“Full circle,” is how veteran forward Herculez Gomez described his signing with the Seattle Sounders on Thursday.
He couldn’t even legally drink alcohol the last time he pulled on a Sounders uniform, and the then-minor-league club was still six years away from its MLS debut. Gomez was on loan from Sigi Schmid’s L.A. Galaxy and had three more clubs to churn through before he’d finally break out with Puebla in Liga MX in 2010.
Gomez returned Thursday as a World Cup veteran to a club that has upgraded from crumbling Memorial Stadium to CenturyLink Field. And he brings with him as hefty a chip on his shoulder as the one he lugged into town back in 2003 as an unproven pro.
Gomez, 33, was waived by Toronto FC – who will be footing a “significant chunk” of the forward’s undisclosed-but-likely-low-risk salary, per general manager Garth Lagerwey – earlier this month.
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“The situation with Toronto was difficult,” Gomez said. “I think it was poorly managed. It put me in a situation that was unfair. I think they’re great people, but the poor mismanagement from the front office put me in a very hard spot.
“(Seattle) has just handed me a lifeline. I do best when I have a chip on my shoulder. That’s how I’ve done best throughout my career. I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder with how things ended in Toronto. It’s not sour grapes, but there’s a way of going about things and a way of treating people. It wasn’t the way I would have done things. So I’m eager to get to work to prove a lot of people wrong.”
Gomez hasn’t scored double-digit goals in a season since the 2012-2013 season, while with the Santos Laguna team that knocked the Sounders out of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. He arrives in Seattle as a veteran “option off the bench,” in coach Sigi Schmid’s words, rather than a quick fix for the team’s slow start.
“It’s quality veteran depth at the right price,” Lagerwey said. “It’s definitely not an Obafemi Martins replacement.”
Gomez will provide a trusty substitution for when Nelson Valdez or Jordan Morris’ legs get tired in games, and important depth for when those two and Clint Dempsey likely get called up for this summer’s Copa America Centenario. Gomez, for his 24 U.S. national team caps and notoriety as one of the most unlikely success stories in USMNT history, is not going to fill the crater left by Martins’ last-minute departure for China.
“We still intend to add another very good attacking player,” Lagerwey said. “Maybe more than one.”
But asked whether the 15th stop of his Don Quixote of a career might be his last, Gomez quickly fired back: “I don’t know — what’d you hear?”
“It’s not even about the money anymore,” Gomez continued. “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, where that’s three months, six months, three years, six years more.”