Credit Gomez with a final, characteristically dramatic flourish onto his remarkable career.
Credit Herculez Gomez with a final, characteristically dramatic flourish onto his remarkable career.
The veteran forward confirmed on Tuesday that he’s going out on top: retiring from professional soccer after 16 seasons to join ESPN as a studio analyst, having won a third MLS Cup championship with the Sounders last month.
Gomez, 34, played for 12 clubs during his decade-and-a-half in the game, winning those three MLS Cups, a Mexican league title and a U.S. Open Cup. The American-born son of Mexican immigrants, Gomez earned 24 caps with the U.S. national team, headlined by his three appearances at the 2010 World Cup.
His signing with the Sounders prior to this past season felt like a bookend from the beginning — “full circle,” Gomez described it at the time. He’d spent a solitary, frustrating season with the minor-league version of the club back in 2003, breaking his foot while on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy before he could show his worth.
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Gomez led the Galaxy in goals during L.A.’s MLS-Cup-winning season of 2005 but was traded a year later. He struggled to establish himself with either Colorado or Kansas City, leading to a sink-or-swim signing with Puebla of Mexico’s Liga MX in 2010, which led to his becoming the first American to ever lead that league in goals, which led to his fateful USMNT call-up.
And so it went: Proving doubters wrong then circling back again, rinse and repeat. Gomez started his career with the now-defunct San Diego Gauchos. He played indoor soccer for a spell. He thought about giving up the dream, a couple of times. He played in a World Cup.
Gomez was waived by Toronto last March, a cost-cutting move that led to a drastic drop in pay. He signed with the Sounders with fire in the belly unquenched, speaking openly about wanting to prove his former employer wrong. Having celebrated Seattle’s first MLS Cup title on Toronto’s home field last month, suffice it to say Gomez accomplished that end.
If no athlete’s retirement is ever 100 percent neat and tidy, this feels like something close to a storybook ending for one of the most remarkable American soccer stories of the modern era.
“It’s not even about the money anymore,” Gomez said upon his signing with Seattle in the spring. “Quite honestly, I could be anywhere else and it’d be a better situation. It’s about wanting to be a part of something, wanting to be somewhere where you’re comfortable and happy. I still enjoy coming out and playing.
“I feel like a little kid right now. I feel like I did when I was 20 years old and I had to prove somebody wrong, hungry for an opportunity. As long as I feel that way, as long as I feel I can step on the field and it’s still fun, I’ll keep doing it.”
On Tuesday morning, that timeline finally reached its endpoint. He will begin his second career as a television analyst effective immediately.