GUADALAJARA, Mexico – As returns from injury go, it doesn’t get much better than scoring a hat trick in your first 45 minutes on the field.
That’s exactly what US international Herculez Gomez did Thursday evening as Club Tijuana thrashed Honduras’ Victoria, 6-0, at Estadio Caliente to boost their case for a favorable seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Gomez came off the bench at halftime with his team already 3-0 up and made easy work of Victoria’s leaky defense, scoring his first in the 60th minute, when he was sent through on goal by a long pass from Cristian Pellerano and drilled a low shot underneath the 'keeper.
The second was a tap-in and Gomez lifted the third over ‘keeper John Bodden to complete Tijuana’s scoring in the 85th. It was Gomez’s first appearance at first-team level since July 17, when he featured for the US men's national team in the Gold Cup.
Paul Arriola also got on the scoresheet for Tijuana, playing a neat give and go with Emanuel Cerda in the 33rd and calmly slotting the ball into the corner of the net. Like Arriola, left back Greg Garza went the full 90 minutes, attacking with intent and going close to scoring with a header in the sixth minute.
It wasn’t such a rosy night for Joe Corona, who started in an advanced attacking midfield position, but was brought off at halftime for Gomez after a quiet first half.
For Victoria, Argentine-American Kevin Hoyos – on loan from Estudiantes de La Plata – was starved of service in his striking role, with Xolos dominating the match from start to finish.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.