When striker Eduardo Sebrango started playing again for the Montreal Impact after coming out of retirement during the summer of 2011, a familiar refrain around Stade Saputo was, “Hey, look! It’s our 38-year-old rookie!”
A year later Sebrango will wear the "rookie" tag again — very loosely — as he suits up for Montreal in MLS, his first season in North America's top flight 14 years after defecting from Cuba.
Against long odds, Sebrango convinced head coach Jesse Marsch with his performances in preseason that he was deserving of an MLS contract. And when he plays in his first MLS game, he’ll become the fourth oldest player to make his MLS debut, joining an elite group that includes Faryd Mondragón, Kasey Keller and Lothar Matthäus.
“It makes me really proud to be able to go out there and compete with the younger guys,” Sebrango told MLSsoccer.com over the phone from Orlando, Fla. “I feel very good at the moment, and I want to do my best, get ready for the new season and prove my worth.”
Chances are Sebrango will come off the bench at some point during the Impact’s three month stint at the Olympic Stadium, their temporary home while Stade Saputo undergoes renovations.
It's not an unfamiliar home, however. The moment Sebrango’s boot hits the turf, Montreal supporters will flash back to Feb. 25, 2009, and a 2-0 win over Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League (the Impact lost 5-4 on aggregate a week later). Sebrango wrote himself into Montreal sporting lore that day, scoring a brace in front of a wild, giddy crowd.
Whether Sebrango will again score two memorable goals on his MLS debut is another matter, but the Cuban forward still holds that game close to his heart.
“It was a truly special night for me, for the club, for the city of Montreal, for everyone,” Sebrango said. “I’m still very grateful for the support and the affection I’ve felt since that night.”
Still a fan favorite, speculation was rife with each passing day that Sebrango would sign a MLS contract with Montreal during the preseason. However the veteran striker admits to still being shocked when he was told about the contract offer.
That being said, Sebrango recognizes Marsch has been very supportive of him since the beginning. His new coach, he says, already told him before the offer was on the table how happy and impressed he was with his on-field efforts.
As the oldest player of the Montreal Impact, Sebrango also has off-field responsibilities. He is seen by many as friendly, easy to get along with and especially helpful when giving advice to younger teammates.
But make no mistake about it; he’s not just along for the ride. He wants to play.
“My objective?" Sebrango said. “It’s to work hard in training and force my name onto the team sheet.”