COLUMBUS, Ohio — You’ve got to love Herculez Gomez. He’s as no-nonsense as they come, and he makes no bones about what he does and why he does it.
“I like striking the ball,” Gomez (above, far right) declared after the US beat Jamaica, 1-0, on Tuesday thanks to his 55th-minute goal on a direct free kick. “You can ask anybody on our team if I like striking the ball and they’ll say, ‘Yeah!’”
And so he struck it, an arced ball from 28 yards that dipped over the leaping wall and powered through goalkeeper Dwayne Miller’s outstretched hands. It proved to be the winner, though it might not have happened at all if Gomez hadn’t waved off Jose Torres, who also appeared eager to try his luck on the shot.
“I pulled rank on him,” Gomez, 30, said of his 24-year-old teammate. “It was his side, but I felt it was my distance. He’s got a great touch for free kicks over the wall, but I felt, maybe from that distance, I could give it a little more power. Luckily enough, it went in.”
Gomez isn’t known for free-kick goals, either for the US or for his club in Mexico, Santos Laguna. (“Have you seen our roster?” he gasped, alluding to the club’s plethora of marksmen.) But he took all of the US’s free kicks in the attacking third of the field, setting up two glorious chances for teammates with his pinpoint crosses.
And beyond the set-piece duties, Gomez’s energy up top seemed to be the side’s driving force.
“In every training session, he gives you what he gave you tonight,” manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We need that. And he has that determination that he wants to score so badly, even if it’s on a free kick, he is just right there. This is something that we need to develop even more — that hunger to succeed, that willingness to score, but also that willingness to suffer.”
The US players have suffered these past few days as they reckoned with the upset loss last week in Kingston. But Gomez seemed less concerned than most. And now that World Cup qualifying is headed in the right direction again, he is supremely confident about the Americans’ chances in upcoming matches against Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda.
“I expect us to win out,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not always that easy, but we’re willing to put in the work. That’s for sure.”