Whenever the public address announcer at The Home Depot Center mentions the name Herculez Gomez -- and it's been happening a lot lately -- one can't help but picture Mamma Clump from "The Nutty Professor" sitting around the dinner table singing and clapping "Hercules, Hercules, Hercules." It's an image that brings a smile to even the most hardened soccer purist.
But the young striker's game is no joke. Gomez was called upon over the last month to try and fill a void left by superstar striker Landon Donovan, and has done quite nicely, scoring four goals and notching an assist. He continued his red-hot form in U.S. Open Cup play, scoring the game-winning goal against Chivas USA on Wednesday night.
His career hasn't always been a fairy tale. This is his second stint with the Galaxy, though his first go-round totaled just one appearance in 2003. Gomez then spent all of last year playing indoor soccer for the San Diego Sockers. His return to Los Angeles was less than ceremonious, as the 23-year-old wasn't even making the game day roster for the Galaxy early on in the season.
Gomez started scoring goals in reserve games, and eventually worked his way up the ladder, and when Landon Donovan left the team for national team duty, Gomez got his chance and hasn't looked back since.
"He's gotten his chance and he's done well," said Donovan. "That's how people make it. You get your chance and you make the most of it."
Big goals are the only type that Gomez seems to score, but the young man has handled his recent success with humility not often seen in professional athletes these days, admitting that he still gets butterflies before every game.
"I've had nerves ever since AYSO," Gomez said, "so that's probably never going to go away. As soon as you get your first touch on the ball or someone wacks you really hard you kind of forget about them."
Life as a striker should get a bit easier too for Gomez now that Landon Donovan is back with the Galaxy. With a player of Donovan's skill and creativity lining up next to him, Gomez expects a whole lot more room to work with on the field.
"It definitely changes anyone's game having Landon out there," Gomez said. "Those runs that you make, he finds them, and he rewards you."
Gomez has already been rewarded once, as Donovan assisted on Gomez's goal in New England in their first game together. The goal was the lone strike for the Galaxy that day, and earned the Green and Gold a valuable road point.
If Gomez can keep up this pace, he'll only be chasing Donovan for the team lead in goals, something certainly nobody expected at the beginning of the season.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.