After scoring his first MLS goal in dramatic fashion, Philadelphia Union striker Brian Brown decided not to celebrate.
Instead, he stoically ran over to the sideline to thank interim manager Jim Curtin, who just moments earlier had inserted the 21-year-old Jamaican striker into the game.
“The first thing that came to my mind was to go to the bench and salute my coach for believing in me and putting me out there when we were down,” Brown said. “He had the confidence in me to get something for the team.”
Curtin’s confidence was certainly rewarded as Brown’s 71st-minute goal held up as the game-tying tally for the Union, who escaped Sporting Park with a crucial 1-1 draw against first-place Sporting Kansas City on Friday.
But the goal did not surprise the Union manager, even though Brown had only played nine total MLS minutes coming into the contest after arriving on loan from Jamaica’s Harbour View less than a month ago.
“I’m extremely happy for Brian,” Curtin said. “He’s a quiet, humble kid and for him to come in and give us a goal like that in a big spot is huge. He’s a kid that’s shown us in training every day he only needs one chance. He only needs one look. And tonight was a night he proved our team right.”
Sure enough, after coming in for Conor Casey in the 69th minute, Brown’s first touch of the game was an outlet pass to Ray Gaddis that set up the goal. The Jamaican then raced into the box, got into space, called for the ball and neatly deposited the Gaddis cross into the back of the net with a very nice header.
The goal – which came 17 minutes after Graham Zusi gave SKC a 1-0 lead following a botched Union clearance attempt – changed the momentum of the game to the point where Philly nearly scored the game-winner in stoppage time.
But Curtin was still pleased to get a point on the road and improve to 5-1-3 in all competitions as Union manager.
“They had possession for sure, we’re not gonna deny that,” Curtin said. “But I thought we were tough to play through. We were organized. Any time you get a point against a Peter Vermes-coached team, it’s special.”
And the way it happened for the Union made it even more special as a 21-year-old from the farmlands of Jamaica – whose “head was spinning” after first coming to the United States, according to Curtin – led them there in just his second MLS game.
Afterwards, the soft-spoken Brown was interviewed on national TV by the NBC Sports crew, telling them scoring is “what I was brought here to do.” And then he pledged to do more of it as his new team continues their climb up the Eastern Conference table.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Brown said. “This is what I’ve been working for. … I think this is the team for me. All I need to do is train hard and build on this.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.