GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Santos Laguna enter the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday (8 pm ET, FOX Soccer) facing a 2-0 deficit against Mexican rivals Monterrey. And American Herculez Gomez is champing at the bit to prove that his team can overcome it.
It’s not out of the question by any means. MLS fans that watched Santos go through the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC in the previous two rounds of the competition are well aware that los Guerreros can score goals in a hurry. Santos notched six goals in each of their second-leg matchups in Torreón.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be the case against Monterrey, but I like our chances,” Gomez told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We’re a confident group at home.”
Gomez went the full 90 minutes in the first leg of the final last Wednesday, but it was his first game back since he strained his groin in the semifinal second leg against Toronto two weeks ago.
The World Cup veteran revealed that he was “trying to shake off the cobwebs” and was hampered by the injury at times during the game. Gomez, however, went just under an hour in Santos’ impressive 3-0 win over Tigres UANL this past Saturday, and says that he is feeling much better and generally looser ahead of Wedneday’s deciding clash.
Even in the friendly confines of the Estadio Corona, Gomez admits that getting past reigning CCL champions Monterrey will be difficult. But Santos, runners-up in three of the last four championships in Mexico, plan to go all out to get the result they need.
“If we go down, we’re going down swinging, putting it all on the line,” he said.
If los Guerreros do end up lifting the trophy for the first time in their history, Gomez will become part of that elite group of Americans who have won a continental trophy at club level, something he says would make him proud.
“I’ve got a special opportunity,” the Las Vegas native said. “I get to go out there and play a game I love and get paid for it. I’m playing in the final with a very good team and everybody is going to be watching.”
Regardless of whether Santos win or lose, Gomez will be the highest scorer in the CCL – level with Monterrey’s suspended striker Humberto Suazo – if he scores on Wednesday, despite only featuring from the knockout stages onward.
“In a perfect world, it’d be nice to trade away all the goals I have right now for a 3-0 win,” Gomez said. “I don’t care who scores. … Individual moments like that are a reflection of the team cohesiveness and strength.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.