When Jorge Gomez Sanchez came to the U.S. for the first time in the fall of 2015, it was with professional soccer in mind. Seventeen months and 27 collegiate goals later, the native of Talavera de la Reina, Spain, is on the cusp of making that dream a reality.
The 21-year-old is one of 74 players in Carson, California, this week participating in the 2017 adidas MLS Player Combine ahead of Friday’s SuperDraft.
“When I came to Temple I knew I was coming to study but I also wanted to get a professional contract and I knew that MLS was expanding and I saw an opportunity here,” Gomez Sanchez said in a phone interview from his hotel in California.
Gomez Sanchez grew up about 70 miles southwest of Madrid in Talavera de la Reina. He left home when he was 16 to join the youth academy at Club Atlético Osasuna and worked his way up to the first team with a six-month training stint and a La Liga appearance in a 2-1 win over Elche in September 2013.
But a professional contract never materialized and when Temple head coach David MacWilliams offered Gomez Sanchez a scholarship after seeing him play in Spain, a chance to continue playing at a high level opened up.
His impact was felt immediately in Ambler when he scored the lone goal in an opening weekend win over Manhattan on the road and went on to find the back of the net in seven of his first nine games.
“Jorge’s a guy who scores goals,” MacWilliams said, noting that he’s strongest as a No. 9 or No. 10 but can also play out wide. “He feels his role is to score every game.”
More than half of the Owls’ 20 wins over the past two seasons came courtesy of his 13 game-winning strikes and it was his name on the score sheet for exactly half of the team’s total goals.
“He’s very very good at running off the ball,” MacWilliams said. “He’s very clever in the box and finishes well. He’s got a great left foot but is good with his right foot too.”
With a year of eligibility remaining and a semester left to finish his economics degree, Gomez Sanchez had a chance to return to Temple for another season but opted to accept the invite to the Combine.
“I’m excited because I know many scouts didn’t go to watch me at Temple and I think I can show many things,” he said.
It didn’t take long for him to do just that in the first game of the Combine on Sunday. Late in the match, he made a darting run from his wide position, collected a perfectly weighted ball from Portland’s Eddie Sanchez and blasted home a left-footed shot after absorbing contact from a defender.
How things will pan out and where he’ll end up in the draft is difficult to predict, but he has been listed as high as 18 by NBC Sports and as low as 41 by SBI in mock drafts, while Top Drawer Soccer ranked him 28th in their latest big board. He was one of the two picks we selected in SB Nation’s Mock Draft.
One team familiar with the Spaniard is the Philadelphia Union, where he’s trained on a couple occasions. The recent signing of English forward Jay Simpson though means the Union don’t currently have room for an international player.
“If I had to choose I would like to go to the Philadelphia Union but I know they have the thirty-third pick,” Gomez Sanchez said. “I like how they train, I like the players; I think I could fit in there.”
Wherever he ends up going, he’s poised to become the first player from Temple’s program to be a SuperDraft pick and just the third to be drafted out of the program in the MLS era. Midfielder Tony Donatelli was selected 32nd in the supplemental draft in 2006 and goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan went 30th in the supplemental draft a year earlier.
Former Temple defender Robbie Sagel, who transferred to Penn State after two seasons playing for MacWilliams, is also at the Combine. The Owls’ own star center back, Carlos Moros Gracia, was a notable snub.
“One thing that hurts him is obviously his size because he’s not 6-2,” MacWilliams said of his first-team all-conference defender. “I think it’s a shame. He’s a tenacious defender, tackles, doesn’t get beat one-on-one, wins balls in the air and is very composed.”
MacWilliams credits Moros Gracia, who is from Sagunto, Spain, and Gomez Sanchez with changing the culture in the program.
“It’s going to be tough to replace those two guys,” he said. “They train hard, play with injuries and are so competitive.”