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Gomez was good, US didn’t push him

Gabriel Gomez was signed by the Philadelphia Union in late December. Last night was the first chance Philly fans have had to examine the versatile Panamanian.

In a 1-0 friendly loss to the United States, Gomez played as a calming link between Panama’s back four and skittish front five.

The good news: He was fantastic.

The bad news: The United States play their center midfielders so deep that Gomez was never really tested.

Where was he

Panama played their wingers high up the pitch to pin back the American wide players. Exploiting clear gaps in the US back line, Panamanian wide players cut inside and looked for an early ball over the top. And when the ball got to the runner, it usually came off Gabriel Gomez’s foot.

It was not only that Gomez displayed range and accuracy with his passing, it was that he was the gasoline that made Panama run. When the ball didn’t go through number six the home side was disjointed, anxious and unthreatening. With their captain in the attack it was another story.

What did he do

In the 26th minute, Gomez collected the ball eight yards deep in his own half. He drove on an angled run to the left before backing and searching for a deep runner. Finding no one, he hesitated before dinking the ball over the American defense for a late-arriving Renteria. The striker couldn’t beat Nick Rimando, but there was a clear difference in the quality of Panama’s ideas with Gomez in charge.

Two minutes later, the Panamanian captain showed off his strength in a tough battle with Teal Bunbury. Listed at 6’2″, 175lb, the American striker looks every inch and ounce. He also looked rather silly lying on the ground, which is where Gomez deposited him.

Aside from a occasional hard tackle here and there, the rest of Gomez’s night was unremarkable. He rarely joined the undisciplined Panama attack, preferring to sit just ahead of the defense and transition the point of attack. Ricardo Clark and Jermaine Jones only stepped forward if the US managed an extended spell of possession, which meant Gomez was marking space most of the night.

What does he bring to Philly

A major difference between Gomez and the returning midfield pair of Okugo and Carroll is positioning. While Carroll and Okugo are roamers, Gomez rarely left his central area. The consistency with which he moved to certain spots on the pitch was notable: When the US had the ball wide, Gomez was just above the penalty spot. When the US was working the ball around the back, the Panamanian captain could be seen in a small space 8–10 yards ahead of the back line and always in the central 20 yards of the pitch.

On offense, it was his ability to change angles that stood out. Even when he wasn’t receiving the ball, the midfielder’s ability to read pressure and shift the American defense by moving into a new gap made it that much easier for his teammates to choose the right ball (when they passed, which was never).

Overall, Gomez may have been the best player on the pitch. And while he did not play the box-to-box role Kerith Gabriel described when the Union signed him, Gabriel Gomez is a cut above the rest.

Whether their new player can play multiple positions for the Union remains an open question. But if the intelligence and guile he showed on Tuesday night is no illusion, Gabriel Gomez will be a wonderful addition to a young Philadelphia side.

After watching the US beat Panama, where do you think Gabriel Gomez should play for the Union? Defensive midfielder? Left-sided midfielder? Let us know.

8 Comments

  1. I agree that he looked very good yesterday, especially in the first half. He seemed to disappear somewhat in the second half which was a shame with Panama having the man advantage. The only other player I might argue as better was the Panama keeper for the back to back saves on Jones and Wondolowski.

  2. I was watching just to see Gomez and agree he looked solid. I’ll give you a lot of credit for being able to follow a specific player when the resolution out of Panama was just a notch above radio.

    The back to back saves were amazing. If there was a better replay, I wonder how deep the Wondo header got. Keeper was partly into the goal and reached behind to make save, but the one camera from mid-field was too far away to accurately tell.

    • Additionally, the play by play was slightly behind the game, so I wasn’t sure if it was the announcer or me who was crazy. I’m following one guy and it seems like he’s calling everyone else on the field “Gomez.”

  3. thought he looked awesome. i personally think he should start in carroll’s position. his passing was just so much better and he’s clearly a good tackler.

  4. Hm, is it possible that Nowak is looking to transition to a Okugo-Gomez midfield pairing in the near future?
    Carrol was wonderful for us but he is older and his offensive game is not that great. I can see Nowak looking to cement a Okugo-Gomez pairing by the end of the year with CArrol being cover.

    • Careful James. When you make logical suggestions around the U, you often get your heart broken.

      MacMath and Hoffman for holding midfield!!!

      • I hate to say it, but I don’t know how long we can hold onto Okugo. His stock is growing fast and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if we lose him within the year. Either way though I think Gomez is part of that midfield whether it’s with Carroll or Okugo.

  5. gomez was good but keep in mind that the rest of that panamanian team was mostly u-23s so as regular starter for panama I would be worried if he wasn’t one of the best players for their side

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