Looking for some solace after two underwhelming losses, rookie Nick DeLeon gave United supporters something to smile about when he made his debut on Sunday night against the LA Galaxy.
Coming on in place of Chris Pontius in the 74th minute, DeLeon scored the lone goal for United, a precise curler to the far post after being played in behind the defense by Marcelo Saragosa.
“I was ready to play,” DeLeon told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “I just wanted to get that experience. The moment was finally here. I took a deep breath, and tried to focus and play hard. I was excited. “
WATCH: DeLeon curls one past Saunders
The goal, which was nominated for the AT&T MLS Goal of the Week, gave United a glimmer of hope after they had been thoroughly dominated by the Galaxy until that point in the match. But with the aplomb of a seasoned professional, DeLeon bent a shot around LA ‘keeper Josh Saunders, off the post and into the back of the net just 12 minutes into his professional debut.
“When I got that through ball, I was just thinking, ‘Do not miss,’” DeLeon said. “That was all that was going through my head. It was a great shot on my part, but a great pass by Marcelo, and just a great play overall.”
Head coach Ben Olsen, who was rather demoralized by his side’s effort overall, noted the difference that DeLeon made once he came on to the field.
“He had a good debut,” Olsen told MLSsoccer.com. “I was really impressed with the way he moved off the ball, and I thought he changed our attack. He has very good soccer instincts for a young kid.”
This young kid, however, also displayed the instincts of a hardened professional to move past the play itself, grab the ball and quickly get it back to the center circle to give United time to find a second or even a third goal.
“I’m not going to be that guy who celebrates a goal when you’re down,” DeLeon said.
DeLeon’s goal reminded some observers of Chris Pontius’ first professional goal, a curler from nearly the same exact spot on the field which came against the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center three years prior.
“I had no idea about that until this morning,” DeLeon said, “I saw something on Facebook saying that somebody noticed that, but before that, I had no idea.”