Gregory Bull / AP
Monday, June 16, 2014 | 2 a.m.
U.S. soccer beats Algeria
He wasn’t selected to represent his country in the World Cup, but Las Vegas resident Herculez Gomez still feels part of the United States team.
Gomez, a striker who played for the Americans in the 2010 World Cup, took to social media last week to offer teammates encouragement. They open today against Ghana, which eliminated them in the round of 16 in the last World Cup, when Gomez was a crucial part of the American’s attack.
Gomez knows his contributions this time around — a game-winning goal on a free kick against Jamaica in September 2012 during a crucial World Cup qualifier — helped the Americans reach this year’s World Cup in Brazil. Later, he failed to make the 23-man roster, possibly ending his run with the national team.
“Even though my number wasn’t called, I’m extremely proud and happy that I could be a part of our qualification to this great tourney,” he posted on Facebook. “Despite everyone saying the odds are against us, I have the U.S. in my heart. Looking forward to watching our boys display that ‘American Spirit!’”
The U.S. will have an uphill battle advancing out of the four-team Group G, which is nicknamed the “Group of Death” because of the quality teams fighting for two spots in the elimination round. Germany and Portugal are ranked in the top 10 in the world, and Portugal has one of the world’s elite players in Cristiano Ronaldo. And Ghana, today’s opponent, has beaten the U.S. in the past two World Cups.
The 32-year-old Gomez, who plays for Tigres UAN in Mexico’s Liga MX, wrote that despite the tough opponents, he’s confident the U.S. team can create some excitement.
He, after all, was front and center for its most memorable moment in the last World Cup.
He recalled the final game of group play when the Americans needed to defeat Algeria to advance. The game was scoreless in injury time until Landon Donovan raced to a loose ball near the 6-yard box and buried it in the back of the net to ignite a celebration of a lifetime.
“Out of nowhere comes Landon and crushes it home! Gooooooooooaalll!!! Euphoria,” Gomez wrote. “The next 30-45 seconds are a blur. All I remember is sprinting to LD like a mad man with the guys, and it’s complete chaos. Bodies on top of bodies. Somersaults and flips without regard for anything else but the celebration.”
His message details memories from watching the 1994 World Cup as a child with friends in Las Vegas and dreaming of one day being on the big stage. He wrote about specific players and how they fueled his passion.
“We were, even if for just a moment, the same as our heroes,” he wrote about the dramatic win against Algeria.
Gomez was a longshot to be considered for the World Cup earlier in 2010, but he caught the eye of national team officials by dominating Liga MX. He led the league in scoring with 10 goals, becoming the first American player to lead a foreign league in scoring. That earned him a spot on the provisional 30-man roster for the World Cup.
His knack for goal-scoring continued with the national team, finding the back of the net in a friendly game against the Czech Republic, and he was awarded a spot on the World Cup roster the next day. He wound up playing three of four games at the 2010 World Cup and has six career goals for his country.
“Of all the World Cup memories though, one stands out,” he wrote. “Finally there, hand on heart singning our national anthem before the Algeria game, it finally hits me. … Not only am I in the World Cup, but I’m about to start in the biggest game in U.S. soccer history. A game that we would win.”