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What to do with Gabriel Gomez?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

What do you with a center midfielder who plays little defense but scores on more of his shots than nearly any player in the league?

That’s the question when it comes to Gabriel Gomez, the Union’s second highest paid player.

The Panamanian international came to Philadelphia highly touted by those who signed him, and American soccer fans remembered him from his solid, goal-scoring performance in Panama’s upset of the U.S. last June in the Gold Cup.

But what else was there?

As it turns out, a journeyman with a nose for the goal, technical proficiency, and a disinclination to hustle. He has the league’s fourth highest scoring percentage (goals per shot) among players with at least 15 shots, but it’s not clear he has a role on the Union squad.

Gomez hasn’t fit into the Union lineup from day one.

Former Union manager Peter Nowak tried to pair him with defensive stalwart Brian Carroll at defensive midfield, only to find the two didn’t mesh. Gomez liked to sit deep in the middle but interpreted the role as more of a (very, very) deep-lying playmaker who would occasionally make good, late runs toward goal. Carroll liked to sit deep too, but he did it more as a shield for the back line. With both in the lineup, Carroll got pushed forward out of his comfort zone and was forced to play away from his strengths (defense) and toward his weaknesses (attacking). Meanwhile, Gomez didn’t offer the defensive coverage Carroll did, and the two often filled the same spaces.

Since John Hackworth replaced Nowak, he has seldom deployed the pair in the same way, choosing instead to move Gomez around the field in hopes of finding a place where he fits. He has proven too slow for the flanks. The central attacking midfield role looks to belong to Michael Farfan, unless Freddy Adu is to nudge him over to the flank next year.

So what’s left? Target forward? That outside-the-box (and maybe off the wall) idea seems about all that’s left for Gomez. He’s good in possession, he hits the net when given the ball, and he shows confidence on one-time shots.

But then, Gomez’s goal-scoring this season is somewhat of an aberration. His seven goals in all competitions in this year are double his previous career high. Can he repeat or improve on that tally given more time and a role that fits him?

It’s a conundrum for Hackworth, which explains the experimentation with Gomez at alternate positions. He is the Union’s second highest player, at $294,703 in guaranteed compensation, on what is probably a two-year contract. Prior to joining the Union, Gomez had played for four teams in four leagues in just two years. Whatever the rationale for signing Gomez, whether you like him or not, Hackworth has to figure out something to do with him.

Gomez has just three more games to show he’s worth keeping before the Union have to make some off-season decisions.

Is his finishing enough to warrant his contract? On another team, maybe.

On the Union, the team’s three highest paid players — Gomez, Adu and Bakary Soumare — have all fallen well short of expectations this season. Together, they tie up about a third of the team’s salary budget. Soumare is likely to get a chance to recover from injury, because his past performance in MLS more than warrants his salary. Adu is another issue altogether (worth a column in his own right).

As for Gomez, he looks like the latest technically adept but physically slow Latin American player to fail to transition to the rapid pace of Major League Soccer. For every Fredy Montero or Carlos Valdes, you find a couple of these. Considering Carroll and Amobi Okugo were already here when Gomez joined the Union, it leaves people still asking the question of why Gomez was signed in the first place.



  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    I think he is a good player, he just doesn’t fit here. I think other teams can use him. Dangle him on the trade wire and see what we can get for him.

  2. Get him to play behind Jack and let him be the target man to either head the ball onwards to Jack, or to hold it up and play it to the wings. We need a tall guy like that in the attacking center. Not sure whether Gomez will fit the bill but is worth a try.

  3. He stinks. I don’t care about the 5 or so goals he has scored. whoopty di do. He is inconsistent, too much $$$, and is not the type of player you even want to root for. Money better spent on I don’t know…..Le Toux, Califf, anyone else, etc. Just another random south american…….snooze-fest.

  4. I dont want Le Toux or Califf back with the Union. Both were overrated and the love affiar that the fans had with them baffled me at times. Give the guy another year, part of the Unions biggest problems is the rotating roster these first three years. I would love to see the same roster for more than 1 season. Chemistry goes a long way in sports.

  5. I dont think Gomez is anyones favorite player try as he might. However theres something we didn’t get many of this year. I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with “bowls”. He provided us with some great finishes. I also give him a little credit for trying to get the fans excited. Hes the guy who’s waving his hands when a free kick or corner is about to be taken. Yes, he’s also the guy thats not all to fast, and sometimes plays a little reckless and doesn’t always get back to play. You almost forgot about Miglioranzi didn’t you. I think that we keep him till next years transfer window. If his game is stepped up we can trade bait him, or keep him and squeeze every goal out of him we can. Goals are goals. We should take them where, when and how we can get them. I think he’s still got a little room to grow and I’d like to see if maybe he can produce a little more for us.

