Herculez Gomez was at it again on Saturday night. He hit for his 10th and 11th goals in league play to lead the Los Angeles Galaxy to a 2-1 win against FC Dallas. The win comes at a crucial point in the season, with the Galaxy having just one game left and the Western Conference race still wide open.
Gomez, who also hit for the game winner against FCD in the U.S. Open Cup Final on Wednesday night, couldn't have picked a more opportune time to go on a scoring run. In all he has 17 goals with the first team in all competitions, and he's also struck for three more in reserve matches. His head coach feels this is the type of run that will help Gomez become a household name in MLS.
"The consistent run of scoring game after game is very rare. I think guys like Carlos Ruiz, Eric Wynalda, Tab Ramos -- [Gomez] is now starting to make a name for himself," said Steve Sampson. "He's playing with an enormous amount of confidence, you can see it in that second goal. That second goal takes a lot of confidence and skill."
The goal Sampson was referring to came just before halftime. David Wagenfuhr tried to clear a ball out of the back third but instead banged it off Gomez. He then jumped on the ball and went in on a breakaway. At full speed and with Scott Garlick rushing out of his net to close him down, Gomez calmly chipped the ball over the 'keeper for what proved to be the game-winner.
"The defender just made a mistake. Now that I think of it I should have probably slotted it," said Gomez. "Pete (Vagenas) came over to me and said, 'Don't ever chip him again.' I guess I scared him."
Despite his success, the young striker is stressing the importance of the team over his personal achievements.
"I'm not worried about personal goals, or personal achievements. I'm just worried about our team playing well and winning, to be honest," said Gomez.
The Galaxy are finally starting to play well, too. With Saturday's victory, the Galaxy won for the third game in a row, including their U.S. Open Cup title. It marks the first such streak since the opening months of the season.
The play of Gomez definitely has played a huge role in the turnaround in Los Angeles, but other players have stepped in and played well too. Saturday, Ned Grabavoy sparked the Galaxy offense in the first half, making a number of menacing runs into the Dallas defensive third.
Grabavoy scored the opening goal of the game as well, picking out Gomez with a long through ball. Gomez fought off a defender, then tucked the ball away off the post. After the game, Grabavoy was aware of his role, and the importance of stepping in to give his side some quality minutes.
"When I play out on the right side, or the left, Steve (Sampson) likes me to get in behind the defense, and not always play in front of them. So from the beginning that's what I tried to do. I just try to give that extra kick to my game," said Grabavoy.
Grabavoy's performance didn't go unnoticed by his coach either, who had high praise for the second-year man. Grabavoy was filling in for Landon Donovan, who was out with a left ankle sprain.
"We inject Ned Grabavoy in there and take Landon Donovan out, and the team plays pretty decently," said Sampson. "So that gives me the feeling that we're headed in the right direction."
Despite the result, the Galaxy still has room for improvement. Early in the second half, Greg Vanney was sent off after being shown a straight red card for a challenge from behind on Galaxy forward Joseph Ngwenya.
As the half progressed, and Dallas was forced to commit more players forward, the Galaxy was afforded chance after chance to add to their scoreline. But the last 10 minutes of the game the Galaxy put on a clinic of what not to do when trying to finish in front of the net.
"You put Landon (Donovan) in that situation and he finishes," said Sampson. "Joe (Ngwenya), Alan (Gordon), Pando, these guys are gaining experience as they go. These are guys that during the flow of the game would have finished those. Sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, it's just maybe too easy. Obviously it's unacceptable. We have to train more on our finishing under pressure."
Getting the three points Saturday was the most important, putting pressure on both Dallas and Colorado to take advantage of the extra games they have on their schedules. But come playoff time, the opportunities the Galaxy wasted won't even be on offer. If the Galaxy don't start finishing their chances, they'll be ruing their near misses rather than making a run at the MLS Cup.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.