Making his first career MLS start, No. 1 SuperDraft pick Omar Salgado may have just given head coach Teitur Thordarson more to think about.
Quiet for most of the match, in the blink of an eye Salgado showed why Vancouver’s coaching staff is so high on him, snapping a header into the back of the net to score his first MLS goal in a 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew.
“That [goal] means a lot, especially for him,” Thordarson said. “That’s his first MLS start and he scored a fantastic goal, but he also played very well.”
That was the second time in recent weeks that Salgado has proven his pure striking ability. In Vancouver’s reserve match against Chivas USA two weeks ago, the lanky 17-year-old demonstrated great patience to finish on a breakaway. That killer instinct is precisely the reason why the Whitecaps took him first overall.
The 17-year-old was in line for more playing time with Atiba Harris out with a knee injury, and he showed that he deserved it on Saturday. Without big striker Eric Hassli, the ‘Caps knew that they were going to be in for a tough match against the Crew.
“Coach talked to us before the game and told us that we weren’t going to have much possession in the first half,” Salgado said. “He said we’re going to have to defend and not get scored on and be patient.”
That strategy looked good after 45 minutes of play as the teams went into the break knotted at 0-0. However, things fell apart for Thordarson’s men early in the second half when a pair of mistakes led to a 2-0 lead for Columbus.
“It was frustrating since they hardly had a chance on goal the first 45 minutes.” Thordarson said. “We made two mistakes and that changes the whole thing.”
With the match looking like it could get ugly for Vancouver, Salgado’s ignited the visitors, and for the first time the ‘Caps resembled the attacking team that fans have been accustomed to watching at home. The young prospect was very active in the latter stages of the game and nearly tallied a second goal to level the match shortly after his first, but was denied by Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer.
His energy was a welcome addition to a Whitecaps team that has yet to gain a point away from the friendly confines of Empire Field.
“He did a lot of good things and maybe should have scored more goals,” said Thordarson of Salgado. “I think he did extremely well.”
Hassli will most likely return to a starting role next match, as his ability to hold the ball in the attacking end has been sorely missed in his absence. However, Salgado’s performance may make Thordarson think extra hard about whether to stick with Hassli and Camilo up front or go with the hot hand and give his young No. 1 pick another start.