America lost a great soccer story, kinda. Herculez Gomez ends his soccer-playing career winning the 2016 MLS Cup with Seattle Sounders crowd surfing among a fan base that he once tweaked on social media. Herc is beloved by the same people he trolled. Now at 34, Gomez continues an emerging broadcast career. He is no longer the hard working winger-forward. Now, he is the bespectacled TV man with ESPN.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Herculez Gomez 2016
He was consistently in the right places to receive passes, moving the ball forward. The exuberance when he scored the goal in the Open Cup demonstrated his joy in playing for Seattle. In a more typical year, should have had a couple goals. Not a great crosser, but could work in small spaces still. In 2016 he was occasionally a taker of direct kicks, but they didn’t get quite the power and curve he expected.
The ability to read the game is still strong. Herc found ways into passing lanes and pushed the rest of the attacking players to press at appropriate times. Solid tactical awareness and communication didn’t overcome the slowness of age. [Aside: it’s odd talking about athletes being old when they are part of a generation younger than your own.]
Gomez lost a couple of steps, but still put forward tough effort and energy in his limited appearances. At times his mind seemed more willing than his body.
Herculez Gomez is a bit of a bummer to write about. A genuinely great guy whose social media game is nearly flawless, Gomez massively underperformed even the smallest expectations on the field in 2016. In fact, he received the worst combined grade of any first team player in my ratings, a miserable 4.739. This included two playoff appearances against Dallas where he was unable to muster better than a 4 from my ratings, struggling to add anything to the attack or defense.
Although Herc didn’t play very well all season, he still managed a rather surprising 21 MLS regular season appearances. After 13 games for Sigi managing a paltry 4.85 average, Gomez was called on an additional eight times for Schmetzer, rating even lower (4.75).
To say that Herculez struggled in 2016 would be putting it mildly, and after an above average 7 rating in his first substitute appearance, he only managed four ratings as high as MLS average (6) for the rest of the year, including many worse and a season low 3 in a loss to New England. He was unable to connect with teammates, get on the end of passes, and his scoring was almost nonexistent. The best attribute on the field for Gomez was at times his defensive work rate and durability, which are likely the only reasons he kept getting chances. His risk adverse style was not exciting, but also not a huge drag on the rest of the team. Schmetzer also leaned heavily on older players as the season wound down and the team picked up injuries, which may have contributed to Herculez continuing to see time.
Gomez was a vocal leader in the locker room, a truly Spanish/English fluent player who followed in the footsteps of guys like Mauro Rosales who have strengthened the Sounders team bond with their very presence and personality. Gomez was able to communicate and relate to everyone on the team, and was a tireless ambassador for his club and teammates all season long. I think he is a great choice to move on to broadcasting, since, based on my ratings, it’s time to move upstairs.
Best Case 2017:
The primary studio analyst on ESPN soccer broadcasts, for every league and competition.