GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Herculez Gomez is just 180 minutes away from becoming the first player to win both MLS Cup and the Mexican first-division title.
“It'd be something special, another first,” Gomez told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday evening from Torreón. “Things like that really motivate me. When you think about leaving a stamp on the game, something to look back on.”
Mexican legend Jorge Campos could have laid claim to the title of first MLS and Mexican champion had he stuck around with Chicago for their 1998 triumph. Instead, he was shipped back to Mexico on the eve of the 1998 MLS Cup Playoffs.
For his part, Gomez tasted MLS success back in 2005 with the LA Galaxy, featuring prominently in the team's MLS Cup and US Open Cup double. This season in Mexico has been similar for Gomez, who has scored vital goals in helping Santos Laguna reach both last month's CONCACAF Champions League final and the Clausura 2012 final.
“When I first came down to Mexico, I thought it would be a six-month thing and it has blossomed into something else,” he said.
Monterrey stand in Gomez's and Santos Laguna's way as the top two regular season finishers in the Clausura 2012 clash in a repeat of last month's CONCACAF Champions League final, which Los Rayados won 3-2 on aggregate.
Gomez, who says he feels 100 percent after recent niggling injuries, calls the two finalists “the best two teams in Mexican soccer right now” and both are more at ease on the offensive; they finished the season as the highest scorers in the regular season.
Santos Laguna are in their fourth domestic final in the last five tournaments, but have not won a single title. Monterrey, on the other hand, have won two CONCACAF Champions League crowns and two domestic titles since 2009.
The final will be intensely experienced back home in the USA, where the 30-year-old 2010 World Cup veteran continues to receive strong fan support. In particular, he says it gives his father a kick to hear his son being called “el orgullo de Las Vegas” (the pride of Las Vegas) in local Spanish-language media around the city where Gomez grew up and his Mexico-born parents still live.
“It's an opportunity that not many players get to experience,” he said about the finals. “I know it´s going to be tough against Monterrey, but I´m hoping to get some minutes and hoping to make an impact.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.