It was a beautiful afternoon in March down at PPL Park, the cathedral of soccer in the Philadelphia tri-state area. Despite the weather, the product on the field wasn't up to par. The Philadelphia Union were losing 2-0, to eventual Western Conference first seed FC Dallas, and also down a man thanks to a Zack Pfeffer elbow to the face to Mauro Diaz.
As the game approached the doldrums of the second half with the match completely out of the Union's control, a man in the crowd yelled for a player who had yet to see minutes in the young MLS season. "LET THE KID PLAY!" screamed the psycho in section 130. He screamed it so loud that there was no way Manager Jim Curtin didn't hear him as he passionately suggested bringing on Eric Ayuk. That psycho was me and my wildest dreams were about to come true in the 74th minute.
Eric Ayuk is the most exciting young Union player in franchise history. The combination of his speed and balance on the ball is something the Union haven't seen on the wings since Michael Farfan's rookie season. Ayuk may not have put up statistics that scream rookie of the year, but he impressed in 1320 minutes and at his age, his two goals and two assists in MLS play offered all fans a taste of what he might mature to be.
In a season where everyone was looking at Zach Pfeffer to take the reins and make his mark as the Union's first homegrown player, Ayuk took the torch from him and took it fast. His ability to take players on 1v1 and to do so with little to no fear was exactly what the Union needed in a season where creativity lacked out wide. Not only did he impress on the field with his speed, his goal scoring back flip celebration was always the best part of a Union game.
In the arguably the best game of the season, Ayuk scored his biggest goal (maybe besides this one). During the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup, while down a man the Philadelphia Union broke on a counter attack that sent Red Bull Arena and the eventual Supporters' Shield winners New York Red Bulls into shock. The pure joy and emotion poured into the game by Ayuk, shown clearly after the goal, is evidence in itself for why the Union should keep this youngster.
Ayuk is loving his soccer here in Philadelphia and Philadelphia is loving them some Ayuk. Here's to many more backflips and many more games where that psycho in 130 screams, "LET THE KID PLAY!"