It was fitting that Omir Fernandez's first professional goal of his career came in Mexico. The 20-year-old Red Bulls Academy product slotted home the opening goal in Leg 2 against Club Santos Laguna just four minutes into the match.
“I don’t know if you could tell by my celebration, but I couldn’t believe it,” Fernandez said. “It was something that happened so quick, I didn’t even realize what was going on. But it was like a dream come true to me. It was so exciting. A great moment in my life.”
Fernandez grew up watching Liga MX matches with his family, who immigrated from Mexico before he was born. The Bronx native is the youngest goal scorer in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League competition, so far.
Fernandez left Wake Forest University and signed a Homegrown contract with the Red Bulls in January.
The Academy product made the jump from college to the first team, without a stop off at the USL level, and he's quickly integrated into the MLS side, logging 144 MLS minutes this season. He started the first match of the year and played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw at Columbus.
He's been able to adapt quickly to the team's tactics, since he's played the same style of soccer with the team since he joined Red Bulls Academy at 14 years old.
“I understand the philosophy of counter-pressing and pressing when you don’t have the ball and attacking quickly,” Fernandez said. “Obviously, it wasn’t something new to me. Being a part of the academy, this is my home. It wasn’t me going to a strange place and trying to pick up new things. It was just at a different level, doing the same things I’ve been doing.”
After his first goal in the loss to Santos, Fernandez was able to call his family back home in New York City.
“I called my dad, and he was up, and he was telling me my mom started crying with my sister," Fernandez said. "All my family back in Mexico were watching the game. He was just so excited."
Notching his first professional goal in Mexico could set the tone for his season -- and his career with the Red Bulls
“To know that I’m able to perform as well in those kinds of big games, that gives me confidence, but also motivates me,” Fernandez said. “There’s a lot of competition on his team, a lot of great players, and you just want to be able to compete with them.”