When Herculez Gomez slotted home a shot in the second half against Real Salt Lake last Saturday, it gave the Los Angeles Galaxy a two-goal cushion and eventually proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 win. The goal was the first of the season for Gomez, and head coach Steve Sampson feels it will lift the confidence of a player who emerged last season as a budding star.
"I think it's important for any goal scorer's confidence when, if he hasn't scored for awhile, to eventually get that goal. And it was a good goal," commented Sampson. "It's only going to help us. Once Herculez gets on a roll, then watch out."
Last season Gomez went from being a developmental player struggling for minutes with the reserve squad to the Galaxy's team MVP. His relative obscurity last season helped him surprise defenses, and his sniper's mentality in front of goal punished the opposition.
This year defenses have approached Gomez differently, forcing him out of his game, but a tactical switch this past weekend by Sampson -- changing to a 4-3-3 lineup instead of a 4-4-2 -- has freed Gomez to attack defenses more freely again.
Its Gomez's calm, cool, and collected manner in front of net that is so impressive. This week in training Gomez recalled his strike as though it were just a walk in the park.
"I had a perfect view of Landon (Donovan's) goal. (Scott Garlik) showed Landon the whole right side of his goal," said Gomez. "He did the same thing for me. I just stayed patient, he went down, and I put it where he wasn't."
Donovan, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals, was a little more impressed. Gomez hadn't scored since the first round of last year's playoffs against San Jose. With a drought lasting that long, Donovan expected his teammate to be a little shaky in front of the goal. It simply wasn't the case on Saturday.
"You'd expect in that situation for him to be nervous, but he's so good in front of goal," said Donovan. "That's a finish you don't see guys in European leagues do. They smash the ball to the far post and the goalie gets a tip to it and knocks it wide. He's good in front of goal and it should help his confidence a lot."
Last season Gomez got his chance when Donovan left the Galaxy for national team duty. Then, Sampson was just hoping to get an honest effort out of an unknown forward. This season Gomez and the Galaxy face a similar situation with Donovan scheduled to leave for the World Cup, along with Galaxy strike partner Cornell Glen (Trinidad & Tobago).
Unlike last year, when the Green and Gold were looking to Gomez to stem the tide until the return of their star player, the Galaxy will instead be leaning on Gomez to carry the load.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.