Herculez Gomez: Pursuing The American Dream… Abroad

This piece below written by US National, World Cup veteran and current Estudiantes Tecos player Herculez Gomez.

The fire to play. More important than the building view...

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.

——-

Herculez Gomez...

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?

Good!

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.

Gomez for the Galaxy. Paltry salary but tremendous kits, no?

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.

Gomez, dream, attained...for now...

———-

More on TSG:

Herculez Gomez, The TSG Interview: You Never Know Where Life’s Going To Take You, So Make the Most Of It

On Playing Abroad: As Told By Preston Zimmerman

Op-Ed: Sports Reporting 2011: On Data, Photos & Compromise

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46 responses to this post.

  1. TSG: you guys rock. Herc: We love you.

    That’s a man who I think was severely under-played in the WC. I hope he’s making some decent coin down there. I’m surprised there isn’t a host of MLS teams knocking down his door even now — I can think of at least 5 teams off the top of my head who could really benefit from his services. And frankly, if Edson Buddle and — gulp — Robbie Findley can get paydays in Europe, I find it impossible that our boy Herc can’t do the same. One thing’s for sure — he’s got the talent.

    And Herc — when are you going to put that silky smooth writing to work and pen yourself a bestselling, tell-all book?

    Reply

  2. Awesome. Absolutely cherished this article. A fresh and unique perspective that just drips with honesty.

    I’m a Galaxy supporter, and Herc is a true legend for us. I remember going to training sessions as a youngster and Herc not only took the time to chat and sign things like the other players (who were similarly accessible and friendly…a kind of 1950′s baseball canter to the proceedings), but even led us through the locker room on a few occasions. In Dallas after the MLS Cup win in ’05, he sat in the lobby outside of the team party and spoke with supporters. We’ll never forget the kind of attention and respect he showed the fans — and I hope he never forgets the love we continue to have for him.

    So interesting to have this notion of the “journeyman” Yank elucidated in first-person form. It’s a unique existence no doubt, but we can only hope that the future means more stability, more opportunities, and fewer trials and tribulations along the way for our players in our own country and abroad alike.

    Reply

  3. [...] fantastic article written by Herculez Gomez for The Shin [...]

    Reply

  4. Posted by Faith on 2011/07/05 at 6:15 AM

    Man, everything I learn about Herc makes me like & respect him more. This was a really interesting read — thanks to Herc for writing it and TSG for seeking it out & publishing it.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Smitty on 2011/07/05 at 6:29 AM

    Right on, Herc. Thanks for sharing your story. Like the above poster, I look forward to buying your memoirs one day. Meanwhile, keep scoring goals!

    Reply

  6. Great stuff Herc, really enjoyed the read and the perspective from the other side of the pitch (and I hope you’ve sold the Saturn by now). Thanks for representing us so well and know that you’re appreciated by lots of fans out here, tear it up for Tecos so we can see you back in the red, white, and blue soon!

    Reply

  7. Great read, nice to hear the insight from a man “inside the storm”, wonderful perspective, Than You TSG and Herc!

    Reply

  8. Posted by duder on 2011/07/05 at 8:20 AM

    This is a great article. I continue to be amazed by Herc, the philosopher athlete. You gotta get a side job as a columnist for ESPN or MLS. Forget waiting until you retire, you can do both like Seedorf does for NY Times.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Herc for President on 2011/07/05 at 8:25 AM

    Loved the article. Herc exemplifies what it is to know what you want and never stop until you are there. The funny thing is that I don’t think he has gotten “there” yet. Herc won’t stop. And that is why he is the player we all want to see succeed in all he does. Having him represent this country is OUR honor, not this.

    Reply

  10. Posted by rgonz208 on 2011/07/05 at 9:01 AM

    Great read herc. Awesome insight into the life of a footballer. Way to represent for all of us Mexican-Americans who support the USMNT and whose dream was always to play for the US evenly if we were treated as second class citizens for not supporting” el tri”. Good luck to you and look forward to reading your book one day.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Jared on 2011/07/05 at 9:43 AM

    Great read from a different perspective. It is unfortunately a typical story for an MLS player as they are treated with less respect than any other professional athlete in the US considering their pay level and the control that MLS has over their career. It’s all the more ridiculous that a guy like Becks is allowed to skip games all the time to do what he wants will making about one hundred times as much as a guy like Herc.

    Herc was missed at the Gold Cup. How Wondo gets picked ahead of him only Bob knows. He was also wasted at the World Cup by Coach Sweats.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Mario in QT on 2011/07/05 at 10:08 AM

    Thanks Herc. Great perspective. My admiration on both your writing and your career.

    Reply

    • Posted by MAY on 2011/07/07 at 11:30 AM

      I agree thanks for been so honest, and humble,
      and i can only imagine how much you miss your family theres allways a high
      price for the kind of career you chooce. good luck to you .

