New Mexico United's Alex Waggoner made the most of his first USL Championship start on Saturday as the 18-year-old bagged his first goal of his senior career. | Photo courtesy Brandino / New Mexico United
It’s the stuff as a young soccer player you might dream about.
Your first start in the professional ranks, for the club representing your home state, in front of a wall of fans and sound reacting to your every move.
And when the opening presents itself, your first professional goal.
Welcome to the USL Championship, Alex Waggoner. We’ve been expecting you.
“It all happened so fast, and I couldn't believe it went in,” he said after scoring the opening goal in New Mexico United’s 2-1 victory against Monterey Bay F.C. on Saturday night at Isotopes Park. “I checked the other side to see if I was offside, and I wasn’t. So, I just ran to the fans. I didn’t really know what to do. I was running like a headless chicken. But yeah, it felt amazing. The surge of scoring a goal and in front of those fans. Amazing.”
Waggoner’s ascent from his hometown Taos has been documented on this site before, but it’s hard to imagine more of a goalscorer’s finish for the 18-year-old’s first in the league. After a great piece of control by Amando Moreno to bring down a looping cross in the left side of the penalty area, Waggoner saw the El Salvador international create space to shoot, and did what any good striker would.
“Ever since I was little, I was told to just follow whenever somebody shoots,” said Waggoner. “So, from there, it’s just instinct and just try to get a toe to the ball and then see one into the back of the net.”
There’s likely more opportunity to come for Waggoner, and more to learn. His awareness in the penalty area, though, is giving United another potential weapon to find success this season.
Here are some other young standouts who stood out to us this weekend…
- Nighte Pickering, Memphis 901 FC – Handed his first league start of the season, the 18-year-old U.S. youth international put in a strong shift, providing the assist on Luiz Fernando’s opening goal, completing 11 of 12 passes and drawing praise from 901 FC Head Coach Stephen Glass.
- Christopher Garcia, El Paso Locomotive FC – The El Paso native had one shot after coming on as a second-half substitute and made it count. His late game-winner lifted Locomotive FC to a fifth consecutive league win.
- Matthew Corcoran, Birmingham Legion FC – How about a 25-yard stunner for your first professional goal? Corcoran and Legion FC couldn’t find a result in Pittsburgh, but that strike was world class.
- Rida Zouhir, San Antonio FC – It’s always good to make an immediate impact, and the 19-year-old picked up a late assist after coming on with 14 minutes to go in San Antonio’s rout of Charleston in his debut on loan from Club de Foot Montreal.
- Elijah Wynder, Louisville City FC – The elder Wynder brother made positive impact after coming on at halftime against Miami FC, connecting on 15 of 17 passes that included being part of the build-up to Brian Ownby’s game-winner.
- Ben Norris, Orange County SC – Congratulations to the 16-year-old on his professional debut late in OCSC’s contest with Oakland. Hopefully the first of many.