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TFC 2015 Top 30 Countdown: #16 Herculez Gomez

A newcomer to the roster midway through the season, Herculez Gomez comes in at number 16 in the Top 30 Countdown

Gomez and Co. celebrate with the fans
Gomez and Co. celebrate with the fans
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Signed on August 7, after his rights were acquired from Sporting KC, Herculez Gomez saw limited action in his long-awaited return to MLS.

He featured in just seven of Toronto FC's final thirteen matches, accumulating a mere 223 minutes throughout, and those came more often than not as a substitute - only twice did he feature in the starting eleven.

That said, one of his key contributions as a starter, though heavily overshadowed, came in that fateful October match against the New York Red Bulls, where Gomez was pivotal to TFC reaching the playoffs for the first time.

Average Rating: 17.1

Highest Rating: 13

Lowest Rating: 21

In many ways, the decision to sign Gomez at that point in the season was peculiar.

Toronto's deficiency was clearly defensive - both Josh Williams and Ahmed Kantari were brought in to fill that void - and beyond that, Gomez would be joining a side that was rather deep at the forward positions with Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley, Luke Moore, and Jordan Hamilton already in place.

Furthermore, Gomez had become a nemesis of TFC, thanks to those epic CONCACAF Champions League battles against Santos Laguna - the two sides met four times in the 2012 calendar year. Gomez himself tallied four goals throughout and traded barbs with fans on Twitter as Toronto was dumped out of the 2011-12 Semifinals and then the group stage of the following edition of the regional tournament.

And then, once he was brought in, why not use him more frequently?

That very issue was addressed directly by Tim Bezbatchenko at the end of year press conferences, where the TFC GM explained that, in part, Gomez was acquired as an insurance policy against the loss of Giovinco.

The Italian had led Toronto to the verge of the playoffs, but with national team call-ups coming and injury always a dreaded possibility, the opportunity to stock the club with another quality striker was too good to pass up.

But there was even more to the Gomez acquisition than that: the oft-overlooked intangibles.

Numbers will not reflect the value of having a player both of Gomez' experience and disposition in a club wrestling with the demons of eight barren seasons.

On the first front, the 33-year old Gomez has seen and done it all. He's won an MLS Cup; he's represented his country at the international level and World Cup; he's thrived in the crucible of Liga MX play. There was nothing that would come in a tense three months, with playoffs and jobs on the line, that would phase the experienced forward. That in itself is an asset for a club short on having been there and done that.

Beyond that, Gomez also brought a voice to a club in need of leaders.

Those familiar with his post-match or social media forays will know that Gomez, unlike many other footballers, does not shy away from confrontation. Where some find comfort in banalities and cliche, Gomez speaks his mind, and often, the truth. That too is extremely valuable to a side short on experiences.

Michael Bradley bore the brunt of the media duty this season, shielding his teammates from the glare, always available for comment. No doubt his voice in the dressing room was just, if not more, central. But hearing the same refrain over and over again can diminish the meaning, the impact, of the message. Bradley and Greg Vanney will have emphasized and re-emphasized the goal, but adding a new character, a new phrasing, to the chorus, can be advantageous.

That is something that Gomez added to a club on the verge.

He looked lively in his first appearance, coming on for the final nineteen minutes of a 3-0 August loss in New York, and did the same in his first start at Seattle a few weeks later.

But most crucially, it was his 51st minute strike against the Red Bulls on October 14 that summed his contribution to the score-sheet this season, putting himself in position and calmly dispatching the chance when Ronald Zubar missed clearing a Jackson cross from the right, allowing Gomez to pounce.

It was a goal that would have proved the game-winner, clinching TFC a playoff-berth, were it not for an 86th minute Shaun Wright-Phillips consolation strike that vaulted Giovinco's stunning effort further into the limelight.

Had Wright-Phillips the elder not scored, Gomez' strike would be remembered as that which broke the playoff-less tide; while had he not scored, perhaps Giovinco's would never have come to be.

Looking ahead to next season, Gomez, who is under contract for 2016, will continue to bring those same indispensable skills to the club; a valued addition to the group before he sets foot on the field. And with further minutes amongst his new teammates under his belt, would anyone dare bet he would not produce more?

Herculez Gomez is a player that has carved a role, both positive and negative, in TFC folklore - there is a value in that as well which should not be underestimated.