I had the hardest time coming up with angle for our in-depth conversation with Herculez Gomez below and then I chuckled. In the interview, Herculez and I “debate” what player his game is most like. I suggesting Salomon Kalou–and that’s not really a great one. He suggesting….that he really can’t come up with a comparison.
But as much as Herculez Gomez is perhaps unorthodox in how he’s risen in his career–to striker at one of the top teams in the Mexican Primera–and how he arose to consideration for World Cup 2010 (and eventually to a starting spot in the most critical group game for the States)…..
And as much as you can’t define his game or perhaps how, or why, he’s had success……
There’s a single theme that I found resonating, strongly and supremely, through Herculez Gomez’s answers.
He’s an All-American….brimming with the American can-do spirit.
And then that analogy of unorthodoxy works all the better considering Herculez Gomez is a Mexican-American, who grew up a fan of MLS–considering Cobi Jones one of his favorites nonetheless–and has reached the pinnacle of American soccer…without ever, in his words, being the best on his club team.
Ladies and gentlemen, the All-American:
TSG: So first question I’ve wanted to ask you for a while and I apologize, but it’s a World Cup question.
What was that moment like when Bob Bradley called you to the touchline in the England game. You hadn’t played much for the US until then and here you are. There are only a few moments left and Bob Bradley calls you to the touchline. While it was wasting time, we also commented at the time that it was a bold move by Bob Bradley to make sure you were ready when called on, whether for this game or next.
Take us through that moment.
Herc: I think Bob was just trying to waste time. But in my head, I’m thinking, if I can get on the field last minute, maybe there’s a chance.
Maybe, who knows what happens. I think it was Bob trying to kill some time. Throw in a sub.
I was still eager to get on the field, but it was bittersweet. It was awesome that we got a great result against England.
I definitely would’ve loved to touch the pitch though. It was one of those “Oh, jeez, almost” moments.
TSG: Do you think he was getting you ready for the next game where you came in earlier in the 2nd half against Slovenia? A sort of “Be ready when I call you” thing?
Herc: It definitely showed me that Bob had faith in me and that he was willing to throw me in. He could’ve chosen anybody, but he gave me the opportunity.
Bob throughout the tournament gave me the confidence and that is something every player needs–a coach’s confidence.
I remember then when I came in against Slovenia, I was buzzing. I was lively. I made a run.
I cleared some space for Michael and for Jozy and he nodded the ball down to Michael. And Michael had a great finish.
That was a ridiculous game to be part of. The way we came back and battled and how much character our team showed.
It’s good to feel that in the those moments your coach has faith in you.
TSG: One of the things that the fan in me loved about that moment….I loved that Michael Bradley when he went to celebrate was yelling at and beckoning for the whole bench to come join him at the corner flag.
So many times you see goal scorers celebrate themselves, but for US fans I think that was just a great moment after the goal to see the team celebrate.
Herc: You know, we’re a different team than most. We’re a very hard-working team.
People here in Mexico ask me what it’s like [to be part of the USMNT].
We were a machine. There’s no one bigger than the team. Everybody does their part. Everybody pulls for another.
You know, we were down there [in South Africa] for a month and when you’re seeing each other everyday, getting to know each other, it builds a bond.
And now you’re fighting for your country at the biggest sporting event in the world….it’s not just one person scoring a goal, it’s the whole team gaining something.
That’s the way we saw it.
TSG: Has that experience changed your perspective at all on soccer? Changed your preparation or anything else?
Herc: Absolutely. I think it’s the greatest thing about playing soccer, playing on a national team.
You get to learn something new. Everything’s so intense at the international level. You learn what it takes to play at that level. The dedication. The work. Everything you have to put in. The sacrifice.
Spending that time going to the World Cup, seeing how certain players prepare themselves. Seeing how the competition reacts to certain things, how they lift themselves up.
Seeing how your teammates do that for you.
Those things go a long way and you don’t necessarily see them at the club level.
TSG: Is it indicative of Bob Bradley, that is, the US’s team profile, if you will, or is it just the American ethos? I would say it’s a little bit of both, but you tell me.
Herc: I do think it’s a little bit of both. I think you see Bob’s personality in our team. We pick and choose our moments.
We’re an all or nothing team. We definitely leave it on the field….and that’s Bob in a nutshell.
Bob’s an intense guy. If you ever meet Bob, your first impression of him is that he’s a very intimidating.
He may not want to come across that way. But that’s just Bob. That’s the way he is and that’s why we love him.
He’s our manager and he’s a no bullshit type of guy.
TSG: Let me follow-up on that intensity theme. I didn’t watch much of your play until May of 2010 and I might have had my doubts….[pause]
But one thing that impressed me the most about your game is your hustle on the field is just amazing. It’s not like you’re just burning energy on the field to burn energy. You still have economy of motion, but you’re constantly in motion.
I watched you in that Czech game specifically and you were always looking for a spot to be open or making a move to open up someone else.
How did you develop that ability and mentality?
Herc: I think it’s adaptation really. And this is being very sincere here.
I was never an ODP [Olympic Development Program] player. I was never best in state.