Gomez doubles L.A.'s fun vs. Quakes
At the beginning of this season, Los Angeles Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez was on the bubble to even make the squad.
Six months later, he's proving himself indispensable, and that was never more true than in the Galaxy's 2-1 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal triumph over in-state rivals San Jose at Spartan Stadium on Wednesday.
Gomez's two lightning quick strikes staked the visitors to a 2-0 lead, and the extra cushion proved valuable when Todd Dunivant was sent off in the second half, allowing the Quakes to pull within a goal.
"[Gomez] is the guy who over the last month to month-and-a-half who has really been getting it done for us up top, along with [Landon Donovan]," said Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson. "He brings great speed and energy, and tonight you saw how that energy can cause problems for teams."
Both of Gomez's strikes came courtesy of passes from Jovan Kirovski that created one-on-one match-ups with a single Quakes' defender. And on each occasion, the speed of Gomez allowed him to evade his marker and punctuate the play with a clinical finish.
The emergence of Gomez has given the Galaxy an additional scoring threat to Donovan, and with the Galaxy star's frequent absences due to international duty, that could prove invaluable down the stretch as Los Angeles challenges for the Western Conference crown.
"When you think about how [Gomez] barely made our squad in February, this young man has come a long way," Sampson said. "We're very proud of him. He's staying humble, which I like, and he's making a mark for himself."
True to his coach's description, Gomez was keeping everything in perspective afterwards; keeping his feet firmly on the ground ahead of Saturday's return encounter with their bitter rivals.
"I just went out there and did what coach told me to do, which is score or be dangerous, one of the two," said Gomez. "Today, we were just effective as a whole."
Gomez credits the reserve league with giving him the opportunity to force his way in the lineup. In years past, staying sharp just from practice was near impossible, but this year, the reserve matches allowed Gomez to maintain a higher level of form.
"It's very hard to get game shape from just practice," said Gomez. "But I'm glad we have the reserve league. You get more confidence when you play with the first team, knowing that you did stuff with the reserves."
Of course, if Gomez keeps up his torrid pace, the reserve league will, for him, become a distant memory.
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.