Summer With The City: Alex Gomez
Go behind the scenes with Utica City FC as a part of our Summer With The City Interview series!
This article covers rookie Alex Gomez, the 1st overall pick in the 2022 MASL Pro Player Combine. He is known to the UCFC fans as "Sonic" for his blue, spiky hair and lightning-fast speed on the pitch.
Describe your Pro Player Combine experience.
For me, it was personally very exciting. From the first day that I got to Texas and Mesquite. I saw the hotel, I saw the arena, everything was top quality... everybody was very kind. I really enjoyed how all the coaches from the league were incorporated into it and how we were in a very nice setting. I've been to many different combines over the past couple years but none of them were meant for indoor [soccer]. They were mostly outdoor and this one was very different. It was just a really nice experience overall from day one.
What was the impact that the combine had on preparing you for the MASL level?
I was more prepared from having played in the MASL 2 over the past two seasons. I think the closest I got to playing at the MASL level was when I played against the Wichita Wings and Muskegon Risers. They have arenas that are similar to the MASL arenas. I just had more confidence having that background going into the combine. Being at the combine, I had more reassurance that I knew what I was doing over the past couple of seasons was the right thing.
What was the draft day experience like and hearing your name called first overall?
I wish everybody could experience something like that for the first time. It was just crazy. Nobody really knows where Pingree Grove [Gomez's hometown] is. It's in the outskirts of the suburbs of Illinois. So it's funny... you're just coming from a farm town. Nobody really knows who you are... it was nice to hear where I'm from and just my name overall.
After the draft, what was that transition like to your first day with UCFC?
From the time I spoke to Tommy [Tanner] on the phone, the time I spoke to Hewerton [Moreira]... and even from the first day my roommate, Ronaldinho [Diniz] received me, he's now my best friend. Just from that get go, it was very easy for me to assimilate to the team. From my first training, everybody was so welcoming. I know Timmy [Goldman], Nate [Bordeau], Bo [Jelovac], [Darren] Toby, Joey [Tavernese], all the older guys— they helped me a lot to really, really get into the team and give me some confidence moving forward into the season. Coming into UCFC, I had already trained myself to live the life as a professional— to have my daily routine of training, waking up, resting, recovering. That part made it a lot easier for me over the course of those six months that I was there.
How did you grow as a player and a professional over the course of your rookie season?
I went out of my way get out of my comfort zone. I already knew that I was a very good player. I had that chip on my shoulder for me to want to prove myself. And I think what helped a lot was players, especially the veterans, they take them in with with open arms, but they also hold you accountable. Being treated as an equal and as an adult, you know, because when I joined I was still 19. That helped me a lot because they hold you accountable they treat you like not just like a teammate but an adult. And I think it forced me to make myself better, because we train so much and we're in so many different situations day in and day out. There's not a lot of room to mess up.
Put us in your shoes for that incredible goal vs. Baltimore.
I'll take you from from the day of— everybody's in the warmup. Coach talked to me. He's like, "hey, we have a guy, he's feeling iffy. You might go in, you might not." I'm like, "cool." In my head, I'm like, "alright, I'm going to be ready for whatever happens." The first quarter, I was just trying to get myself settled into the game. It's my first professional game and everybody is really hype. The environment's a lot more electric being on the field than when you're just watching from the outside.
I think it was second or third quarter and I get a ball from Juan [Alava]. He gives it to me and I'm able to pass it back to Andrew [Coughlin]. He puts me in and I carry it, and I take a peek over my shoulder. Lucas Roque doesn't follow me and the arena starts screaming— "ahhhhhhh!" I'm like, "oh my God, what do I do? Do I shoot? Do I pass?" I get in front of the goal and I see the open goal. I'm like, "I'm just gonna hit, hit it as hard as I can, and see what happens." Thankfully it went in and the arena went crazy! That building— we have the best fan base. There's no comparison. The fans were some of the people that helped me the most during my time there. The fact that they're super involved makes you want to put that much more into the fans and the team. I wish everybody could experience that, that one feeling in their lifetime.
What can attendees of the 2023 MASL Combine expect from Utica?
Attendees can really expect a really professional experience at the Pro Player Combine. Our facilities are the best at Utica. Everything is top quality— from the hotel across the street, the city, Tommy, all the coaches, Hewerton... the players really need to go outta their way to show the professionalism just in the way they express themselves. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. You know, go outta your way to say hi to the coaches, you know, meet all the other players, create those relationships with the other players. 'Cause at the end of the day, in this career, this is how you get farther, you know, your connections, the way you speak to other people, the way you carry yourself, they're going to say how you remember so and so or how so and so acted— not just as a player, but outside the field. And I think that's very important. Just being grateful for the opportunity. If your name doesn't get called or things don't go your way, don't be afraid to try it again. The players need to come with the right mindset. Everybody's there to compete. There's only so many spots. If you have that understanding and you work hard, you're humble, you're disciplined... there's nothing that can stop any of those players attending this year.
See the future greats of the MASL at the 2023 MASL Pro Player Combine from Thursday, October 19 through Sunday, October 22 at the Utica University Nexus Center! All Utica City FC Season Ticket Members will receive free tickets.
For more information, visit maslsoccer.com/masl-pro-combine.