This piece below written by US National, World Cup veteran and current Estudiantes Tecos player Herculez Gomez.
Editor’s Note: An appropriate segue out of the July 4th weekend, Herculez Gomez tries his hand at his first written piece…and it’s good.
Herculez and I spoke about a recent article on Freddy Adu. We agreed–while not the main focus of the piece–that it’s tone made it too casual about what it is like…making your way as an American player, or really any player, overseas.
Freddy Adu’s club status–last year he closed the season on loan for a Turkish 2nd division team–was dictated by his contract status at Benfica and his maturity. Was it, along with his production, dictated by his ability? That was but a secondary factor.
It’s hard to treat expectation and production as independent of club status, contract and other factors. More importantly, player movement abroad is a matter of business firstly, less about allegiance to one club or another.
Herculez glommed on to another part of the piece as well. The notion of a “journeyman”–a foreign word to fanbases outside the United States.
I posed to him the question of just who is a journeyman and who isn’t? Also, aren’t players supposed to seek out the best playing situation and best wages?
I also asked Herculez to speak on behalf of his 140-word Twitter opine that “a player leaves for more dollars it’s greedy; a team cuts you and it’s just business?”
What follows below is Herculez’s own words and response. I keep saying broadcast after his playing career. Herc says no.
I don’t know how to answer that last question–“a player leaves for more dollars it’s greedy; a team cuts you and it’s just business?”–without explaining both sides first.
Its like that Drake song lyric “We live in the same building but got different views”, To the fan we–athletes may look greedy and only out for ourselves.
The fans hurt, I get it.
Trust me I’m a Raiders fan. I have suffered enough for one lifetime, I don’t want to see or hear about a player leaving for more money.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
But what about those guys who my beloved Raiders cut?
Get rid of them, not good enough anyways, right? That’s the fan in me percolating up.
Its part of the business, comes with the territory. Trades, waivers, invasion of privacy, etc. These are all problems many of us would trade for in a heartbeat, I get it. I would kill to play in the NFL, I would.
And no, not as a placekicker, c’mon.
When it comes to the American Footballer–soccer player for the good soccer moms out there–it’s not so cut and dry. It just isn’t.
Let me give you a little insight to my taste as a “professional athlete”, the following are actual salaries in my time playing in the US of A:
2002 SD Gauchos USL $600 a month (plus a sweet coaching job on the side)
2002 LA Galaxy MLS Developmental Player $825 a month (good luck living in LA for that amount!)
2003 LA Galaxy MLS DP $825 a month (my Grandma now lets me sleep on her couch)
2004 SD Gauchos/ SD Soccers Indoor total for both was about $1200 (I was told by an actual MLS coach that soccer was not in my future, Waived.)
2005 LA Galaxy MLS Senior DP about $1300 a month (My friend and old youth coach lets me into his home free of cost.)
2006-09 LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids, KC Wizards MLS $50,000-$54,000
And, my friends, these were all semi-guaranteed contracts.
I guess this would make me–as that way-too-casual piece on Freddy Adu comments–a “journey man” to some, but does this mean I’m less successful than players that stay with one team for a majority of their careers? I sure hope not.
Don’t get me wrong I would do everything all over again, given what I know today and where I am. It makes me appreciate what I have today, but if not for the help of many people throughout my past I wouldn’t be as lucky.
But for me, and American footballer, a player whose career track has resembled a Plinko board, its much more than just money, its the football culture, its testing yourself amongst others regardless of salary considerations sometimes, its getting noticed by your national team–a high honor that should never be poo-pooed.
So what does one do–who wants to pursue a passion that just happens to be a career too?
Go abroad or stay in the comfort of what you know?
I chose to go abroad, or rather had that choice made for me by my then-team in the MLS. It wasn’t by my own solicitation.
It’s just business though. Nothing personal. The professional athlete in me gets it.
I’m a product, and a disposable one at that.
So you head aboard and…
My first thought was “Wow! This is how players outside of American Soccer live?”
My teammates drive Porshes, Audis, BMWs, etc. As apposed to lets say my Saturn “on” (It used to be an Ion, but the “i” fell off durring my 27-hour drive from Vegas to Kansas City a few years ago.) They–and me–are celebrities, sought after by media and fans.
It’s awe-striking, some netherworld that sometimes is hard to believe exists.
And finally–on what seems like the 50th stop on the D subway train of life–I have a breakout season with Puebla.
Before I know it, I’m being courted by teams and agents all with promises of your happiness and best interest.
Then sold!…to the highest bidder (Pachuca), my old team makes a hefty profit. I’m villianized by the fans, labeled a “mercenary.”
It’s hard to understand, especially when you’re driving that Saturn model, amongst a sea of expensive cars in the training lot.
The facts show that Puebla sold me. It was their perogative and they made a tidy profit.
When I used to don the cherished Puebla sash, everytime I possessed the ball in the attacking third, the crowds would cheer and rise to their feet in expectation. It was a wonderful feeling.
My first game back? A crescendo of boos hit me as I enter as a sub on the touchline. Whistle and jeers everytime I touched the ball.
It’s hard to reconcile.
Labeled a mercenary and not by choice! Am I journeyman because my former club took advantage of my production?
Now in Pachuca, a coaching carousel and misplaced expectations see me moved again.
At Tecos, I’m thrust back in the world of uncertainty and a semi-guaranteed lifestyle, it’s a crazy circle. An American journey man once again, I guess.
There are two sides to the coin.
Americans playing abroad, we aren’t these money hungry “mercenaries” or a pack of washed-up “journey men.”
We are just regular Joe’s–or in my case Jose’s–looking for what every other American looks for, the American dream in the career tract or business we’ve chosen.
We just had to go overseas to pursue it, whichever way it was uniquely scripted.
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