TUKWILA, Wash. – Herculez Gomez was an unproven 20-year-old the last time he suited up for the Seattle Sounders back in 2003 – a 17-game stint he spent on loan from the LA Galaxy when the Sounders were still a member of the United Soccer Leagues.
More than a decade later, Gomez is back. The veteran forward was on trial with Seattle after being waived by Toronto FC on March 2 and was officially announced on Thursday as the club’s newest acquisition.
“[In 2003] I remember being not old enough to go out,” Gomez recalled at his introductory media session on Thursday. “I remember [the Sounders] being an A-League team, known around the city, but not quite the following it has today. Just to see how much they’ve grown as an organization and been able to achieve and how the city’s been able to embrace them, it’s incredible.”
With starting forwards Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez all figuring to miss at least some time this season for duty with their respective national teams, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid says the addition of Gomez could provide his side with some potentially-valuable attacking depth when the time comes.
“He gives us a little bit of that veteran influence coming off the bench,” said Schmid, who was Gomez's head coach with the LA Galaxy back in 2003. “We know we have to look ahead a little bit as well and see team-wise, we could be missing a lot of guys in the summer with the Copa [America] Centenario. It gives us a little bit of cover and protection for that.”
In Gomez, the Sounders also have added a colorful character, known for his wittiness and banter on social media and an easy-going personality that has made him a popular locker-room presence in the past.
“Over the years, he’s really matured and developed a good sense of team and what it takes to be successful,” Schmid said. “I think he’s really become a well-rounded guy, not only on the field, but also off the field. He’ll be a positive influence in our locker room.”
Gomez’s tell-it-like-it-is personality was on full display on Thursday in discussing his transition from being waived by Toronto four days before the start of the 2016 MLS season, to getting introduced as a member of the Sounders just weeks later.
“If I’m being quite honest, the situation with Toronto was difficult,” Gomez said. “I think it was poorly managed.
“[Seattle] handed me a lifeline,” he added. “It’s an opportunity for me. I do best when I have a chip on my shoulder. That’s how I’ve done best throughout my career. I’ve got a pretty big chip on my shoulder with how things ended in Toronto. It’s not sour grapes, but there’s just a way of going about things and a way of treating people and that wasn’t the way I would have done things.”