BY ADAM SERRANO
Chivas USA's full squad may have been on the road preparing for a mid-week match, but amongst their practice players was none other than Mexican League's goals leader and U.S. World Cup hopeful Herculez Gomez.
After a fantastic season with Puebla FC, the Las Vegas native is presently training with Chivas USA in order to build up his fitness ahead of a potential U.S. National team call up. With only a few days till the announcement of the preliminary 30 man roster on May 11th, Gomez is eager to return to peak match fitness.
"I want to make sure that I'm in shape and I don't want to lose that feeling that I had during the season and I want to keep it going," said Gomez. "I want to stay in shape because I know that nothing is guaranteed right now and I haven't heard anything right now so on my end I'm going to do everything that I can to be ready."
The 28-year-old forward finished the Clasura Bicentenario tournament with 10 goals allowing him the share of the Golden Boot, a performance that many have called the greatest ever by an American abroad. His performance not only made him the first American to lead the Primera Division in scoring, but also made him only the second member of Los Camoteros to hold the Campeón Goleador. Perhaps what makes Gomez's run so impressive is that many of his goals came off the bench, a role that many have suggested he could hold for the U.S. National Team.
"Coming off the bench, I thought if you want to eat, well this is what you had to do so you have to do," said Gomez. "Its great that all of this happened, but I'm not done and I need to keep that mentality going."
After spending much of last preseason with little idea of where he would sign, this off season is looking very different for the Las Vegas native. Despite all the added attention, Gomez's focus right now is primarily on making the World Cup squad.
"The season doesn't start for some time and thankfully not having any options last year prepared me for right now," said Gomez. "As opposed to when I had no offers three to four months ago, all of a sudden there are plenty and I'm at a good point in my career right now so I'm hoping to take advantage of it."
During his run at Puebla, Gomez kept tabs on another in form American striker on the World Cup bubble, Edson Buddle. Plying his trade for Gomez's former club the Los Angeles Galaxy, Edson Buddle has scored nine goals in six matches putting him second to only Herculez as the most in form American forward. Despite the shortage of spots, Gomez understands that the two strikers are not in competition.
"I watched his tendencies and he's just a great player, he's just in unbelievable form right now," said Gomez. "But by no means do I think I compete with Edson because we are different players, but I understand that the chances of us going (to South Africa) are slim."
One aspect that should benefit the striker should he travel to the World Cup is Puebla's immense altitude. A city surrounded by volcanoes and mountain ranges in the Valley of Cuetlaxcoapan, the city sits 7,000 feet above sea level, making the altitude of South Africa little concern for Gomez.
"It's the third-highest elevation in all of Mexico and with the combination of altitude and pollution; it really takes a toll on your lungs," said Gomez. "But, I've got a good set of lungs under my chest."
Throughout the entire journey of the past year, from his doubts of where he was going to play this year to soaring to the heights of the Mexican league, Gomez has done his best to remain grounded and remain thankful for all that he has accomplished.
"I'd retire if I got called up, going to the World Cup is just the best thing possible." joked Gomez. "Honestly, though I'm just an kid from Vegas who didn't have all the advantages that the kids from Southern California had and I had to chase the American dream by going somewhere else so to experience what I've experienced is more than I can ask for.
I'm just happy for this opportunity."