|photo by Matt Kremkau
What just happened at Red Bull Arena on Thursday night? Why is the number 16 so important? How is this possible to call up a kid that has the talent to come off the bench and all of a sudden announce his presence to take a chance to score a goal and win the match, well for the third time in this club's history as either the MetroStars or the New York Red Bulls, there is magic in those football boots from the club's academy.
Serge Ngoma from North Plainfield, New Jersey was brought into the match in the 69th minute for Omir Fernandez and sought his opportunity in the 89th minute as he stole the ball off the foot of Atlanta United defender Alex De John. Like a kid possessed Ngoma went towards the net catching Goalkeeper Rios Novo off his line and smashed the ball short side to earn the full three points and put the club into a three-way tie on 29 points with both Montreal & Philadelphia.
What an amazing surprise and fantastic way to announce yourself to the home supporters and the entire league, as Ngoma showed why he is one of the next rising stars within the New York Red Bulls from the Academy to the USL Championship side, to finally making it to the first team in Major League Soccer.
"It's really a blessing to be able to be in this position at 16 years old and be able to score my first time playing in the arena and have my family there. My dad who trained me since day one. My mom, who's the best mother in the world, and my sister as well, best sister in the world. To have them here to share that moment with me was amazing.
But we remember past players who also got started with this club as a 16-year-old superstar and have done some special things as well. We can't forget the first one as Eddie Gaven subbed into the Hate DC rivalry week back in 2003 as a goalkeeper sub to push Tim Howard as a field payer by then Head Coach Bob Bradley using the goalkeeper sub at that time.
Not only did Gaven get to play in the extra period, but he also scored the game-winning goal to beat DC United at RFK stadium. Many to this day still call it the "Cheating Bob" game as the announcers on ESPN and many were not happy about Bradley using that goalkeeper sub-rule as an unfair advantage, but it got the job done.
Three years later at Giants Stadium, we saw another 16-year-old phenom grace the plastic pitch at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands, as Jozy Altidore made his debut as a substitute against the Columbus Crew. It was a scoreless lackadaisical affair as the Red Bulls couldn't do anything to muster a scoring chance until Altidore decided to take advantage and attack the net.
J.P. DellaCamera was the MSG Network announcer with Shep Messing in the booth and called the goal that was a big commercial for the Red Bulls games in the future and when Jozy got to that ball, he smashed a high riser past the keeper and exploded into celebration. Of course, we all know the career Altidore has had in MLS, Abroad, and on the US Men's National Team.
While I won't get ahead of myself with what Ngoma did in this match against Atlanta United and predict that he will be a superstar in the making, what I can say is that he showed determination and savvy to put himself into a fantastic position and drove himself into a winning moment by scoring his first Major League Soccer goal and earning the full three points. Welcome to the 16-year-old sensational club kid.