Herculez Gomez of the U.S. speaks to the media before attending a national soccer team practice session at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico

Herculez Gomez’s bid to get back into U.S. national team scene starts tonight in Los Angeles

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How convenient for U.S. international striker Herculez Gomez that his bid to regain status with the United States national team begins just down the road from Jurgen Klinsmann’s place in Southern California.

Gomez, who was in South Africa with the 2010 U.S. World Cup team, is fit and ready once again for Club Tijuana. The team is just into its preseason ahead of the 2014 Clausura, and the initial preseason contest is tonight at the StubHub Center against Club America.

That also happens to be the national team’s training ground, where Klinsmann will gather his team in less than two weeks for the annual January camp. More on Gomez’s bid and the Xolos is here from Scott French, including some revealing quotes on where things went sideways in fall rehab for the veteran striker.

Here’s the issue for Gomez, who looked like a strong candidate to make the World Cup team as recently as last April. Back then he had a starting spot for the two matches that righted the U.S. World Cup qualification efforts, the snowy-white win over Costa Rica and the telling draw in Mexico City. Now some of the numbers are working against him.

If we just look at the men who will play at striker, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are shoe-ins (assuming good health). Eddie Johnson scored big goals for the team last year, taking full advantage of his opportunities, some of which were down to Gomez’s injury absence. He’s in a good spot.

And now Aron Johannsson has shown how good he can be. His performances for AZ keep impressing – although this potential move to Celtic could prove fateful. This young man has a big upside.

(MORE: Would a Celtic transfer for Johannsson be a good idea?)  

Four outright strikers is about all the 23-man roster can handle. Gomez did play wide in the system when last seen as a starter, but that was before Landon Donovan returned to good graces. Donovan, although roughly the same age, is faster and more versatile than Gomez. Plus … well, he’s Landon Donovan, a.k.a. the best player this country has ever produced.

Either way, all Gomez can do is the very best he can do. Klinsmann likes him, and with good reason: he’s a likeable guy, and that counts for something in the final estimation. Klinsmann talks a bunch about “givers and takers,” so Gomez is in good shape if he can create an “all things being equal” situation with talent and production.

By the way, Klinsmann will be at the StubHub Center tonight. Gomez’s chance to gain some ground begins right there.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.