The happiest guy in the Dynamo locker room on Saturday night wore No. 27.
That orange jersey belonged to Sammy Appiah, the 25-year-old rookie midfielder from Ghana and Boston University, who on Saturday scored on his MLS debut in Houston’s 3-0 win over Kansas City.
“It’s a great moment for me to score in my first game,” Appiah said. “I was just hoping to contribute to the team and that’s what I did. I thank [head coach Dominic Kinnear] for putting me in.”
When starting forward Luis Landin left the game following a knock in the 71st minute, Kinnear looked at his options on the bench. With a plethora of players unavailable and his team facing four games in 13 days, Kinnear handed Appiah his professional debut.
The rookie played well in his limited minutes, showing impressive pace against a Wizards defense that had been playing a man down for most the match. Then, just 15 minutes into his MLS career, Appiah collected a perfectly placed pass from fellow Ghanaian native Dominic Oduro, which he finished with an equally well-placed shot that caromed in off the post.
Watch: Appiah scores on his debut.
“I saw Dom wide open on the other side, and I just wanted to make sure I got to the ball first,” said the midfielder. “I was just lucky to put the ball in.”
Kinnear was clearly pleased for his rookie.
"With Luis [Landín] going down and [Brian] Mullan tired, Sammy’s been looking good at practice and working hard, and when we drafted him, we thought he was a wide player," Kinnear. "We felt it was a good game for him to get in and show some energy. He looked dangerous before [the goal]. Great first minutes for him, and he got a goal so it has to be pleasing for him.”
Appiah’s work ethic this year was noticed not only by his head coach, but also see the veteran Dynamo roster. As soon as the rookie scored, Brad Davis, Mullan and Bobby Boswell were the first to mob Appiah on the goal. The rookie has likely gone a long way to earn the respect of his veteran Dynamo teammates.
“We have good players,” defender Mike Chabala said. “You see Sammy step up today and take care of his opportunity. Good for him.”
Though he scored on his debut, that doesn’t mean Appiah will be free of rookie hazing or tasked to carry equipment and carrying bags. After the match, as Appiah was mobbed by the media, his veteran Dynamo teammates chided the rookie about being soft spoken and needing to speak up with the spotlight on him. However, Appiah took the ribbing like he has almost everything else this year—with a big smile on his face.