After scoring two goals in his Rio Tinto Stadium debut on May 1 in a 3-1 Real Salt Lake win over Sporting Kansas City, Rubio Rubin was enthralled with the fan reaction in the stadium. Still limited to roughly 50-percent capacity, the 9,842 fans in attendance gave him something to remember when they sang “Believe” after each goal.
Last week against the San Jose Earthquakes, he returned the favor with one of the most memorable goals in RSL history with a bicycle kick that won him MLS Goal of the Week honors for Week 4.
“I didn’t realize how amazing an environment it is,” Rubin said. “When we score a goal, they sing the song and that’s really special. To have a song like that after every goal is special.”
Through three games, Rubin has three goals and two assists and despite the result on Friday, a 2-1 home loss to San Jose, it was the type of inspiring moment that could drive young players to fields with visions of creating their own magic.
Omar Bravo was that player for Rubin.
Growing up watching Chivas in LigaMX, Rubin always aspired to produce his own mystic moments on the field. Seeing players like Bravo, Chicharito and Ramon Morales dazzle with their play on the field, he found an inspiration – players to mimic when he’d kick around on the playground or play in the Sunday leagues in and around Portland.
Every time he played, he was Omar Bravo. Trying the unthinkable. Creating something from nothing.
“The fans really enjoyed that and for me to be able to give that to them and for them to realize that I’m here to make moments like that happen … to make magical moments,” he said. “I don’t know how many kids were out there, but I’m sure there were a lot. Maybe a moment like that inspires them to make goals like that happen.”
The goal was a thing of beauty – a masterclass in the spatial awareness, ball control and sheer audacity to try things.
It started with a Donny Toia throw-in from the left corner. He launched his throw into the box where Damir Kreilach headed it through to Rubin, standing with his back to goal 12 yards out and just inside the near post.
“Damir headed it and the ball was coming straight to me and I was like, ‘Yeah. I’m going for it’,” he said.
In a matter of an instant, Rubin determined where to put the ball to keep it close enough to himself to execute the overhead shot, but far enough away from the approaching defender to give him enough space to take the shot. He was not only calculating the angle on his defender though. By shielding the ball towards the middle, he gave himself a better shooting angle that made the trajectory of the shot less predictable for goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski.
In that moment, Rubin relied on years of trying things on the training field and the playgrounds.
“You train your whole life for moments like that,” he said. “You have to practice to be able to do that on the field. I always try it in soccer tennis and it worked out perfectly. It felt special. It was the best goal I’ve scored in my life for sure.”
All of the training prepared him for the moment, but the moment also played out perfectly for him.
Throughout his brief time with RSL, he has earned the faith of his teammates and coaches and all the while his own confidence was growing. Coming off of a two-goal game one week earlier, that confidence was brimming.
“A lot of it was in the moment. It was the perfect situation. And I was feeling myself. Last game I had two goals and we won,” Rubin said. “It was one of those moments that was instinct moments and I went for it. It was just trusting my abilities and believing I could do it.”
After the goal, he turned towards the corner and the first thing he saw was Albert Rusnak standing in disbelief, just as the 10,448 fans in attendance were, momentarily shocked at what he just saw before being the first to wrap his arms around Rubin in celebration.
Rubin is still beaming about the goal, but a dark cloud hangs over it. Without victory to show for it, he can still enjoy the moment, but not without the overarching thought that it didn’t bring victory for RSL.
“I just want to win. I just want to continue to get wins. When you score a goal like I did on Friday and you come out and lose the game, it makes you feel gutted,” he said. “We have a big opportunity against Nashville and if I’m able to get on scoreboard or provide an assist, ultimately it’s just about winning. When we’re winning, the team is vibing. You can feel it in the locker room.”
RSL takes on Nashville SC on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first meeting between the two clubs.
If Rubin has anything to do with it, it will be a memorable one.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MT with tickets available at RSL.com/tickets or by calling 844-REAL-TIX (844-732-5849).