Before he was Seattle's nemesis, Herculez Gomez was briefly a Sounder
Herculez Gomez's career took a brief stop in Seattle in the summer of 2003 before he became star for the U.S. national team and Mexico's Santos Laguna.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Life, these days, is pretty good for Santos Laguna forward Herculez Gomez.
World Cups. Scoring titles. Nearly 70,000 followers on Twitter.
Stardom, however, came late for the 31-year-old Mexican-American, and his torturous career across North America even included a brief stop in Seattle in the summer of 2003.
Ten years later, Gomez was able to reflect on that short stay here that began when he was loaned to the lower-league Sounders by the Los Angeles Galaxy.
He did so after a successful return to the area with Santos on Tuesday, when he scored the lone goal in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
"It was probably one of the best summers that I have ever had," Gomez recalled. "It was like 50 straight days of sunshine, plus-70-degree weather — which is unheard of in Seattle — so I had a blast.
"I was proud to be a Seattle Sounder."
Sentimentality, though, doesn't mean Gomez has taken it easy against the Sounders; quite the opposite.
The U.S. national-team member has dominated Seattle with four goals in three CCL games the past two years, including three in a 7-3 aggregate win in the 2011-12 quarterfinals. He has nine goals in nine games overall against MLS teams.
"He seems to do well every time he comes here," said defender Zach Scott, Gomez's teammate during the 2003 loan. "It's great to see it come kind of full cycle. He's one of those guys who has worked really hard in his career, some ups and downs, and finally it looks like all ups for him."
Other Sounders have tracked Gomez' progress from afar over the past decade, too, as he hopped around MLS before igniting a late-blooming career in Mexico, where he tied for the league lead in scoring with 10 goals in 2010.
Sounders FC's Marcus Hahnemann came to know Gomez through the U.S. national team.
"I always thought he was a super-nice guy," Hahnemann said. "When I remember him coming in, you think: 'Oh, what a great kid. He's going to do really well.' ... It's one of those things where you especially want the U.S. guys to do well when they go all over the place — though maybe not so much against us."
Gomez also has history with Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid, who managed him with the Galaxy, and assistant Brian Schmetzer, who was in charge of the 2003 Sounders.
The relationship with Schmid ended sourly, though Schmetzer said: "We all liked Herculez. He was a good guy, never caused us any problems."
Where Gomez has recently ruffled some feathers in the Sounders community is on Twitter, where he likes to think of himself as an "entertainer." Troll or pest, even in a good-natured manner, might be a more appropriate description.
Last month, he "congratulated" Seattle on the one-year anniversary of a CCL road game at Santos Laguna — an embarrassing 6-1 loss.
Another tweet read: "Just caught up on the Bachelor, can't believe Catherine won! Seattle has finally won something besides the #USOpenCup .. #Felicidades."
Gomez vowed the jesting would stop if he got a fancy all-down pillow from Pacific Coast Feather, a company owned by the family of Sounders FC co-owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer.
The pillow arrived a couple weeks later — a response that left even a jokester like Gomez laughing — but the banter has continued, naturally.
Even still, Gomez said the reaction he got from Sounders supporters Tuesday was positive: "Fans were pretty appreciative, and I think they know that when the 90 minutes were over, I became a national-team player again. They let me know how they felt, and that was pretty special."
• Midfielder Brad Evans aggravated a calf injury in last week's game and could miss Tuesday's second leg of the CCL semifinals. Johnson (hamstring) traveled to Mexico, but his role is yet to be determined.
• Forward Obafemi Martins, who left the team to seek treatment for a knee injury, is expected to return in the next few days, but it is uncertain if he'll be available for Saturday's MLS game against New England.
• Danish forward/midfielder Philip Lund has received his P-1 visa and has been added to the active roster.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.