Another American player has begun his European journey, embarking on what should be a long and successful career. After signing in the fall, Jonathan Gómez joined Real Sociedad, initially placed with the club’s reserve team. The 18-year-old dual-national is an intriguing and experienced professional in the fourth year of his career, a dynamic wide-player brimming with potential.
Born in North Richland Hills, Texas, Gómez left Solar Soccer Club at 13 years old to join the vaunted FC Dallas academy. His brother, Johan, was with the organization and is currently at FSV Zwickau after a stint at Porto. Initially a winger, the club began deploying him as a fullback. In 2019, he was promoted to the reserves, North Texas SC, but there was “no clear development path into the first team,” in his opinion.
After signing an amateur contract, the 15-year-old made eight appearances in USL League One. Gómez registered two assists in a 3-1 victory over Lansing Ignite. He started and played 90 minutes in the playoff final as North Texas defeated Greenville Triumph SC. Big D Soccer praised his “ability to create danger with his passing and ball-carrying,” while being an “ace crosser.” Splitting time with the academy, U.S. Soccer named him to the Best XI for the Central Conference.
What a run and assist by Jonathan Gomez to help set up Kyle Greig with the goal #USMNT pic.twitter.com/g9uZGKFWtl— USMNT Otaku (@USMNTOtaku) July 3, 2021
Gómez departed the FC Dallas organization, signing a professional deal with Louisville City FC due to the club aligning better with his goals. “It was definitely a hard decision to leave Dallas,” he told Goal last year. “I guess what really went through my head was that I needed to really determine if I wanted to play in Europe one day and whether that was sooner rather than later. If I had stayed in Dallas, it might have been a few more years before I was able to make the jump. Obviously, with me growing up there, I was going to have to leave what really was a place I called home, and kind of start over.”
Gómez joined Louisville following “a multi-week training stint in Europe where he was evaluated by international clubs.” In his first season, he waited through the COVID-19 delay before making ten appearances. The rotational starter completed “81.3% of his passes during an efficient campaign.” That winter, the 17-year-old reportedly trained with FC Midtjylland, Freiburg, Sporting, Werder Bremen, and Porto.
The next year, he was entrenched as a starter from the opener. In 26 matches, the fullback registered an impressive two goals and ten assists. His progress was reportedly being tracked by Manchester City, PSV Eindhoven, and Borussia Dortmund. The USL Championship named him Young Player of the Year and to the All-League First Team.
A long time coming for @jonathang_42. pic.twitter.com/JrT1hmbf86— Louisville City FC (@loucityfc) June 20, 2021
In September of last year, Gómez signed a contract with Real Sociedad through June of 2025, turning down an overture to return to FC Dallas. The club reportedly paid a mere $100,000 due to a clause that was triggered after former manager John Hackworth departed, although there is said to be a 10% sell-on clause. “I’m honored to take this next step in my career,” the fullback said. “I visited a few other clubs, and Real Sociedad stood out when I was able to see the training grounds and stadium as well as meet the staff. I think my game – my technical, tactical and physical abilities – fits well into their system.”
After being registered last month, the two-time La Liga champions assigned him to the reserve team in the second-tier Segunda División, managed by Xabi Alonso. Sociedad is looking for him to “finish his development process,” eventually becoming “an important player in the future.” He made the match-day squad for a recent fixture against Las Palmas but remained an unused substitute.
At the international level, Gómez is the subject of an ongoing tug-of-war between Mexico and the United States, representing both nations at various youth levels, including in futsal. El Tri brought him in for training during last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals, serving as a member of the scout team that would “pose as the [opponent].” Gregg Berhalter named the fullback to the provisional roster for the subsequent Gold Cup.
Take a look again at this Jonathan Gomez ! #SCTop10 #NikeFriendlies pic.twitter.com/61sCHpCteM— U.S. Soccer YNT (@USYNT) November 14, 2019
He accepted a USMNT call-up in December, appearing in the friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Gómez entered in the 84th minute and made an immediate impact. After challenging for a header and winning possession, his shot rebounded to Cole Bassett, who converted for the game-winning goal. Berhalter was impressed by his performance and praised his “terrific mindset, [resilience], and character,” while noting that the left back “could be ready to make an impact now.”
Mexico remains confident that he will re-join the program, but there is no rush for a permanent decision. “This is a good opportunity to see how things are here, train and collect as much information as possible for when you have to make a decision that probably won’t be soon,” Gómez said during December camp. “It is an honor to represent two countries. That both are interested in me playing with them, I don’t take the questions badly at all. It doesn’t bother me. When I make a decision, it will stop there.”
Gómez is a fullback noted for his speed and fitness, a player that “has all the tools.” He is able to dominate from the flank, dodging and weaving past opponents before cutting inside for a shot or finding a teammate with a pass. His left foot has been described as “like a wand” with the ability to “whip balls in and make [stopping them] super hard for the other team.” Individual defending and “body feints” are considered an area for growth, along with determining when to give the attacker more space or play tighter.
A goal in back to back games for (17)Jonathan Gomez! He's on the USMNT provisional roster for the Gold Cup...pic.twitter.com/j7SeXr7S1j— USMNT Universe (@UsmntU) June 26, 2021
“I’m an offensive-minded fullback, but that doesn’t mean I don’t play defense,” he shared on his brother’s podcast, ChumChat, co-hosted by fellow U.S. international Tanner Tessmann. “I balance it well, when to go forward and when to defend. I keep a level head most of the time. I have a good first touch and I think I’m a technical player. I strike the ball well and I run a lot, like I can run for days, which is a good quality to have as a fullback.”
Gómez’s attributes are obvious from the most casual of observations. Off the field, he has left his comfort zone several times: departing home at a young age to join Louisville and heading abroad to Sociedad. His performances have earned the hype, but the current challenge is adjusting to a new environment and working his way into first-team minutes. Both Mexico and the USMNT are willing to wait for his commitment, with both nations’ fans hoping the young fullback can provide a boost to the program.