      Reply

  13. OFF TOPIC, but anyone hear anything about Coach Sweats going forward?

    Reply

    • Posted by usasoccerfan818 on 2011/07/05 at 11:38 AM

      not much, there should be an answer soon from Gulati.

      Great article, I dont usually watch mexican soccer but i’ll keep my eyes on tecos this season

      Reply

      • Posted by Jared on 2011/07/05 at 11:59 AM

        The last I heard was that Gulati stated that people had read too much into his response about an update coming on Bob.

        My guess is Bob will be there through the World Cup unless it looks like he won’t get the team qualified.

        Reply

  14. Posted by dabes2 on 2011/07/05 at 12:14 PM

    This is why I love soccer in the USA. Fans can still relate to the players. I saw that 30for30 on when MJ rode the bus w/ the Birmingham Barrons. And they glorified how MJ signed autographs and hung w/ regular guys. Guess what? Most US soccer players still are the regular guys. Don’t need to go slumming to find them.

    I’m also delighted that we don’t get to see Herc’s salaries since Mexico. I guess that means you are finally getting paid a decent wage. You’ve earned it and deserve every penny.

    Hope to see you back w/ the national team for qualifiers. I have a feeling that either through form, injury to someone else, change of manager, or simply change of heart you will be back in the fold.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Kana Sana on 2011/07/05 at 1:50 PM

    The average salary of an MLS player is around $60,000. For clubs in Europe & Latin America it’s around $1,000,000. That’s why most American players dream of playing abroad. Not to dis the US (which is how fans take it when players move abroad) but the money and the fame and all the things you work so hard to become a pro athlete for are not found in US football, unfortunately.
    The same thing happened when Houston Dynamo Stu Holden left to play in the EPL for Bolton. I live in Houston and love the Dynamo. Fans were crushed that their “star player” left not only the club but the MLS. However as a European (I’m French) who knows the football culture there, I completely understand why.
    I love Herc’s comparison of MLS with NFL… both organizations exist for professional athletes… but the differences in pay/lifestyle/etc. are starkly different. The EPL, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, all of those leagues are on par with the NFL and NBA in the states as far as popularity and pay of players… those guys are stars in the same way that Tom Brady or LeBron James are here. It is truly culture shock when American players are suddenly thrust into that lifestyle… with that paycheck.
    Can’t say enough good about this article. Cheers to Herculez for “keeping it real” with the fans. I don’t think he’s reached his pique and am looking forward to following his continual rise in football… with whichever club and with whichever country he’s in.

    Reply

    • Posted by Pedropedropedro on 2011/07/08 at 7:16 AM

      Kana Sana, I think you’re right to point out that the closest equivalent to NFL would be some of the Euro leagues, instead of MLS. However, there’s a really big fundamental difference between big-time football-played-with-hands, and big-time football-played-with-feet: Competition from other leagues. The NFL has no worries about the best football players going elsewhere – they will have to sign with the league if they are to make any real money playing the sport. So the NFL can get away with “drafting” players and limiting their options to one team they may sign with. IF EPL was to try anything like that, you’d have players laugh in their faces and just go to big-money clubs in other countries.

      I find the different leagues, and their different styles of play, very interesting, and I’m glad it provides opportunities for futbol players such as Herculez to get paid what they are truly worth. It’s unfortunate that MLS’ approach (based on their pathetically low salary cap) is to act like its situation is similar to the other major sports leagues in America, where they face no competition from elsewhere. You can’t do that in soccer and avoid soccer fans deserting you for other leagues.

      Reply

  16. Posted by kaya on 2011/07/05 at 2:58 PM

    $1 million average salary abroad? Really? The I think MLS deserves some sort of production/$ award. In any case, I just wanted to echo what other have already said; great article. I just can’t think of another publication for anything that strives (let alone succeeds) at providing such a 360 perspective.
    I didn’t have the impression many MLS fans frowned upon players moving to foreign leagues… at least not european ones. I hope the day comes soon where the MLS salaries are competitive.

    Reply

  17. Posted by RNG on 2011/07/05 at 3:03 PM

    He looks like Obama; he scores like Chicharito; he writes like Hemingway.

    OK, a little exaggeration.

    But what a nicely written piece. Congrats Herc!

    Reply

    • Posted by hector on 2011/10/29 at 7:51 PM

      i agre he does look like obama, and he can sure score .but who does he looks like mom or dad? not that i care his fine from top to bottom.

      Reply

  18. [...] article by American player Herculez Gomez, published by The Shin Guardian: Herculez Gomez: Pursuing The American Dream… Abroad. In it the author talks about taking the opportunities he’s been presented with, and [...]

