- Associated Press - Thursday, March 24, 2016

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) - Herculez Gomez is returning to the place where his soccer career first took off in what may be his final stop as a professional, looking to give the slumping Seattle Sounders a boost.

“I think most would say they saw this coming,” Gomez said. “We’ve had a special relationship over the years.”

The Sounders signed the 33-year-old former U.S. national team forward Thursday, a value signing for a Seattle club that has stumbled to begin the season. Gomez had been training with Seattle for about a week and the Sounders went ahead with adding the veteran at very little cost to them.

Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said the majority of Gomez’s contract will be paid for by Toronto, who previously held Gomez’s rights before waiving him at the beginning of March. For his part, Gomez was fine with the separation from Toronto, where he appeared in seven games last season.

“The situation with Toronto was difficult,” Gomez said. “I think it was poorly managed. It put me in a situation that was unfair. I think they’re great people, but the poor mismanagement from the front office put me in a very hard spot. (Seattle) has just handed me a lifeline.”

When Gomez last found himself wearing a Sounders jersey, he was a 20-year-old prospect playing for the USL-Sounders in 2003, long before he was called up to the national team or appeared at the 2010 World Cup.

Gomez has appeared in 24 games and scored six goals for the U.S. between 2007-13 but hasn’t made an appearance for the Americans since the 2013 Gold Cup. On the club level, Gomez spent parts of six seasons playing for a variety of clubs in Liga MX in Mexico, with his most productive stint coming in two seasons at Santos Laguna, where he appeared in 45 matches and scored 13 goals.

He previously played for Los Angeles, Colorado and Kansas City in MLS before his brief stint with Toronto last season. Lagerwey stressed that Gomez was not being signed as a replacement for Obafemi Martins, who moved to a Chinese club just before the start of the season. Lagerwey said Seattle still has the ability to sign another designated player.

“He’s going to come out here and compete,” Lagerwey said. “We haven’t promised him anything.”

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Gomez’s signing was done somewhat with the future in mind and knowing that Seattle could be without strikers Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Nelson Valdez later this spring and summer during the Copa America.

While Gomez called his return to Seattle coming “full circle” he didn’t indicate if he expected this to be the final stop of his career.

“It’s not even about the money anymore,” Gomez said. “Quite honestly, I could be anywhere else and it’d be a better situation. It’s about wanting to be a part of something, wanting to be somewhere where you’re comfortable and happy. I still enjoy coming out and playing. I feel like a little kid right now. I feel like I did when I was 20 years old and I had to prove somebody wrong, hungry for an opportunity.”

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