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Top USMNT Prospect Headed To La Liga Under Strange, Hilarious Circumstances

Gomez introducing himself to Louisville City fans last year.
Screenshot: LouCity/YouTube

We must start with the statement. It is not often that a communique from a club about their best young player moving on to one of the biggest leagues in the world also reads like an apology for someone in upper management getting caught using a word they shouldn’t have, and yet:

Terms of your best prospect’s own contract, one presumably signed by people who had a full understanding of what was in the contract, are serving as a learning moment? Following up a hearty congratulations with “That said,”? What? This makes it sound like they defrauded themselves.

Earlier this week, The Athletic reported that Louisville City left back Jonathan Gomez is off to Real Sociedad. Gomez is one of the best rated prospects in the highly regarded cadre of 2003-born USMNT prospects. Sociedad is one of the biggest clubs in Spain, and they’ve developed some greats, notably Antoine Griezmann. Gomez worked his way through the now-prestigious FC Dallas academy, playing with both the U.S. and Mexican youth national teams, but rather than keep developing in the academy, Gomez chose to leap into first-team soccer as soon as he turned 17, signing with second-tier Louisville City.

It was the perfect move for Gomez. He’d already trained with top European clubs, and even Louisville City’s own website made it clear that Gomez would only be in town for one year. He’d get to develop for a season of first-team action under manager John Hackworth, who coached him with the U.S. U-17s and said of comparisons to former pupils Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent, “He’s as good as those guys, no question in my mind.” For Louisville City’s part, they’d get to showcase that they could serve as a springboard to the biggest clubs in the world, and also recoup a nice little payday in the process. Except … they didn’t end up getting much of a payday.

Per The Athletic, Gomez’s contract “allowed for Gomez to leave for free” if Hackworth was no longer the LC coach. Weirdly, Hackworth and the club agreed to “mutually” part ways three days into the USL season, shortly after LC won their first game, 2-0. This meant that Sociedad could get him for free after the season, thus the low transfer fee. Weird! I guess the lesson here is don’t tie player contracts to a coach’s status, but that’s the opposite of a universal lesson.

The only real questions I have about Gomez center around which national team he’ll end up joining. The USMNT fullback position is overflowing with depth, though most of the guys in question here are right backs, and right backs only. Antonee Robinson is about to turn 24 and he’s been linked with Manchester City, so he’s probably got that spot locked down for the moment, but Gomez is so much younger that you’d like to have someone of his talents in the pool as well. He trained with the Mexican national team ahead of the Nations League and then was promptly named to the USMNT’s preliminary Gold Cup roster. It’s encouraging for USMNT fans that he’s at least keeping the door open, and has trained extensively with USYNT coaches, though his final decision is probably a few years away from being made.