Let's be clear about one thing: Herculez Gomez is no one's reject.
The 30-year-old may have been a late-bloomer, at least when it came to opportunity, but he's now a fixture on the United States national team, one of the top players on one of CONCACAF's top teams and has a resume that includes leading Mexico in scoring and World Cup appearances.
So, when Seattle fans direct chants of "Sounders reject" at Gomez, it would seem to be with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Might Gomez derive motivation from such chants, especially considering his past? Sure. That's what he says, anyway, and I'm not inclined to take him at anything less than his word.
But there are some rather significant people claiming that Sounders fans "crossed the line" on Tuesday. I'm just not buying it.
A little bit of history: Gomez made 17 appearances for the Sounders back in 2003 when they were in the A-League. The 21-year-old was here on loan after signing with the LA Galaxy, a team that was coincidentally coached by Sigi Schmid. Gomez only scored one goal during his time here, but still has fond memories of his summer in the Northwest. He left after his loan was over. No hard feelings.
"I was here for maybe two months, and it was probably one of the best summers that I have ever had," Gomez told reporters after Tuesday's game. "It was like 50 straight days of sunshine and 70 degrees weather, which is unheard of in Seattle, so I had a blast.
"Adrian 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 up here because it is something special around the league. I was proud to be a Seattle Sounder."
He continues to have a positive relationship with the organization. Throughout the last couple weeks, he's engaged in some fun trash talk and the Sounders even sent him a luxury pillow after he offered to dial it back in exchange for one. Even after being "taunted" on Tuesday, Gomez spoke rather glowingly of the fans here.
Yet we're told that because Gomez is a U.S. national team player, these kinds of chants should be off-limits. Meanwhile, large swaths of U.S. fans castigate the likes Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson with all kinds of awful epithets and I don't hear any hue and cry. My point is not to say what Sounders fans did was any worse or better, but to point out that when a player is wearing the opposing team's shirt, they are usually considered fair game for the fans. I'm not sure why Gomez should be a special case.
Gomez has gone out of his way to poke and prod Sounders fans and their chants were surely their way of poking back. It seems pretty playful to me. There is basically zero indication that either he or the fans harbor any legitimate ill-will toward each other.
The issue of club vs. country is not an either/or proposition. I have 100 percent confidence that the vast majority of Seattle fans will fully support Gomez when he wears the Red, White and Blue. At the same time, I don't think Gomez has any misgivings about accepting their applause. No harm, no foul.