COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the Columbus Crew announced that the team had acquired USMNT youth product Romain Gall, Gregg Berhalter made it clear that the speedy playmaker was a project and wouldn't be a main contributor for the Crew in 2014.
But in his first 30 seconds of game action as a substitute in Columbus's 3-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, Gall showed exactly why his new coach is excited to have him.
Seconds after entering the game, Gall intercepted a pass, danced around a defender, shrugged off a challenge, blew past another orange shirt and found Aaron Schoenfeld to start the Crew break. Were Schoenfeld not offside, it would have been a huge Crew chance, one generated by Gall's very first MLS touch.
"My first touch, I just saw what I had to do on the field and just eliminated players and tried to move up the field and was unlucky with the offside call, but it is what it is," he said.
Gall said it was a weight off of his shoulders to have an immediate impact.
"It did feel good," Gall said after the match. "To have some positive touches early in the game is always a positive thing."
After the win, Gall got the full Frankie Hejduk treatment as the full-time Crew hype man took the youngster to the Nordecke to high five fans and witness his first Crew ovation. Gall said he wasn't quite used to the crowd.
"It's an amazing experience; to have them welcome me like this is a blessing, and I'm happy to fight for them and hopefully keep winning," he said. "Definitely [haven't experienced] as big of a crowd. It's definitely a unique crowd, and I'm just happy to have them cheering for me, it's a blessing."
- Get the latest Columbus news at TheCrew.com
Berhalter said he wasn't surprised to see the run from Gall, and that he hopes to see more even though the 19-year-old still has some work left to do.
"I’m happy for him," Berhalter said. "I think it was a great game to make his first appearance. His first run was electrifying, and that’s the guy that we see. He’s going to take a while to get developed and fully there but that’s what we expect from him."
Gall knows he has the work ahead as well but was happy with his debut.
"Especially with a win and when the team is playing well, it's always easier to make a debut," he said. "I'm just blessed that it turned out this way. I couldn't have pictured it any better."