May 30, 2012
THE LABORS OF HERCULEZ
U.S. striker scores in 4-1 loss to Brazil, but he knew he could have had more
By Michael Lewis
|Herculez Gomez scored his third international goal for the U.S. against Brazil.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
LANDOVER, Md. -- On Wednesday night, U.S. international striker Herculez Gomez became only the 11th American player to score a goal against vaunted Brazil.
After the U.S.'s 4-1 loss to the South Americans, he wasn't boasting about his goal, but rather lamenting the ones that he missed in the international friendly at Fed Ex Field.
"I didn't think 4-1 was maybe a scoreline that was indicative of the overall game," he said. "For long stretches of the game, we kind of imposed our will on them. We were unfortunate not to get some. The main difference was that they were clinical in front of the goal and we weren't. I put some of those away and it's a different game."
A true assessment, but then again, no other U.S. player was truly dangerous throughout the 90-minute match as the 30-year-old Herculez was.
"I hope I can get a second game," he said. "I'm hoping Juergen liked what he saw. I try to leave it all on the field. It's sometimes hard playing a lone striker. But I feel good. I had fun."
Juergen is Juergen Klinsmann, the U.S. national coach who certainly liked what he saw. He said he decided to start Gomez because he had been sharp during practice.
It certainly paid off against Brazil, which owns a 16-1 record vs. the U.S.
"I think we found a striker who is mobile, a fighter, who is nasty to a certain extent," Klinsmann said.
If only the rest of the team was as nasty as Gomez. Klinsmann was disappointed that his team gave the Brazilians too much respect.
"I think sometimes you see Brazil on the calendar and you go in with a lot of respect with these type of players," Gomez said. "But they're just like us. They bleed, they hurt. We've got to get after it. I think you saw in the second half. We imposed our game. They were the ones on their heels. They were the ones that were trying to hit us. They were the ones who were fighting, sweating and battling trying to tract back.
"Once we learn that, we don't always have to be Mr. Nice Guy. We can be a little nastier, like Juergen said. We can be better off."
Gomez, a member of the U.S. 2010 World Cup team, made his first international appearance since then. During the Mexican Clausura season with CONCACAF Champions League finalist Santos Laguna, Gomez enjoyed a revival in the spring, scoring game after game.
So, Wednesday night's production and performance should not come as a surprise.
He scored his third goal for the national side in his ninth international game to cut the Brazilian lead to 2-1 in the 45th minute. U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley won the ball, ran a semi-circle into open space, where he found an overlapping left back Fabian Johnson. Johnson penetrated down the left side and sent a cross to Gomez, whose header beat goalkeeper Rafael from point-blank range.
A nice goal from creation to finish, but Gomez could have moved the hosts closer with a couple of close encounters in the second half.
Gomez headed the ball toward an open area of the goal but defender Romula cleared the ball out of harm's way with second-half substitute Clint Dempsey standing right on top of him in the 63rd minute.
Gomez continued to push for his second goal as he was denied by Rafael from close-range in the 77th minute.
"If I score on that volley or if I do a better job of bringing that header down to Clint, those goals help your team," Gomez said. "They give you confidence."
Almost to a man, the U.S. players and Klinsmann claimed about two officiating decisions on the first and final goals. They didn't think Brazil should have been awarded a penalty kick that led to Neymar's goal in the 12th minute and they claimed that Alexandre Pato's goal was offside in the 89th minute.
"Some dubious calls," Gomez said. "But if we're getting ready for qualifiers," he said. "That's what we're going to have to expect, going into countries in Central America. It's not going to be easy. We can take some things away from this match, obviously a lot of positives. But some things we have to sort out."