Herculez Gomez Emerges as Intriguing Option For Bob Bradley
To U.S. soccer and MLS fans, the name might invoke a half-hearted shoulder shrug or even a derisive response.
You see, Gomez hasn't done much in the past to inspire much confidence in his abilities at the club level in MLS or the U.S. National Team setup.
His last two seasons with the Kansas City Wizards only produced one measly goal. Before that, his two seasons with the Rapids were not much better (six goals).
Four years and seven goals, all told.
But out of nowhere, Gomez is garnering attention for reaching seven goals in just the first few months of his season with Puebla FC of the Mexican First Division League.
Twelve games. Seven goals.
That's good enough to be tied for second in the Mexican league.
The media and fans are starting to pay attention, and so is National Team Manager Bob Bradley .
Reports surfaced this week that Bradley is not only paying attention to Gomez and his progress, but that the two spoke about Gomez's scoring hot streak.
“There has been contact,” Gomez was quoted as saying on the Puebla website. “With the National Team, the opportunities are minimal. I have to keep tearing it up here in order to be able to show myself over there. The only chance for the coach to see me is what I do here in Puebla. I have a small chance of being called."
So could he, and should he, get the call from Bradley for the U.S.' provisional training camp roster in early May?
Given that Bradley can select between 30 and 35 players for this provisional squad, it is quite possible that Gomez will be on the short list of strikers that will have an opportunity to train in May.
The reasons why? In short, there are few options after Jozy Altidore and Brian Ching at the forward position.
Charlie Davies is working his way back, but no one can be sure if he'll be ready and be in game shape to start for the team.
Robbie Findley 's opportunity to impress appears to have passed after two lackluster performances against El Salvador and the Netherlands earlier this year.
Eddie Johnson ? He's getting some minutes at Aris FC, but he's not exactly lighting the world on fire right now.
Conor Casey has seen a dip in form since last summer, and he hasn't looked the same since.
So it's quite plausible that just based on the lack of other options Gomez very well could get a call up in May.
But should he? That's the better question.
Many of Gomez's seven goals have been of the poacher variety. He's been in the right place at the right time. However, his last goal this week was a free kick, so he's shown he can score another way.
You can't argue with goals scored, though, no matter how they go in.
He also hasn't necessarily shown the strength or pure speed that a player like Charlie Davies did before his injury, and which Bob Bradley would prefer. Therefore, his style of play may not be a perfect fit for the system Bradley likes to use.
Also, can you take a player to the World Cup who hasn't had much time to gel with his teammates, e.g. develop that on and off-the-field chemistry necessary for success?
The month of May in training camp, and perhaps games against Turkey and the Czech Republic, would be a last-minute opportunity for Gomez to fit in with his teammates and show that his recent scoring streak can translate to the National Team setup.
I believe that if Gomez continues scoring for Puebla, Bradley will have no choice but to take him to the camp in May, just to see how well he does with the best U.S. players.
Gomez might not have had great success in MLS, but now he's scoring in bunches, and that fact cannot be argued.
Bradley should bring him into the camp to see what he's got, and, if he looks good, give him some minutes in the last two friendlies in May.
The last person who books that 23rd ticket to South Africa for the U.S. probably won't be the most consistent player, but might be someone who can bring a spark off the bench.
As Gomez said, his chances of making the team are a long shot, but who would have thought Gomez would even be on the radar at this point in his career?
Not a lot of people, and probably not even Gomez himself.
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