kansas City still own the "right of refusal" on you after making you a bona fide offer three years ago. I don’t know exactly what they put on the table. But I think it’s safe to say you’re worth way more now than whatever it was.
I’d like to think that there’s a way to get it done. I doubt you’d ever want to return to KC. And that’s fine. But I also suspect that where there’s a will, there’s a way – Sporting would likely play ball with whatever team you’d want to join.
Because at the end of the day, you belong here, Herc. And for all the battles you’ve conquered over the last few years, there’s more for you to prove here than abroad. And it's all stuff you haven't done yet.
Win an MLS Golden Boot. Earn the captain’s armband for a club and become a leader by more than just example. Make yourself one of the faces of the league. Help MLS win new fans. Use your now international recognition to help the league in a widening rivalry with the Liga MX for the hearts and minds of a growing fan base.
And there's one more monstrous challenge out there that is perfectly suited for you: Turn that lethal scoring record against MLS teams in the CCL in the league’s favor, and help a team finally conquer the insurmountable mountain.
Maybe I’ll just say I don’t think you can do it. So go ahead, prove me wrong. I dare you.
Jonah Freedman is the managing editor of MLSsoccer.com. “The Throw-In” appears every Thursday.