GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Herculez Gomez is seeing red. And he's pretty pleased about it as Santos Laguna get set to confront Toronto FC again in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday at BMO Field (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer in US, Sportsnet One in Canada).
“For some reason, I have that city and that team following me around everywhere,” Gomez told MLSsoccer.com recently. “Since they came into the MLS, it is, for whatever reason, one of the clubs that I do better against.”
Last time the two teams locked horns back in March and April, Gomez scored three times over the two legs in the semifinals of the 2011-12 edition of the competition as his side took a 7-3 aggregate victory after one of the best CCL ties in recent memory.
It hasn't been forgotten, either, that Santos drew the first leg 1-1 in Toronto, and the Canadian team held the advantage at 2-2 at halftime in the second leg before Santos clicked and ran away 6-2 winners on the night.
“To be quite honest, I personally enjoyed the competitiveness of those games,” said Gomez. “To us it was business as usual. I'm sure for them, it was probably not the way they wanted to go out and [that's] very understandable.”
The Las Vegas-raised striker was left on the bench for Santos Laguna's 0-0 draw against Pachuca on Saturday, and should be fresh for TFC after a hectic couple of months involving US national team duty and a trip back to his hometown to face Real Madrid in a World Football Challenge match, as well as regular Liga MX duty.
Reigning Mexican champions, Santos Laguna come into the game off the back of four matches without a victory and presently sit in 10th place in their domestic league. Toronto should be wary of a backlash, however. The team that came within a whisker of winning the CCL last season – losing narrowly in the final against Monterrey – is redoubling its efforts this time around.
“I think it was important to us first time round and to get that far and to have it snatched away from us, it left us all with a bitter taste in our mouths,” Gomez said. “We're all very excited and I'm personally excited. I want that second bite.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.