[MLS]The limitations of the MLS Reserve Division have prompted some teams to send players out on season-long loans, and in the case of Red Bull goalkeeper Danny Cepero, that small investment paid off boxcars. He scored the first goalkeeper's goal in league history and played a solid all-around game in a 3-1 defeat of Columbus Saturday that preserved New York's playoff hopes with one round of games to go.
Click HERE for video of Cepero's goal against Columbus.
In the 83rd minute with his team leading, 2-1, he thumped a towering free kick from well in his own half of the field and didn't really get a good look at what happened next at the other end.
"I had no idea," said Cepero, 23. "I just put it in the general area with no intention of scoring and kind of hit it somewhere where my teammates could do something with it. I didn't even know it went in until I had to ask Kevin [Goldthwaite] and be like, 'Uh, did that go in?' and he said, 'Yeah.' I go, 'Do I get credit for that?' and he says, 'Absolutely.' It wasn't until right then."
The ball bounced on the edge of the penalty area and easily cleared the awkward lunge of stunned and deeply embarrassed goalie Andy Gruenebaum to punctuate a courageous Red Bull performance.
Cepero, who played 18 games on loan to USL-2 Harrisburg and returned to the Red Bulls in late August, got the starting nod over recently signed Terry Boss once news came down from the league that starting goalie Jon Conwayand defender Jeff Parke had been suspended 10 games for testing positive of a banned substance, androstatriendione (ATD).
"We believed he'd be in a more competitive environment and have more game decisions to have to make in that competitive environment than he would in reserve games," said Red Bulls sporting director Jeff Agoos of Cepero prior to his spectacular debut. "I think it paid dividends. He's developed over the course of the year and we'll continue to look at him."
Other teams may be looking at him, too, and not strictly because he lofted an amazing 80-yard goal, give or take a few feet. In first-half stoppage time, he leaped acrobatically to tip an Ezra Hendrickson header over the bar, then punched away the ensuing corner kick. After scoring his goal he got down quickly to corral a hard, low shot from Emmanuel Ekpo to snuff out any faint hopes of a late Crew comeback.
Cepero, whose hometown is Baldwin, N.Y., played college ball for Penn and trained last January with PSV Eindhoven. He recorded six shutouts and a 1.00 goals-allowed average at Harrisburg, and also played two MLS reserve games. By the time he returned from the loan stint, the backup slot had been vacated by the trade of Zach Thornton to Chivas USA. Before being suspended, Conway had played every minute this season.
"Young players need to play games," said Red Bull goalkeeping coach Des McAleenan, who had scuttled unfounded rumors of a three-goalkeeper tryout by naming Cepero the starter. "They're simply not going to get better. They could have the best coaching in the world, best facilities, but if they're not playing it means nothing."