One year ago, the talk of MLS was wunderkind Freddy Adu, who had just notched his first start for D.C. United. This go around it was Nik Besagno who had his coming out party Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Satdium.
Having logged exactly zero minutes for an MLS side, Besagno wasn't 100 percent sure what he was in for, not to mention getting that first taste of action in front of 40,000 fans.
"I expected it to be faster and more physical," Besagno said when asked how it compared to other levels of play. "But, it was a lot faster and a lot more physical than I expected."
That surprise showed in the early part of the game. Besagno wasn't afraid to go after the ball, but his passes lacked the zip that they needed to make it to their destination without being intercepted. However, as the game wore on Besagno seemed to catch up with the pace of play.
"Nik did OK," RSL coach John Ellinger said, "he just needs to pick up the pace and put a little more on the ball. But, that will come with time."
And that time nearly came in the 38th minute when Andy Williams curled a nice ball into the box off a corner. Besagno took advantage of his size to get good position and put his head to the ball. With FC Dallas 'keeper Scott Garlick moving in the opposite direction, the ball nearly found the top corner of the net, but sailed just over the crossbar.
"I thought that ball was going in," said Ellinger. "Wouldn't that have been something, especially for Nik."
Besagno used his body to win position though out the game and that helped him to control the midfield, winning a lot of 50/50 balls.
"He showed that he doesn't play like a 16 year old," Ellinger said, "he plays like a man."
But it was his RSL mentor Brian Kamler who summed up Besagno's play the best.
"He did a heck of a lot better than I would have done when I was 16," Kamler said. "He just shows that the level of soccer in the U.S. youth programs is rising."
Unfortunately for Besagno, his coming out party was spoiled by FC Dallas who took a 2-0 win. While his debut may not have ended the way he would have liked, with players like Besagno and Adu carrying the torch the future of U.S. soccer looks to be in good hands.
David Hale is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.