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SSFC Spotlight: Johan Gómez shows skill in U-23 friendlies

The Germany-based attacker looks to have an inside track on the Olympic roster.

Japan U23 v United States U23 Photo by Chris Coduto/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

A journey through European soccer will often consist of several steps as players search for the right fit while attempting to fulfill the dual desires of regular minutes and the highest possible level of competition. Eventually, finding the right environment and stringing together solid performances could also lead to opportunities at the international level. Johan Gómez recently rejoined the USMNT set-up with the U-23 team and performed well in friendlies against Mexico and Japan. The 22-year-old Eintracht Braunschweig attacker could be in line for a roster spot at next summer’s Olympic Games.

Born in Arlington, Texas, Gómez played with YMCA and Solar Soccer Club before leaving home to join the vaunted FC Dallas youth academy, scoring in bunches while wreaking havoc on opponents with his pressing. His long list of youth accolades includes U-17 Central Conference Best XI and Generation Adidas Cup Best XI among several scoring titles. In 2019, he was promoted to the club’s reserve side, North Texas SC, making six appearances in USL League One and scoring a goal in a 4-1 victory over Orlando City B. Uncertain of an existing pathway to first-team minutes after being offered a contract, European trials followed, with the attacker training at Freiburg, Augsburg, and FC Nürnberg.

That summer, Gómez moved to Portugal and joined Porto, eschewing a commitment to attend the University of Portland and late interest from Mallorca. His first year in Europe involved several appearances in the UEFA Youth League. The next season, he jumped to the club’s reserve side and played in 23 matches in the second-tier Liga Portugal 2, scoring one goal. Unfortunately, the realities of competing for the B-team meant that senior squad players would receive priority for minutes, compounded by attempting to learn the complexities of playing as a double-pivot midfield.

“The experience at FC Porto B was fantastic and I played more than 20 games, but the negative thing about being there is that you work all week, you think you will be a starter and on the day of the game players from ‘A’ drop you and you are left out of the squad,” he expressed to Al Día. “In one game we had eight players from ‘A’, that’s a little difficult. I wanted to play in a first team so that no one could come down and take my place and to know who I was fighting against on a day-to-day basis.”

The following season, Gómez signed a two-year deal with FSV Zwickau in Germany’s 3. Liga after making a “strong impression” during preseason training under American manager Joe Enochs. In his first year with Die Schwäne (The Swans), he contributed six goals and four assists in 37 league and cup appearances, despite initially spending several matches at holding midfielder. The change from Portugal required adapting from a more creative game to a higher level of “tactical discipline and physicality.”

The next season, Gómez improved his numbers with nine goals and three assists in 38 combined matches, serving as a bellwether for the team’s fortunes. His performance in the first West Saxony derby in six years against FC Erzgebirge Aue drew significant attention in the press after he scored “the most important [goal] of his career,” celebrated “provocatively” in front of the opposition’s curva (which earned quick criticism from the manager), and was almost attacked by a fan during the post-match interview. Unfortunately, Zwickau finished the season in last place and was relegated, with the attacker becoming a highly sought after target due to his free agent status.

In June, Gómez moved up a level and joined Eintracht Braunschweig of the 2. Bundesliga on a two-year deal, eschewing interest from Jahn Regensburg and former rivals Aue. “Johan has developed very well over the past two years and should take the next step with us,” said sporting director Peter Vollmann. “He can be used flexibly on offense and thus expands our options in attack. We are pleased that he has chosen us and are happy that he will be part of our squad from the start of training.”

The Texan hit the ground running in the second tier, playing 70 minutes in the opening match against Holstein Kiel. He has made 11 total appearances, including nine starts, but there has already been a manager change. Eintracht Braunschweig is at the bottom of the table with a single victory on the season and will require a severe change in form to avoid relegation.

At the international level, Gómez is eligible to compete with Mexico through his parents’ heritage and has received several call-ups to multiple United States youth teams, also competing with the futsal program. Recently, he was included on the U-23 roster in advance of next summer’s Olympic Games. In the first match, his run and pass helped set up the eventual game-winning goal to take down Mexico, 2-1. A few days later, his finish opened the scoring in a 4-1 victory over Japan.

A versatile, strong, and dynamic front-line player, Gómez is an attacking midfielder but can also line up at striker and winger. He is described as a “top-class footballer” who “plays very intelligently with both feet.” compares his playing style to Karim Adeyemi, noting a similar “drive and pace” with a willingness to “sniff out openings for teammates” and be a “handful on [the] flank.”

Gómez has been a known talent for quite a few years, developing at what is perhaps American soccer’s best academy. He made the bold jump to Europe and bounced across three different clubs in four years, working his way up the pyramid. Right now, the biggest challenge is rediscovering his scoring touch and helping Eintracht Braunschweig avoid the drop, another trial by fire that could strengthen him in advance of the Olympics.