Michelle Kaufman: Herculez Gomez could add firepower to U.S. squad

09/29/2013 12:12 AM

09/29/2013 12:42 AM

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.
•  Messi mess: Messi has been in a bit of a legal mess of late, accused, along with his father, Jorge, of tax evasion. They appeared in Spanish court Friday, suspected of skipping out on $5.4 million in taxes. They reportedly hired companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell Messi’s image rights, avoiding tax obligations in Spain. The Messis deny the allegations and Jorge Messi paid $6.7 million of taxes in August to cover the disputed amount plus interest.
•  Bradley documentary: Be on the lookout for a PBS documentary American Pharoah, which goes behind the scenes with the Egyptian national soccer team — the “Pharaohs” — and their American coach, Bob Bradley. The film is scheduled to be shown in early 2014, before the FIFA World Cup in June in Brazil. It was produced by Egyptian filmmaker Hossam Aboul-Magd, who follows the team as it attempts to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in more than 20 years.

“This is not just a film about soccer,” Aboul-Magd said. “This is about my country, my team, a coach I respect and the dream of capturing the World Cup in spite of enormous challenges. I see the goal of developing a strong team, in the middle of a revolution, as a metaphor for the rebuilding of Egypt.”

Said Bradley: “Making it to the World Cup will not solve the lack of education and poverty in Egypt, but it would be a great symbol for the country.”

•  Local tryouts: Miami United, a semipro team in the National Premier Soccer League, is holding tryouts Oct. 7-9 at Ted Hendricks Stadium, 4800 Palm Ave. in Hialeah. The club plays against regional teams such as the Cape Coral Hurricanes, Jacksonville United and the Tampa Marauders. Players 15-20 years old try out from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and “first team” players try out from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entry fee is $50. More information: miamiunitedsoccer.com or call 305-318-2026.

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