The first time Herculez Gomez was a Seattle Sounder, he was a 21-year-old still working toward a pro career.
When he returned to the club Thursday, he was able to look back at a career — an ongoing career — that includes 323 appearances over 14 professional seasons in the top leagues of North America and 24 appearances with the United States national team.
“If you would have told me back then that my career was going to play out like this, I probably would have laughed at you,” Gomez said. “I think it’s good to see how we’ve both grown and what we’ve been able to achieve. I still feel we could achieve a lot more. The team could achieve a lot more; I could achieve a lot more.”
Gomez, 33, first came to the Sounders in 2003, when they were a second-division team and he was on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“I remember it being an A-League team — known around the city, but not quite the following it has today,” he said. “Just to see how much they’ve grown as an organization and that they’ve been able to achieve, and how the city’s been able to embrace them: It’s incredible.”
After eight seasons in Mexico, Gomez returned to MLS last season, scoring one goal in eight appearances for Toronto FC. The Reds released him late in this preseason, and that timing increased his appeal to the Sounders.
“Toronto is on hook for the contract,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “… You waive a guy pretty late, then he goes through a process where he’s available to anybody else, but the team he goes to is not going to be bearing the majority of his salary. It still accrues to the team that released him. … A good value acquisition, I would say, for us.”
Good enough where Lagerwey stressed that it won’t inhibit plans to bring in an attacking designated player and perhaps more.
Meanwhile, coach Sigi Schmid envisions Gomez adding depth to the Seattle forwards, behind starters Clint Dempsey, Nelson Valdez and rookie Jordan Morris.
“It gives us a little bit of that veteran influence coming off the bench,” Schmid said. “… We could be missing guys in the summer with the Copa Centenario — especially our frontrunners — so it gives us a little cover and protection for that. He’s good about his work; he’s consistent about his work. He gets on the end of stuff. That’s always been his strength. He’s not afraid to pull the trigger.”
The Sounders are 0-3 this MLS season, and their only two goals have been scored by midfielders.
The team is off this weekend before returning to league play April 2 when the Montreal Impact visits.
Sounders 2 will open its USL season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Starfire Sports Stadium against the Sacramento Republic.
S2 went 13-12-3 in its inaugural season before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
This season’s roster includes 2016 MLS SuperDraft picks such as Zach Mathers, Emir Alihodzic and Michael Nelson, along with homegrown midfielder Jordan Schweitzer. Three roster additions were announced Thursday: goalkeeper Matt Bersano from Penn State; midfielder Devon Fisher, who played last season with Timbers 2; and midfielder Mark O’Ojong of Cameroon.
“We’ve made some upgrades,” coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “We’ve lost some key players, but I think we have a good group of younger players, possibly more talented players. We’re happy with the group of guys that we have. We’ll get some reinforcements from the first team, and we have some academy kids that are going to play a lot of minutes this year.”