With Giles Barnes peeling to his left and looking for a double to seal a big win, rookie Rob Lovejoy didn’t play like a first-year. In that situation. it would have been all too easy for him to defer to the elder statesman.
Instead the winger continued forward and placed the goal of the season so far for the Houston Dynamo into the far upper corner to open his MLS account in spectacular fashion.
“First of all Giles made a tremendous run, he peeled out towards the touchline. I thought about playing him in, he was in on goal, but I saw a defender lean towards him. So I saw that side corner and tried to put it in,” Lovejoy told the media. “Obviously, I’m on cloud nine.”
Lovejoy’s goal was the last in a clinical 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact. What it could mean for the attack going forward is much more important.
The rookie’s energy and pace helped spur two late goals for the Dynamo that turned a close, one-goal game into a no-doubt win.
“Montreal probably started the second half slightly better than us and I thought I needed to do something quickly to change it,” head coach Owen Coyle said. “That’s what we did we brought Alex Lopez on the right and Rob on the left to give us that youthful energy and the quality they’ve both got and we stretched the game.
“Every game he plays he’s in the wars. He’s got that little bit of Doberman about him, which I love, and he listens and he learns.”
Lovejoy’s goal shouldn’t surprise. The second-round 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick has impressed seemingly since he stepped off the plane in Houston. In particular, his aggression and willingness to go forward and the pace to execute were on full display on Saturday evening.
“I told him when he came in ‘Go at them. Don’t be scared. If you go one-on-one and mess up, don’t worry about it I’m behind you.’ He did that today and he got his reward,” said left back DaMarcus Beasley. “One-hundred percent that’s what we need. Teams die here in the second half and Rob’s an energy guy, he goes for what he wants. It was a beautiful goal he scored.”
The work of Lovejoy and the entire Dynamo attack, which got well-crafted goals from Barnes and Ricardo Clark before the rookie’s late finish, is a model many hoped to see in Houston when Coyle arrived.
Though they were out-possessed for the balance of the game, the youth-inspired ingenuity to go forward was a difference-maker.
“I think that’s always been his thing that’s made him a bit of a special player. He has that mentality to go forward,” said Brad Davis of his new teammate. “It’s something that we haven’t really lacked going forward; it’s been the final piece going forward that we’ve missed.”
The finish was there Saturday night.
It also sends a message, both internal and external, that Houston has young talent that can impact the game, an impact the club will need to carry forward if it wants to be successful.
“Those positions will be earned,” Coyle said. “For those players – when you’re in that starting eleven – make sure you’re doing everything in your power to stay in because we have young hungry players ready to step in.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.