SANDY, Utah — Sebastian Velasquez knows just how big his goal was on Thursday night. Just how unexpected it was.
“I mean, when you see a kid with a rat tail who's 5-5 heading a ball into the back of the net — it's not an easy thing,” the Real Salt Lake midfielder told reporters after a 2-0 extra time victory over the LA Galaxy in the second leg of their Western Conference Semifinals series at Rio Tinto Stadium on Thursday night.
The 22-year-old Velasquez scored his first-ever goal in Major League Soccer in the 35th minute of Thursday's match against the Galaxy, bringing his team level on aggregate and setting them up for a huge win that pushed RSL through to the Western Conference Championship on a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.
“To get that goal in the first half, I think, was giant for us,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis told reporters. “I think it took a big, big monkey off our backs.”
RSL had controlled the run of play for most of the first 35 minutes of play, but couldn't break through until one of the least likely scorers on the field found himself in an unexpected position. Velasquez darted to meet a cross from the left from Chris Wingert and made no mistake with his chance, beating Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a strong nodded effort.
“I saw Wingert take a touch back and then he just crossed it,” Velazquez said. “I saw that [RSL forward] Robbie [Findley] made a run and [LA centerback] Omar [Gonzalez] went with him. I kind of like was by myself.
“I just kind of put my head into it and it went into the back of the net.”
And Rio Tinto Stadium exploded in cheers — exceeded only by the cheers that accompanied Chris Schuler's series-winning goal in the 102nd minute.
Kreis called Velasquez “an extremely hungry player that has some real gifts,” adding that he took “a major step forward tonight” as an MLS player.
For a youngster from Colombia who just had the night of his life, Velasquez was nothing but humble.
“It's a great feeling to contribute and help the team win against LA,” he said. “I wanted to get a goal, but I think the most important thing was to win.
“If I had been able to choose when to score a goal, today would have been perfect.”