Since joining New York via a late-March trade with the Colorado Rapids, forward Andre Akpan has been waiting patiently for an opportunity to debut with the First Team. Of course, don’t mistake “waiting” for anything that comes even remotely close to “relaxing” or “taking a day off," as Akpan has worked tirelessly during training sessions, and most notably with the Red Bulls’ reserves, since joining ranks with his new team.
In two matches with the reserves, Akpan combined to score three goals in wins over Columbus and Chicago. During Saturday’s match between the Red Bulls and the Revolution, that hard work paid off.
Akpan made his Red Bulls debut Saturday evening, subbing on in place of forward Fabian Espindola in the 82nd minute. New York had just scored its third goal of the match courtesy of Thierry Henry, giving the Red Bulls a 3-1 lead over New England. But the scoring wasn’t over yet.
Seven minutes into his debut, Akpan stepped up to add the secondary assist on a Jonny Steele tally when he placed a perfect ball into the path of midfielder Eric Alexander. Alexander looked up, saw Jonny Steele flying down the wing, and fed an assist across the pitch for the one-time finish.
“I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now,” Akpan said after the match. “I’ve been dying to get on the field and finally got on. I think I made a difference. Helped out to get another goal. It was good all around. We got the win.”
It may not have been a crucial goal in New York’s comfortable win, but any goal is a good goal for the Red Bulls; a team that witnessed its fair share of bad bounces and unfortunate missed chances during the early-stages of the season. The club now finds itself in a first-place tie with FC Dallas for goals scored with 13, off a league-high 126 shots. New York is also second overall in shots on goal with 38, four behind FC Dallas' 42.
The hard work continues now for Akpan, as he aims to contribute even more in any way possible. For the time being, he’ll cherish the feeling he was able to share with Red Bull Arena’s faithful, while keeping his eyes set on the bigger picture.
“The crowd was phenomenal [Saturday],” he said. “There’s no better feeling than to cap off a game like that when you’re under pressure for a while and then you find the gaps and counter attack and finish the team off.”
New York returns to action Saturday when they head north of the border to take on Toronto FC at 2:00 PM on MSG. Following the match between the first teams, the reserves will take to the pitch at BMO Field for a 5:00 PM kick off against Toronto’s reserves.
The Red Bulls return home on Wednesday, May 8, to host the Montreal Impact in a 7:30 PM kick off at Red Bull Arena. Get your tickets now at Red Bulls Ticket Central, or by calling 877.RB.SOCCER.