Americans proved they can score goals last week — in bunches.
U.S. national team forward Herculez Gomez, coming off a knee injury, scored a second-half hat trick Thursday to lead Mexican club Tijuana to a 6-0 rout of Honduras’ Victoria in the CONCACAF Champions League. Gomez scored the three goals in a span of 25 minutes after coming off the bench to replace fellow American Joe Corona.
He had been on the sidelines for two months, which kept him out of important U.S. World Cup qualifiers, including the berth-clinching win over Mexico. Gomez, 31, probably will get called back into camp for the remaining two October qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama — meaningless matches in the qualifying race, but significant for players trying to impress coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The United States has depth at forward with Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and newcomer Aron Johannsson, who last week scored a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Sparta Rotterdam in the Dutch Cup. Johannsson has scored nine goals in 12 matches for Alkmaar, and sits atop the league scoring list, just like Altidore did last season.
Gomez wasn’t the only American to score for the Xolos. Paul Arriola, the 18-year-old, also scored. Like Gomez, Arriola is a Mexican-American who grew up in Southern California. He was offered a contract by the Los Angeles Galaxy, and waffled back and forth before choosing in July to play for Tijuana, which is right across the border from his family’s home in Chula Vista, Calif.
• Suarez returns: Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez returned to action with Liverpool on Wednesday after a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a game in April. This is the same guy who was banned eight matches in 2011 for racially abusing Patrice Evra of Manchester United.
Liverpool executives are happy to have Suarez back, and are trying to repair his image and that of the club.
“Any types of incident of that nature are damaging to a brand,” Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said Thursday. “Luis is a footballer, he’s a street fighter, he’s a larger-than-life character. Nobody is condoning any bad behavior but it’s just something you have to deal with. He is what he is, he is the character he is, and we have to try and harness that.
“We have worked a lot with Luis since the last incident with Ivanovic and he has responded well to that. He has been prepared to commit to that sort of work on his character. We are very much an institution and we base ourselves on family values, and when your kids are naughty you tell them off and you try to teach them the error of your ways — it’s no different.”
Liverpool lost 1-0 to Manchester United, but Suarez was happy to be back on the field.
“The result is not good because we lost but the feeling is good because we played very well,” Suarez said. “I know it was a difficult moment but for myself and for the team it’s very important I’m back because I can help the team and off the pitch I can’t. All the time I try my best on the pitch. I’m here to help the team and help Liverpool and I’ll try my best.”
• Neymar scores: Brazilian star Neymar scored his first La Liga goal to help lead undefeated Barcelona to a 4-1 win over Real Sociedad on Tuesday. Argentine Lionel Messi also scored off a Neymar cross.