August 17, 2016
First and second impressions can go a long way, sometimes they don't
By Michael Lewis
Gonzalo Veron has gotten off to a slow start with the Red Bulls, although he has started to pick up steam recently.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
How's this for making an impact after making his Major League Soccer debut against the Montreal Impact?
Forward Omer Damari played the final 11 minutes of the Red Bulls' 3-1 home win over the Impact Saturday night.
Four minutes into his second game as a substitute against Alianza FC, the Israel international forward struck for his first goal for the club, the equalizer in a 1-1 draw in the CONCACAF Champions League in San Salvador, El Salvador Tuesday night.
The result allowed the Red Bulls (1-0-1, 4 points) to take the drivers' seat in Group F in the three-team competition, accruing an important road point. With each team playing four matches in the group stage, each point is magnified. With only two games remaining at this stage, the Red Bulls have their destiny in their hands to reach next year's knockout round.
Does a fast start portend future clutch goals and great performances?
Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no.
Let's take a look at a couple of Red Bulls who were on the other end of the spectrum when they make their MLS debuts.
In 2013, Bradley Wright-Phillips could not buy a goal when he made his debut during the regular season. He finished with all of one goals in a difficult debut season that included seven games, four start and 337 minutes. Unless you have been hiding in a cave, we all know what has transpired the past three seasons, which included a league-record tying 27 goals in 2014 and another 14 this season with 2 1/2 months remaining in the season. BWP has 59 goals (and counting) in MLS matches, setting the club goal-scoring records.
Then there's the case of Gonzalo Veron, who has struggled to get with the team's pressing system and contributing to the attack. The Argentine Designated Player has struggled to get with the program. He found the net once over two start, 13 matches and 321 games in 2015. After suffering a hamstring injury early on, Veron looks like he is getting into the swing of things with two goals over five starts, 16 appearances and 520 minutes. Veron did play well when he replacing an ailing Wright-Phillips in the controversial 2-2 draw at the LA Galaxy. He also has a goal in the CCL.
As for players getting off to a quick start, I remember way, way, way back in the day when Italian forward Piero Pratti, then 32, made his first home start with the Rochester Lancers in the original incarnation of the North American Soccer League in 1979. He connected twice in the opening five minutes in what turned into a 2-1 win. He played only five more games and tallied but once. Pratti had a pretty decent career in Italy's Serie A, connecting 72 times in 143 appearances with A.C. Milan. He also representing the Italian national side 14 times, scoring seven goals.
So, who knows?
It’s anyone’s guess.
It's hit and miss -- literally and figuratively – how a player adapts his new club and environment on and off the field.
Only time will tell if Damari can continue to be a super sub and get full match fitness to get more playing time and if Veron continues to show he is still getting with the program.