Epps did that and then some, firing off eight shots — one shy of a single-game franchise record — and netting his first MLS goal in what was only his second professional start, a 3-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC.
“He just wanted me to be confident and go at guys,” Epps told MLSsoccer.com. “If I get stopped once or twice or nine times, it doesn’t matter. Just keep going because the 10th when you get free can be a goal opportunity for the team. He told me that advice and I tried to take it. And he was right.”
Epps was certainly active all night before icing the game in the 81st minute, putting the Union up 3-0 when he got to the back post and blasted home a header from CJ Sapong.
Epps then soaked in the moment, celebrating with teammates and dancing in front of the Sons of Ben.
“It was wonderful,” said Epps, who was moved from the right wing to the left, which Curtin said allowed him to cut inside onto his right foot. “To get the goal was amazing and then to be surrounded by so much love and support from the fans and my teammates, it was a great environment. It means so much more that it was at Talen Energy in front of our fans and the Sons of Ben.”
For much of the 2017 season, it seemed unlikely Epps would have that kind of moment this year. Buried on the depth chart behind wingers Chris Pontius,Fafa Picault, Ilsinho and Fabian Herbers, Epps didn’t log a single minute through the first 12 games of the season.
But with Picault and Herbers injured and Pontius with the US national team at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the rookie out of the University of South Florida has been called upon to start the last two games, both against Columbus. And he’s gone over 80 minutes in both outings.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said. “It’s been great. Just to be able to step up for the team with Chris serving with the national team and Fafa injured, it’s been a great experience. And I’m happy to help.”
With the Gold Cup over and Picault likely to return soon, Epps probably won’t start too many more games the rest of the way. But given his performance this week, he’ll almost certainly be deployed off the bench as a late-game weapon as the Union look to make a playoff push.
And he won’t forget the night he scored his first professional goal.
“As a kid, you dream of becoming a pro, and then to get your first goal, to put a stamp on it, it makes it real that you’re at that next stage of your life,” he said. “And to do it in a win makes it even better. I’m very, very happy.”