VANCOUVER, B.C. — He’s the only point-a-game player of the Tom Soehn era.
No, it’s not Designated Player striker Eric Hassli, or Swiss playmaker Davide Chiumiento. Nor is it Brazilian attacker Camilo Sanvezzo. It’s actually little-used Chinese striker Long Tan, and if you knew that, you’re a serious fan.
While describing Tan as a point-a-game player may be a bit misleading, there’s no question he’s been opportunistic with his cameo appearances.
The forward picked up his first Major League Soccer point by helping Camilo bag a goal in a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on July 9. But since then, he’s found himself restricted to the bench until this past weekend’s match against the Houston Dynamo, when he came on the field for the last 15 minutes and turned the match with a wonderful play to set up Shea Salinas for the winner.
“Now that he’s getting his chances with the first team and showing what he can do, I thought he changed the game [on Saturday],” captain Jay DeMerit said. “For guys to come on and change things, that’s what subs are meant to do — they’re meant to give us a bit of a lift, and he definitely did that.”
While the lift was both needed and noticed, it’s the time in between those two first-team appearances where Tan’s character and quality has truly been on display. While some players would look at playing in the Reserve League and the Premier Development League as a step down, Tan has used those games as an opportunity to demonstrate just how deadly a finisher he can be.
“The last month, he’s been on fire, scoring goals in reserve games, scoring goals in practice and creating goals, so it’s nice the coaches gave him his chance and he definitely performed well,” Salinas said after the win over the Dynamo. “He turns different ways than most forwards — he’s a lot like Camilo — he’s tricky, feints one way, then goes another.”
“On fire” is right. Tan has scored three goals in his last three games for the reserves, including a second-half brace against the LA Galaxy reserves in a 2-2 draw on July 31. He also concluded the Premier Development League season with a brace against the Washington Crossfire on July 24 in a 3-0 win.
“You can see he’s a good young talent,” DeMerit said. “There’s a lot to come with Long Tan. Everyone can see it.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon