MEXICO CITY – Before Wednesday's match, no one was more passionate than Herculez Gomez in describing what strolling onto the Estadio Azteca pitch while wearing the US shirt would mean.
Now that the monkey on the US national team's back has been lifted with Wednesday's 1-0 win against Mexico in the famous stadium, Gomez says victory tastes particularly sweet.
“Everybody's on cloud nine, everybody's extremely excited,” the Santos Laguna man said after the game. “This is a life moment for me, this is no longer soccer.”
The American of Mexican heritage was keen to stress the quality of side the US defeated and how monumental the victory is considering the difficulty of the task going into the game.
“You're not going to find a harder test than Mexico at home in the Azteca,” he said.
While Mexico fans will point out the fact Carlos Salcido, Giovani dos Santos and others were missing from El Tri's squad, Gomez insisted the US, too, had a number of notable absentees and that for those coming in, it was possibly a coming-of-age moment.
“It was important for us and more important for the new guys that are going to be part of this process for the World Cup to try and get a taste and a feel of what it is like,” said the 30-year-old, who won the Mexican league's scoring title in the Bicentenario 2010 season.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann conceded in his postgame press conference that Mexico had better possession and a number of chances to get on the score sheet. But Gomez, like his coach, is adamant there is more to come from this US team.
“I'm happy but there's still work to do. Mexico is a great team and today things went for us. Football isn't always like that,” he said, adding: “I think there's definitely more to come.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.