By AVI CREDITOR
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Herculez Gomez. United States men's national team.
Just months ago, the two joining forces seemed farther fetched than American fans rooting for England on June 12. After a season for the ages in Mexico, though, Gomez made his triumphant return to the national team with a goal in a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic Tuesday night that may be the final chapter in a tremendous individual comeback story.
Gomez headed home a 65th-minute goal off a Stuart Holden corner kick, perhaps providing the final piece of evidence for coach Bob Bradley to include the striker on his 23-man World Cup roster.
"It's out of my hands now," Gomez said. "I did everything I could at camp. We all did. We worked really hard."
Gomez entered the match at halftime, replacing Edson Buddle to earn his third cap with the national team and first since 2007. He created an offensive spark off the bench, much like he did over the last few months when he scored at a feverish pace for his former club Puebla.
"Herculez played his way into the camp with his performance at Puebla," Bradley said. "It was based upon goals, and in some cases coming on as a sub and scoring.
"When you have him in camp you get to assess a lot of things. Some plays tonight still, for me, need to be better, but obviously, he scored a goal, and that's very important in this whole thing."
Gomez displayed his knack for scoring when his team needed it the most, down a goal midway through the second half.
Holden's corner kick bent toward the far post, where Clarence Goodson rose and headed the ball back to the near post. Gomez connected with a purpose, sending the ball into the back of the net with his forehead and evening the match at 2-all.
"That goal was 10 percent me and 90 percent Clarence," Gomez said. "I'm definitely thankful that I was at the right place at the right time."
His timing extends beyond that solitary moment.
As far as U.S. goal-prone forwards go, Gomez has emerged and reaffirmed his position as the country's best option along with Jozy Altidore and Brian Ching. In the aftermath of Charlie Davies not being included in the team's summer plans, Bradley had been searching for a reliable option at the top of his formation to help fill that void.
After an up-and-down Major League Soccer tenure and a career-saving move to Mexico, Gomez just may have done enough to get that unthinkable call to join the final World Cup roster.
"It'd mean the world, that's for sure," Gomez said. "It's every soccer player's dream to be on the roster and have the opportunity to go to the World Cup. We're all nervous and anxiously waiting."
Bradley's final-roster announcement is scheduled to be made at about 1:20 p.m., live on ESPN.
"I've talked about how players have a lot to be proud of," Bradley said. "Here's a guy that was totally out of the picture and played his way back in and certainly will be discussed further tonight."