GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Herculez Gomez is on one of those spurts of goalscoring form we've become accustomed to in recent seasons, but this time it feels different.
Gomez has started the same number of Liga MX games for Santos Laguna during 2013 as he did in all of 2012, and he comes into the US' World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico having started six out of the last seven World Cup qualifiers for the United States.
Just one year ago, a starting slot at Santos was no guarantee and US coach Jurgen Klinsmann seemingly just didn’t like the cut of Gomez's jib.
Since then, Gomez’s burden of responsibility for both club and country has grown to the point to which he’s assuming a leadership role on both stages.
“I’m 30 years old, it happens to you sometimes, but in all honestly I think it’s experience,” Gomez told MLSsoccer.com at a Guadalajara hotel last Friday. “You have to lead by example because I’ve been there.”
That type of leadership ability is increasingly important with the US squad missing influential figures like Carlos Bocanegra ahead of the game on Friday against Costa Rica in Commerce City, Colo. (10 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas), that Gomez doesn’t deny is critical for the Stars and Stripes.
“One of the smartest things I’ve heard in my playing career is, ‘You win the first game, the next game you’ve already won 50 percent of the points,’” he explained. “We go into Denver and take three points that are there and that makes the road going down to the Azteca a lot smoother than if we were on zero points.
“I think it would give us the confidence and that boost we need, that reassurance, because at this level there is a lot of outside influence and things can affect the game."
Gomez is hoping that, after sitting on the sidelines during the frustrating 2-1 loss last month in Honduras, he'll get as many minutes as possible in the upcoming matches. But he's not concerned by whether they come out wide, as a center forward, or anywhere else. The fan favorite has come to appreciate his versatility in a new light.
“It’s something that in the past I’ve resisted, but now I’m relishing,” Gomez said. “I’m looking at it from a different perspective. I’m becoming a better player for it, a better teammate, and I’m starting to understand these positions a lot more.”
On the outside for so long for both club and country, it’s little surprise the East Los Angeles-born, Las Vegas-raised player is happy to shoulder extra responsibility, but Gomez accepts that the most difficult challenge now is keeping his positive run rolling on.
“The easy part is getting the job,” he said. “The hard part is keeping it and I know that.”
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.