Sounders forget about friendship when facing Santos' Herculez Gomez

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comApril 8, 2013 

Herculez Gomez was teammates with Sounders FC defender Zach Scott in 2003 when they played for the USL Seattle Sounders.

And he was teammates with Sounders forward Eddie Johnson last month when they played for the U.S. national team.

However, he becomes a rival of each Tuesday, when Sounders FC resolves its CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series at Santos Laguna, Gomez’s current club.

“When we’re on the field we’re not friends,” Johnson said. “We can talk with each other after the game, but I’d be lying if I said we were happy when we lost and he scored.”

Johnson is referring to the winning goal Gomez scored in the 54th minute of the series opener last week at CenturyLink Field. Gomez rebounded a shot from teammate Carlos Quintero and sent it back in against a Seattle defense that included former teammates Hahnemann and Scott.

That goal gives Santos a 1-0 advantage heading into the resolution match of the aggregate-score series Tuesday in Torreon, Mexico.

“I was fortunate to get on the end of the rebound. That was pretty much all that happened. After that it was just a blur,” Gomez said. “It feels good coming back (to Seattle). The objective for us was to come out of it with a win. We wanted to definitely put them on their heels, and definitely try to go at them at home, and set a good tone for the second match.”

Gomez has Sounders connections beyond Scott and Johnson. He has played with midfielder Brad Evans on the national team, where Gomez has 21 caps and five goals. He played under coach Sigi Schmid for the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2003 — the season he was loaned to the USL Sounders, then coached by current Sounders assistant Brian Schmetzer.

Gomez played 17 games with the USL Sounders, scoring one goal before returning to MLS with Colorado (2007-08) and Kansas City (2008-09).

He moved to Mexico the next season, playing for Puebla, Pachuca and Estudiantes Tecos before joining Santos in 2012.

“Herculez has certainly improved a ton since he’s been in Mexico,” Schmid said. “His running off the ball is much better than it was — because if you don’t do it, you don’t play. And you make a lot more money there, so you want to do it because you’re going to make money.”

Between the money, the success and the passage of years, Gomez’s brief time in Seattle is drifting into the fog of his memory. But what he recalls, he recalls fondly.

“I was 21, so I don’t remember much,” said Gomez, now 31. “I was here for maybe two months, and it was probably one of the best summers that I have ever had. It was like 50 straight days of sunshine and 70 degrees — weather (that was) unheard of in Seattle — so I had a blast. (General manager Adrian Hanauer) and the Seattle organization are top notch — even back then when they were A league it was impressive. I’m proud of how far they have come, I’m proud of what they have established … I was proud to be a Seattle Sounder.”

ADDED TIME

Schmid said Johnson (toe/hamstring) is “close to being ready” for either starting or reserve duty Tuesday. There was no update on Evans (calf). … Designated player Obafemi Martins is expected to rejoin the team early this week after leaving the country for a medical assessment of his knee injury. His availability is undetermined for the Sounders’ MLS game Saturday against visiting New England. … Nine of Santos’ first 11 players started in a scoreless Liga MX draw against Tijuana on Saturday. Schmid hopes the Sounders’ weekend off will work to their benefit Tuesday. … The team traveled to Mexico on Sunday after a short training session in Tukwila.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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