Saturday’s victory for Columbus Crew SC over Orlando City provided incredible moments for fans and players alike. A frustrating game saw the Black & Gold trailing 2-1 in the second half. Reviewing his options, head coach Gregg Berhalter looked down his bench to call upon two of his newest players, Patrick Mullins and rookie Edward Opoku.
Both players played with each other just last summer. Opoku occasionally trained with D.C. United to maintain fitness and prepare for his upcoming season at the University of Virginia. Mullins had been through this routine before, but for Opoku this moment was special.
The 32nd overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft prepared to make his league debut as a professional soccer player, a feat he once dreamt of growing up in an impoverished area of Ghana. To check into an MLS game for the first time with Mullins, whom he got to know well in those training sessions with United, made it even better.
“I said to him after the game, ‘Who would have thought we would play in a game together? Getting a dramatic 3-2 win like this’” Opoku told Massive Report.
“It was amazing. To be able to come into a game where you are losing 2-1 and to have such a dramatic end to the game, that’s what every player dreams of making their debut in. I will never forget that game because of how it was. It was just amazing.”
Opoku entered the game in less than ideal conditions. With his team down and the physicality on the pitch amping up, a lesser player would fold under pressure. The rookie flourished and did not take the opportunity for granted. He added speed and pace along the wing, and put the Lions defense under constant strain.
The first-year player managed the pressure of the situation like a professional. Following captain Wil Trapp’s impressive game-winner in second half stoppage time, a scuffle broke out between the two teams. After checking on his teammate Artur, who was involved in the initial foul, Opoku gave fans in attendance another memorable moment by juggling the ball on his head.
“I saw everyone pushing and shoving each other,” Opoku recalled. “I thought ‘Why not take the ball and do something?’ The fans come in to see great action, I might as well give them a show.”
After the match the rookie checked social media and realized that the moment gone viral, spawning appreciation posts and fans trying to mimic the moment.
“I went on social media and it just blew up,” he said.
In support of @edward_opoku I want to start the #BeHappy challenge. Post a picture of you or someone else balancing a ball like this. Be creative, in fun places, outfits, & ideas and tag it #BeHappy.#SaveTheCrew #CrewSC #CrewBee pic.twitter.com/kQIs8RaNET— ⚽ CrewBee ⚽ (@CrewBeeHappy) July 22, 2018
With the memories of his professional debut behind him, Opoku looks ahead to the future and what may be in store. Professional sports can be cruel and nothing is guaranteed, but don’t tell that to this rookie. He is determined to improve each day.
While his playing time has been limited, the attitude and desire to do well is something that is infectious, and it may not be long until fans see Opoku back on the pitch for Crew SC.
“It’s to see the team do well,” he said of his goals. “Just be able to help the team as much as I can.”