[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]The last American teams exited in the quarterfinal stage when the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders both were eliminated, but the Concacaf Champions League final between Santos and defending champion Monterrey has an American element. No American has ever been has a run abroad like Herculez Gomez has had with 11 goals in his last eight games for Santos and at least one goal in every game since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Gomez was kept out of Santos' Mexican league game over the weekend and has hasn't played a league game in more than three weeks, but he is expected to start in Wednesday's first leg in Monterrey.
A Concacaf title would be the confirmation of Santos as one of Mexico's strongest clubs and reward the fans of Torreon for their loyalty in the face of violence from the drug war between Sinaloa and Zeta cartels that has hit northern Mexico. Few residents dare to venture out at night, and bars and nightclubs have shut down.
''It'd be really nice to give these people something to be proud of, for Torreon to be put on the global scale for something other than negativity or violence,'' Gomez told AP. ''They live, they eat, they breath this team out here.''
Gomez joined Santos in January from Estudiantes Tecos and played only 59 minutes in Santos' first seven games before coming off the bench to score the lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Guadalajara in Week 8.
The next week he was inserted in the starting lineup and scored again, beginning a streak of 10 goals in seven starts.
Herculez Gomez Streak
G DATE-GAME (SCORE)
1 Feb. 26-Guadalajara-Santos (2-1)
1 March 3-Santos-San Luis (5-1)
1 March 7-Seattle Sounders-Santos (2-1)
2 March 10-Santos-Pueblo (3-1)
2 March 14-Santos-Seattle Sounders (6-1)
1 March 24-Santos-Queretaro (2-0)
1 March 28-Toronto FC-Santos (1-1)
2 April 4-Santos-Toronto FC (6-2)
''I was definitely worried coming in,'' Gomez told AP. ''You fear what you don't know. I'd heard great things about the club, that they were a top-notch club, very professional; very new-age as far as Mexican soccer goes. I came and that's exactly what I saw.''
It has won three league titles since making its debut at the top level of Mexican soccer in 1988-89 when it bought its way into the Primera Division by purchasing the Puebla club.
Santos is owned by the Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, which purchased the team in 1991, and is one of the best run clubs in Mexico. Its Territorio Santos Modelo complex is one of the best soccer facilities in the country.
A Concacaf title would be Santos' first regional crown and earn it a berth in the 2012 Club World Cup.