SEATTLE – While Herculez Gomez terrorizes MLS teams in the CONCACAF Champions League, the man who gave him his first opportunity in Mexico is doing much of the same north of the border.
Gomez still hasn’t forgotten the leap of faith José Luis "El Chelís" Sánchez Solá took by bringing the want-away striker to Puebla in January 2010 – a decision that was promptly repaid with 10 league goals and a scoring title – and he admitted he’s been following Chelís and Chivas USA from afar.
After Santos’ 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series – a victory fueled by Gomez's opportunistic strike – the American striker addressed his former boss’ immediate success in MLS, where Chelís has Chivas USA in second place in the West after five games.
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle 0, Santos 1
“I didn’t think it would go this well for them, to be honest, if I’m going to be frank with you guys. But I think it was a desperate [breath] of fresh air that Chivas USA needed,” Gomez said. “Honestly, he’s got his own tactics and ways of motivating people and kind of seeing and reading the game.
“He seems to get the most out of his players, and there is something to be said for that. I think they’re doing great and I hope they keep doing well because I consider him a friend. He helped me in a tough time, so I wish him all the best.”
Like Chelís, Gomez seems to thrive on his underdog status, turning perceived slights into motivation while generating widespread interest and admiration with an inspiring backstory and an engaging (and extremely quotable) personality.
And even though the USMNT stalwart saw firsthand what Chelis was capable of at Puebla, he was among the majority in thinking it could be tough sledding for the Mexican manager in MLS.
“How many coaches that don’t know the league and come here just utterly fail? This is a different league,” Gomez said. “They have their own set of rules and internal kind of ways of working things. If you don’t understand them, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I think what they’ve done and are doing speaks for itself.”