“He’s got all the tools to be world-class,” RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni said of the U22 Initiative signing.
Gómez’s acclimation to a new league, new teammates, a new culture and, yes, a new climate in Salt Lake City, has been challenging. But he’s leaned on the support of fellow Latino players, like Anderson Julio and Jefferson Savarino. He’s feeling more comfortable through his weekly English language classes and dinners out along with teammates and goalkeeping coach Ignacio Hernández.
Of course, goals also help build confidence and comfort.
“At first it was very difficult for me, but little by little, especially with the friendship of course of Anderson and Sava and mostly the Latin players, they have really helped me,” Gómez said through a translator. “Obviously Venezuela and Ecuador are very similar to the Colombian atmosphere and the Colombian way of living, so of course that helps. But also the cold weather, the cold has been a little difficult.”
Gómez dealt with the chilly weather conditions Saturday night by scoring a blistering left-footed shot 10 minutes from full time to seal RSL’s three points, then did a little dancing to celebrate his first MLS goal.
“With all the emotions running through I didn’t know what I wanted to dance to, but I knew I wanted to dance,” the reported $4 million signing said. “I ended up dancing at the very end because I did want to dance with the fans, just to teach them a little bit.”
Mastroeni said Savarino is the perfect compliment to Gómez, bringing balance to Real Salt Lake’s attack on both wings. The 26-year-old Venezuelan brings creativity to one flank, while Gómez is more of a direct threat to get in behind the defense.
“The great thing too is they have a really good understanding of each other's movements and they look for each other,” Mastroeni said, with Gómez now on 1g/3a in eight games. “It’s a real nice combination to have.”
Gómez, of course, isn’t the finished product. Mastroeni said he wants to see the youngster improve off-the-ball movements and in understanding intricacies of the MLS game.
But Mastroeni has been impressed with Gómez’s ability to take opponents on 1-v-1 – “his ability to work back is fantastic," the coach noted – and he can strike the ball well with both feet, as evidenced by his blast off the post with his “weaker” left foot Saturday.
“Andrés could be a world-class player,” Mastroeni said. “Is that in the next three years, is that four years, is that next year? … I think if he keeps trending in the direction that he's moving in, I think he’s going to be a fantastic player in this league.”