    Reply

    • Posted by MAY on 2011/07/07 at 11:22 AM

      THE SHIN GUARDIAN SCORE A GOOL WITH THIS ARTICLE THE BEST ,
      HOPE TO HEAR MORE FROM HERC , AND THE BEST TO HIM WHERE EVER HE GOES HIS MY HERO ,

      Reply

  19. Posted by Pedropedropedro on 2011/07/07 at 9:33 PM

    Herc, great to hear your perspective and experience. I have absolutely no trouble with players going where there is the best situation for them – unlike desk jockeys like myself, their careers last only years, not decades, so there ain’t no time to waste, especially since there’s probably no pension or other sort of safety net that comes with the job.

    I would be curious if you would give your take on MLS and their negotiating tactics — it strikes me that they benefit from being “the only game in town”, allowing them to put players in the situation of either accepting less than their worth, or having to move to a different country to get paid fairly. Don’t have any proof of that, but I would think that since they have that leverage (you don’t sign with a team, but with the league), they would use it.

    Please keep up the writing.

    Reply

  20. Posted by jay on 2011/07/09 at 11:09 AM

    the best of luck to herc.sky os the limit go for it.

    Reply

  21. Posted by jay on 2011/07/09 at 11:14 AM

    thanks to shin guardian fot this article
    is the best.and good luck to herc.

    Reply

  22. Posted by jay on 2011/07/09 at 11:18 AM

    nice to heard from a player who went true a lot
    and made it by way of determination and a lot of heart good work herc.

    Reply

  23. Posted by mary on 2011/10/29 at 7:30 PM

    great article, not too many people will say it like it is
    thanks herc….

    Reply

  24. Posted by mary on 2011/10/29 at 7:31 PM

    mls need to step up and take care of there players
    in off is in off.

    Reply

  25. Posted by mary on 2011/10/29 at 7:32 PM

    herc needs to be in team usa for 2014

    Reply

  26. Posted by mary on 2011/10/29 at 7:34 PM

    a greed he needs to be in team usa 2014

    Reply

  27. Posted by lisa on 2011/10/29 at 7:36 PM

    herc thanks for your article .

    Reply

  28. Posted by hector on 2011/10/29 at 7:44 PM

    herc nice article , and thanks for the info is something we all
    need to know. and is time we wake up and take steps to change the future
    and think what will hapend if like herc we move out to e foreing country
    for a better future.

    Reply

  29. Posted by suly on 2011/12/15 at 5:08 PM

    he will be in world cup 2014 such determination can’t be wasted.

    Reply

  30. Posted by joe on 2011/12/15 at 5:12 PM

    It is wonderful to hear such a great story from a fine man
    you can tell his not bitter over it, he did his home work verry well . good for you herc, and see you in the world cup 2014

    Reply

  31. Posted by brian on 2011/12/15 at 5:18 PM

    It is wonderful to hear such a great story from a fine man
    you can tell his not bitter over it, he did his home work verry well . good for you herc, and see you in the world cup 2014

    Reply

  32. Posted by brian on 2011/12/15 at 5:22 PM

    such a great player you need to fallow him in the mexican league
    with santos laguna. we all need to suport him .

    Reply

  33. Posted by pablo on 2011/12/15 at 5:25 PM

    what a great article, thanks shingards

    Reply

  34. Posted by marcelo on 2011/12/15 at 5:27 PM

    thanks for keepin it real herc i feel you .
    looking foward to see you in the world cup 2014

    Reply

  35. Posted by sam on 2011/12/15 at 5:35 PM

    Her remember what doesn’t kill makes you stronger
    mls in a way never knew what kind of beast you become , and
    they might never will so keep going strong and don;t look back only
    to learn from your mistakes and keep going. good luck .

    Reply

  36. Posted by sam on 2011/12/15 at 5:43 PM

    gauchos, sounders , galaxy., colorado, kansas,
    puebla, pachuca,tecos,
    all this are the teams you have play , and in all of them you
    play with all your heart . I have been follow you and no one can say that
    you dint score or din’t play you give it all. like you say it is your job ,well it is but you did good ,and good luck with SANTOS LAGUNA .

    Reply

  37. [...] Hercules Gomez: Pursuing the American Dream…Abroad by CosmosRedux on The Shin [...]

    Reply

  38. Posted by moah on 2012/01/05 at 4:17 PM

    great man, did you guys heard about his goal score agains dorados friedly math
    just 13 minutes coming off the bench , good for him

    Reply

  39. Posted by Todd Crittenden on 2012/01/08 at 10:46 PM

    I played against / marked up on Herc when he played for the Gauchos. Herc was 19 at the time and I was the grandfather of our team (Arizona Sahuaros) at 33. Before the game our coach told us we would see Herc on TV some day…I’ve marked many great players but I’m most proud to have marked up on Herc. Proud of his accomplishments, I followed his rise and wish him all the success.

    I wold love to share a beer with him as after the game we played in San Diego we met at the bar…he introduced himself to me as if I needed an introduction after trying to mark him all game. A true sportsman and gentleman!

    Reply

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