One of Club Deportivo Chivas USA's pleasant surprises in preseason was Francisco Gomez. The former Kansas City Wizards midfielder had found his niche with the expansion club for both his leadership skills and Major League Soccer experience.
All that went down in a crumpled heap, however, as Gomez will be out 4-6 weeks after spraining his medial collateral ligament in his knee in Saturday's opener against D.C. United. An MRI exam Monday revealed the MCL sprain.
Gomez collided with D.C.'s Alecko Eskandarian barely 30 minutes into Chivas USA's inaugural match and was carried off the field.
"I've been waiting all my life for this, to put on a Chivas jersey, and this happens," Gomez said. "I've been working hard. I set goals for myself and tried to be in the starting 11 and to go down with an injury, it's disappointing."
On the play, Gomez took the ball on United's side of the center circle and looked to carry the ball downfield. Eskandarian ran back and knocked Gomez off the ball. The United forward was booked for a reckless foul.
"I never saw him coming," Gomez said. "I tried to go forward with the ball. I saw him last minute. I don't know if he dove or slid or what but I felt him hit me. My ankle kind of just got stuck on the grass and kind of went one way and that's how I hurt it. My knee felt the same way."
It didn't take long for Gomez to know that his injury was severe.
"I felt (my ankle) right away. I could feel it right away just throbbing," Gomez said. "I tried to move it right away and I couldn't. I knew right there it wasn't good."
Francisco Mendoza came on for Gomez. For Saturday's match against the San Jose Earthquakes, Chivas USA head coach Thomas Rongen has several options. He could start Mendoza in Gomez's place, but such a move would likely cause a ripple effect as the attacking-minded Mendoza fits best higher in the field than Gomez normally plays. Or Rongen could start either Jesus Ochoa or Aaron Lopez in Gomez's position. Both Ochoa and Lopez saw ample time during the preseason at holding midfielder.
As for Gomez, it's just another opportunity to lead by example.
"I've got to pick my head up and work hard and try to get back and be there for the team," Gomez said.
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MSLnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.