    • Who provided us with some great finishes? Gomez? It’s funny how one amazing volley can skew perception. Let’s talk about the howlers he’s provided us, while we’re at it …

      • It is.. Im not saying hes the best.. but considering our other “consistent” scoring options 6 goals 2nd leading scorer. Yeah, hes missed some chances and he can definitely improve, but if he scores a few more goal’s this season a lot of perceptions will be skew’d.

  6. CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

    Trade him for Jermaine Defoe, then sell Defoe and use the proceeds to get a real coach.

  7. Why is it nobody mentions that Gomez fell off after his injury. Maybe he never recovered.

    • Very good point! Overlooked in my post. Wondered the same thing earlier in the season. I didn’t mention it because … ummm … I forgot. 😉

  8. Gordon Strachan says:

    At that price point we can find a player that is a consistent starter and good for twice as many goals… Gomez is an interesting player but not what we need

  9. I like Gomez a lot, his most recent goal definitely helped that. But he just does not fit with this team. He can’t play out wide, he doesn’t provide the defensive cover that Carroll does and even if he did he would just be pushing Okugo down the depth chart (assuming Soumare can come in next season and play CB moving Okugo back to midfield). I’d like to keep him around, but the money and the fact that he does not fit on the roster says we need to try and trade him and see if we can get something for him. I’m sure another team in the MLS can use him.

  10. What to do with Gabriel Gomez?
    Play him.
    Don’t overthink it.
    The team needs goals, FFS.

  11. Philly Cheese says:

    Gomez needs to evaluated like every other player on Union. Can he consistently make the team better by being on the pitch? His last goal was quality. His slow, plodding, inaccurate passing and ball handling is a detriment to the team being successful. Very similar to Pajoy in occasionally showing skill, but not enough to warrant paying that salary or playing regularly. Will be very surprised if we get anything back in trade for Gomez, if team goes that direction.

  12. Has anybody ever wondered how he would pair up with Okugo at d-mid instead of Carroll? maybe Carroll is the problem at that position, not Gomez.

    • Very good question.

    • James Korman says:

      I can’t help but wonder the exact same thing. I like BC. He is a warrior who has bled for us. But, being on the bottom of the table makes you examine everything and we need guys like Gavilan who will shoot the damn ball. Okugo and Gomez could provide some quality offensive support. Like LLuber said: we need goals. Getting rid of the few guys who actually have a nose for the goal and like to shoot will only further set us back.

  13. I’ve seen enough of Gabe Gomez to give him a second season at PPL Park. With a full offseason with the club, a settled situation within the technical staff and more time to get comfortable in Philly, Gomez may excel in for the club in 2013.
    That being said, if the Union can get good value for Gomez in trade, I’m cool with saying good-bye Gavilan.

    • Agree. People are looking at him like he can’t play and just want to dump him. He just plays a little different. A full offseason and a better evaluation and I think he can produce.

    • James Korman says:

      Agree. We cannot have a team made up exclusively of players with 3 (or less) years of experience. It doesn’t work. I love our top notch young guys, they are ballers, but we need vets like Gavilan (and Pauno last year) who can help show them they way. You cannot score if you do not shoot. Gavi knows this. Knock him all you want but he HAS contributed goals….I’d keep him!

  14. Richie The Limey says:

    I think he just needs to be put in a position to succeed. He as been best as a forward lying midfielder – at least he makes runs (well, ambles) from deep in to the box. We have less penetration in the box than the Jonas Brothers, so anything is better than nothing, right?

  15. Keep Gomez! I’m not overly in love with the dude, but I think he’s talented. We could use some consistency going into next season. He’s a solid, yet slow, player. Some people seem to have the Nowak style of judging players and want to see Philly become a revolving door. Also, some people are extremely one-sided. Gomez isn’t amazing, but neither is Jack Mack yet people seem to love him.

    I’d play him up top if we continue this makeshift formation. Put Okugo, Carroll, and Farfan in the middle. Gomez up top with 2 new strikers that we aquire in the offseason. I’d actually like to keep Adu as well, but I have a feeling that he won’t be here. Hackworth seems just as bad at playing people out of their best positions. I’d like to see both Adu and Gomez played where they can make the most impact.

    I’d like to see Gomez given another season to improve. That being said, if we traded him I wouldn’t be heartbroken. That can be said about most of the team (and staff) though. I’m looking at you McInerny. I just think that we have bigger fish to fry and I don’t want to see half the team turned over this time.

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