MEXICO: Glorious day for Gomez

May, 20, 2012
5/20/12
11:18
PM PT

Herculez Gomez started the day Sunday with a call-up to the U.S. national team, his first under Jurgen Klinsmann. The finish was even better.

Gomez became the first American player to win top-flight titles in the U.S. and Mexico as Santos Laguna claimed the Mexican Primera Division title with a 2-1 victory over Monterrey in the second leg of the title series in the spring Clausura, the season's second-half championship.

Santos, from Torreon, won on 3-2 aggregate, the first top seed to win the title since Pachuca's triumph in the 2007 Clausura, 10 tournaments ago. The first leg, Thursday in Monterrey, finished 1-1.

Gomez, who was born in Los Angeles, raised in Las Vegas and made his name during a breakout 2005 season with the Galaxy, did not appear in either game.

Houston Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear also has won titles in both countries, as a midfielder for Necaxa in 1994, as head coach of the Dynamo in 2006 and 2007 and as assistant coach with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003.

Daniel Ludueña in the sixth minute and Oribe Peralta in the 65th scored fine goals to give Santos a 2-0 lead. Aldo de Nigris pulled Monterrey back one in the 79th. Peralta scored the Guerreros' first-leg goal and two late goals to overcome UANL Tigres in the semifinals.

The championship was the fourth for Santos, which previously won the 1996 Invierno, 2001 Verano and 2008 Clausura and had lost in three of the previous four finals. The Guerreros had qualified for the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League as runner-up during the fall Apertura, but Sunday's victory means they will be top seed in one eight three-team groups in the first stage, which begins in late July.

Monterrey also qualified for the Champions League, and so did Guadalajara, which qualifies because of Santos' victory. Tigres is in as Apertura champion.

Gomez's form this season for Santos -- he scored 11 goals, six in the run to last month's Champions League final, which the Guerreros lost to Monterrey on 3-2 aggregate -- paved his road back to the national team. He last featured under Bob Bradley in a August 2010 friendly against Brazil, the Americans' first match following the World Cup in South Africa.

Gomez, who has two goals in eight international matches, played for the U.S. at that World Cup after scoring 10 goals in his first season for Puebla to share the 2010 Clausura scoring title. He netted a dozen goals in a full year with Pachuca and the fall Apertura with Estudiantes Tecos before joining Santos in December.

Gomez appears to be the seventh American to have won the Mexican Primera Division championship. In addition to Kinnear, the others are Texas-born goalkeeper Eduardo Fernandez de la Garza with Guadalajara (Verano 1997), Nevada's Gerardo Mascareño with Pachuca (Invierno 1999) and Morelia (Invierno 2000), fellow U.S. call-ups Jose Francisco Torres with Pachuca (Clausura 2007) and Edgar Castillo with Santos (Clausura 2008), and Los Alamitos' Jonathan Bornstein, who was with Tigres when it won the Apertura last fall.

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