By John Philip Wyllie
Over the course of the last several years, Herculez Gomez has become a familiar name in local soccer. His play with the San Diego Gauchos has often been brilliant. His dominance at the Division 3 level has provided him the opportunity to gain extended playing time with the First Division Los Angeles Galaxy in each of the last two seasons. Now he is facing a new challenge as he tries to jump from outdoor soccer to the indoor game. He seems to be catching on quickly. Gomez scored a goal in his debut for the 1-2 San Diego Sockers.
“Playing indoors is a lot different. The pace of the game is a little quicker and your touches on the ball are increased. You have to get used to the boards and operating with just a little space. I’m finding it a great experience. Some of the older guys like Paul Wright and Steve Butcher are helping me a lot. So far, I’m loving it,” Gomez said. “I like shooting a lot. Playing indoors really compliments that, but I also need a certain amount of space to exploit so that I can be creative.” According to Gomez, playing the indoor game on a much smaller surface makes creativity a bit more difficult.
Born in Las Vegas to Mexican immigrant parents, Gomez moved around a lot while growing up. He played soccer for several Second Division Mexican clubs including Cruz Azul and Durango while he was still developing. Now 22, the 5’10” 165 pound midfielder is looking for any opportunity that will improve his game. He sees indoor soccer as just that type of opportunity.
“In outdoor soccer I am a goal scorer and I am all offensive. I’ve never really had an obligation to defend. Here with the Sockers I am being used in a couple of positions. (Coach Brian Quinn) thinks that I am versatile and he likes putting me in different positions. As a midfielder, I run and win balls and distribute them, so it is a totally different role, but it is one that I am enjoying a lot.”
Last year the Sockers struggled mightily. Burdened with an injury-plagued roster and a lack of fire power they missed the playoffs and finished 13-23. Gomez believes this year will be different.
“I am new to this game and I have only seen a couple teams, but we have played the Baltimore Blast and I’m told that they are the team to beat. Based on the way we handled ourselves against them, I think we are going to have a great season.”
Gomez expects to bring more than just his soccer talent to the Sockers. For years he has been involved in the local Hispanic community shaping the lives of the next generation of soccer stars.
“When I played for the Gauchos, I became involved with inner city kids living in National City. Right now I am coaching out of Chula Vista where I train the Rangers U-12 and U-9 Boy’s teams. With most of them being Hispanic, Gomez has had plenty of opportunity to capitalize on his bilingual ability. He remembers not too many years ago when he was a kid attending clinics held by the Sockers. Now he is happy to return the favor. Besides, it’s kind of a win-win situation as many of them turn up rooting for him at his games.