COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Home debuts are always a big deal, but when you grew up about 15 miles from the stadium of the team you grew up cheering for all your life, it's a little extra special.
Colorado Rapids winger and Brighton, Colo., native Dillon Serna became just the third Homegrown Player to wear Rapids' burgundy at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Saturday night's 0-0 draw vs. the San Jose Earthquakes. Serna was subbed in at the 69th minute, and he nearly made his team a winner upon his entrance.
The 20-year-old Serna, who quickly rose up the depth chart during the preseason and started in the season opener at New York on March 15, came on for Nick LaBrocca and used his creativity and skill to transform a physical match where chances had initially been hard to come by.
“He doesn’t look at the game as far as making mistakes – he looks what he can do to pose threats to the other team,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “He’s got that naivety in life where he’s not scared. The great thing about him is he puts defenders on their feet, which opens up space for the rest of the guys in the midfield.”
For Serna, Saturday gave him the opportunity to play in front of dozens of family members and friends, but he was also able to wow the more than 12,000 other spectators on hand as well.
The Rapids’ best offensive spell came in the 10 minutes immediately after his introduction, when they earned several corners in a row and nearly scored on a string of dangerous crosses into the box. While Colorado were unable to score and slipped to a mostly frustrating goal-less draw, Serna’s creativity on the ball undoubtedly made a big difference once again – just a week after his introduction in Toronto changed the Rapids’ fortunes in a 1-0 road win.
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“I couldn’t be more excited,” Serna said. “I just had to play with confidence and play my game. It was a good performance for me, I think.”
Serna has been effective in his recent role as a super-sub (he’d missed the previous three games with a sprained ankle suffered in practice), offering a very different skill-set to what the Rapids had on the field before his introduction. With LaBrocca, Dillon Powers and Jared Watts serving as more central midfielders, Serna combined well with Vicente Sanchez to bring more width when he came on.
If Serna can continue to do so, his home debut will only be the very start of a promising career at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I don’t really change my game,” Serna said. “I was just trying to create some stuff and help us score a goal.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.