Herculez Gomez announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to an at times unlikely 14-year career that saw him win two MLS Cup titles, a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, a Liga MX title and rapidly rise out of relative obscurity to make the US team at the 2010 World Cup.
Gomez, 34, played last season with the Seattle Sounders, making 23 appearances in the regular season and playoffs as Seattle won MLS Cup. He’ll now transition into a new role as a soccer analyst for ESPN.
"I'm so grateful for the years that this game has given me, and I'd like to say thanks to every coach, teammate and fan that has helped me along the way," said Gomez in a statement provided by the Sounders. "It's never easy to close the book on your playing career, but I'm very excited to join ESPN and continue to grow the game of soccer throughout the US and Mexico."
After spending time in the youth system of Mexican club Cruz Azul, Gomez began his pro career in earnest with the San Diego Gauchos in the American third division in 2002. He quickly caught the attention of the LA Galaxy, signing for the MLS club in 2003. Playing time was scarce for Gomez at the start of his tenure in LA, but, after loans to the Sounders (then a second division team) and San Diego Sockers indoor club, he broke out in 2005, recording 11 goals in 22 appearances to help the Galaxy to the MLS Cup title.
He spent one more season in LA, then was shipped to the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2007 campaign. Gomez recorded six goals in 37 appearances in a year and a half in Colorado before being traded again – this time to Kansas City – through the 2008 campaign.
After an unsuccessful season and a half with the Wizards, Gomez revitalized his career south of the border in 2010. He broke out in a major way with Puebla in the first half of the year, leading the Mexican Primera in scoring in the 2010 Torneo Bicentenario to work his way into the national team picture and eventually earn a spot on the USMNT’s World Cup roster. He played three games in South Africa, starting the US’s dramatic 1-0 win against Algeria in the group stage finale, which propelled the Americans to the Round of 16.
Gomez remained in Mexico until 2015, playing with Pachuca, Estudiantes Tecos, Santos Laguna, Tijuana and Tigres before returning to Puebla. He eventually moved back to MLS in 2015, when he signed with Toronto FC for the stretch run. He was cut by Toronto on the eve of the 2016 season, joining Seattle shortly thereafter for what would be his final campaign as a pro.
"Herc's cultural role in our locker room during this past season was invaluable," said Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey. "From the day he arrived, he made contributions on and off the field in Seattle, none bigger than his mentorship of our young players during the run to MLS Cup. Herc has played a role in our sport for a long time, and while we'll miss seeing him on the field, we're excited for his next step with ESPN. Like he was for Sounders FC, we know he'll be a major asset for them across their many broadcast platforms."
Gomez ends his career with 24 goals and 13 assists in 152 career MLS regular season appearances and one goal in eight career MLS playoff matches. He tallied 37 goals in 144 career appearances in the Mexican top flight and six goals in 24 caps with the USMNT.