TUKWILA, Wash. – If you had told Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid before the season that forwards Herculez Gomez and Oalex Anderson would each be making a serious push for first-team minutes after five games, he might not have believed it.
But the Sounders’ attack has struggled at the outset of 2016, managing just four goals in their first five matches, with only two of those coming from the run of play. In Anderson and Gomez, the Sounders might have an unlikely anecdote.
Both players put in encouraging shifts as substitutes in Seattle’s 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo last weekend, culminating in Anderson delivering the cross on defender Chad Marshall’s desperation stoppage-time equalizer.
“I thought Herculez did well, he’s a veteran player so he made good decisions, came in and found some good spaces for us and played well,” Schmid said on Wednesday. “I thought Oalex did well also. He brings us that speed coming off the bench. He’s a guy who can come off the bench and find the game quickly.”
The performances bring up an interesting and unexpected question: Do Anderson and Gomez deserve consideration for spots in Seattle’s starting XI?
Gomez, for his part, is still working his way up to 90-minute fitness and says he has no problem with a role as a spark-plug substitute in the meantime.
“It’s not the first time I’ve come off the bench,” Gomez said Wednesday. “I learned how to do that the majority of my time in Mexico. That’s how I made my name.”
As for Anderson, Schmid said that the speedy 20-year-old’s experience with S2 (Seattle’s USL affiliate) and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines national team make him more MLS-ready than most players his age. By comparison, 21-year-old Homegrown rookie Jordan Morris has gotten off to a slow start in his first season as a pro after playing collegiately at Stanford University the last three seasons.
“S2 definitely helped [Anderson],” Schmid said. “It helps because it’s a higher level than college. You get challenged a little bit more.
“Coming from St. Vincent’s, for him to get into a more structured program in terms of getting coaching and having to come through at practice every day – all those were important points to his development.”
The Sounders still have proven, starting-caliber veterans up top in Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, as well as the league’s most-hyped rookie in recent memory in Morris. But if Seattle’s early-season attacking woes persist – and Anderson and Gomez continue to shine in their reserve roles – questions about expanded roles for each are likely to continue to surface with increasing regularity.