Seattle Sounders’ Herculez Gomez has been around MLS long enough to understand just what he’s getting into on Sunday when his team visits the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. The veteran forward spent the years between 2010 and 2015 playing in Mexico, but before that, he got his professional start in MLS in 2002 with the LA Galaxy. Last year, he returned to the league fold with Toronto FC, and then on to Seattle for 2016.
That all means that he’s had plenty of time to study up on the fierce Portland-Seattle rivalry, and he knows he’s going into a tough test – especially since essential attacker Clint Dempsey will be out. On top of that, the Sounders come into the game with one of their worst recent records, currently sitting second to last in the Western Conference with 20 points.
Yet he remains collected about the test, he said in a video interview on the Sounders web site on Saturday. “For me it’s another day at the office,” he said.
Still, he respects the years of tensions that have built up the fierce rivalry between the Timbers and the Sounders. “I’m getting my first taste of it. But you can tell the fans don’t like each other. The teams have a distaste for one another,” he said.
He pointed to that distaste’s pre-MLS origins. “There’s been some actual bad blood between these teams not only in the league but in Open Cup play. And not only in MLS, but back in the day. So this is a rivalry unlike any other in the league for the history it has and it should be respected as such. We respect New York and New Jersey and all they got going on over there,” he said, “but when you talk about actual rivalries with meat to them, this is one of them.”
This all adds extra fuel for Gomez to help lead his team to an essential win—without one, the Sounders’ playoffs hopes are all but lost. “We understand the responsible we have. No one wants to be remembered as the first team not to make the playoffs,” he said. “We know we’re in debt to a lot of people. We’re eager to get this going and keep building.”