Major League Soccer’s last hopes of winning the CONCACAF Champions League, North America’s top club competition, died when Toronto FC were routed by Mexican powerhouse Santos Laguna in the second leg of their semifinal meeting earlier this month.
But the United States still has one link to the event, whose two-leg final between Santos and their northern Mexican rivals Monterrey kicks off tonight at Estadio Tecnologico, the latter’s home stadium (10 p.m. ET, broadcast live on Fox Soccer and CONCACAF.com).
Las Vegas native and 2010 U.S. World Cup team member Herculez Gomez leads the Santos attack, and his performances will be key to the Torreon-based club’s hopes of securing the CCL trophy. Just as alluring as the hardware itself, the winner gets to participate in the World Club Cup, the annual global tournament featuring the champions of each continental confederation.
He hasn’t played for his country in many months, but with 11 goals since joining “Los Guerreros” last year, Gomez is in top form at the moment and has many fans begging U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to call him up.
The Sporting News’ Brian Straus spoke to Gomez ahead of tonight’s match, which will be followed by a second-leg decider at Santos’ Estadio Corona home on April 25.
“This is huge,” Gomez said of his club’s high-stakes showdown with Monterrey. “This is a game where the fans hate each other and can’t wait to meet each other and are just ready for a fight. These teams and fan bases don’t like each other. We’re two hours away. It’s definitely not a walk in the park and not something to take lightly.”