When the Seattle Sounders picked up veteran forward Herculez Gomez, it was pretty clear that his experience both in MLS and in Mexico was of great value to the team. Since joining the LA Galaxy in 2002, Gomez has played for five MLS clubs, as well as seven clubs in the Mexican first division.
Seattle's poor road record this season reflects a larger trend in MLS in recent seasons, and Gomez thinks that it's partly due to the grueling level of travel required in such a large country. "If you factor in the circumstances that we have with travel issues, playing surfaces, time zones, hotel stay, travel time, they all factor in," Gomez told the media after Wednesday's training session. "There's not one league around the world that has to deal with the travel issues that we have to deal with."
Compared to his time in Mexico, where Gomez said "our longest flight when i was at Tijuana and we had to go play in Chapas was maybe three hours and one time zone." Gomez remembers flying from Los Angeles to New York when he was with the Galaxy, "A five-and-a-half hour flight across three time zones." He said that back when the Red Bulls were called the MetroStars, the team played on a particularly awful turf that "can take its toll on your body, it can take a toll on you mentally."
The MLS Players' Union released their annual report of players' salaries this week, and Gomez talked on Howler Magazine's The Play podcast about his differing experiences in this area. He recalled his time at Kansas City, when teammates held up the local paper and read off every player's salaries in the locker room. Gomez also talked about his first contracts in MLS while playing for the LA Galaxy, the first of which was a "developmental contract" that totaled around $830 per month. He was upgraded to a "senior developmental contract" after that, which totaled around $1,265 per month. That season, Gomez was the team's MVP on the way to winning the double. He said he remembered thinking "I gotta get paid," but the team simply told him they'd be picking up the four-year option on his senior developmental contract.
Gomez has obviously upgraded from those measly contracts in the many years since, but at age 34, he's starting to plan for what happens when he has to finally hang up his boots. He said that "as you get older, you start planning ahead for what's after soccer," and stressed that he definitely has no plans on becoming a coach. "The game has given me so much, and it's something that I realized as I get older that I just need to be around."
He said he was first contacted by the MLS digital department to do some broadcasting work after Toronto was eliminated in last year's MLS Cup playoffs by the Montreal Impact. "I didn't know whether it would be in the cards or if I even wanted to do it. I tried it, it was refreshingly fun."
Since then, Gomez was brought on by FOX to join the broadcast team as a color analyst for this summer's Copa America Centenario. He got his first taste of this last weekend, when he was the color analyst for the USMNT's friendly with Puerto Rico on Sunday. Gomez said that he enjoyed it, but wasn't fully prepared for every aspect of being a broadcaster, noting that "it's a lot of work, I didn't realize that so much goes into it." As he joins up with FOX (while notably not missing any time with the Sounders), Gomez is hoping to turn this side gig into a second act when the time comes to blow the whistle on his playing career. "It's definitely fun, and I thought it went well for me my first time," he said, "I'm definitely looking forward to having a future with it."
Having secured 24 caps and scoring six goals for the United States national team, Gomez knows most of the players currently involved with it and has a pretty strong, unique perspective on the USA's chances at Copa America. He agrees with coach Jurgen Klinsmann's expectation of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament. Gomez says that the cards are in the USA's hands: "We're hosting a major tournament at home. We've got a deep enough pool. The talent is there for us to try to achieve something."
He admits that the group isn't easy, "but it'll never be an easy group in a major tournament, there will never be an easy game no matter who you face." But looking at where the team -- and the country -- stands heading into hosting their first Copa America, Gomez says "our goal has to be the semis."