The elation within the walls of Rio Tinto Stadium poured out from a sell-out crowd as Real Salt Lake took to the field for the first time this season. Fans sat on the edge of their seats filled with anticipation, but perhaps none more than a small group seated in the southwest corner with the name Rubio scrawled across their backs.
As the game inched closer to the start and the players took their positions, RSL forward Rubio Rubin glanced up into the stands and for the first time in his eight-year career he was greeted by the faces of his family, none of whom have ever had the pleasure of watching him play professionally in person.
“I got goosebumps! My wife and I even started crying, it was very special,” Rubin’s father Ruvio Rubin shared.
When Rubin first signed a professional contract at the age of 18, he was halfway around the world in the Netherlands with FC Utrecht. He was in an unfamiliar city in a far-off continent, all alone. Since then he has journeyed to play in Norway, Denmark and Mexico all of which presented difficulties in the family’s ability to travel and watch him play.
Last season he found his way back in the States, but despite being just a day’s drive away from his hometown of Beaverton, Oregon the forward debuted for San Diego Loyal without the support of his family in the stands due to the state’s pandemic restrictions in place.
At just 25 years old Rubin has appeared in 111 professional matches, but 52 minutes into the match on Saturday, the young forward broke off away from his teammates towards the southwest corner of the stadium, hands in the air, pointing up at his family as the group in the stands celebrated their son in person for the very first time.
Since joining RSL earlier this year Rubin has cemented himself in the team’s attack. In the first match of the season Rubio contributed two assists on the team’s way to victory over Minnesota United.
And against Sporting Kansas City, he received a cross from Damir Kreilach, hitting the ball through the legs of goalkeeper John Pulskamp to take the lead in the home opener for his first goal in an RSL uniform.
“I am very proud of him, I have always told him that goals make a striker, so my wife and I are very proud,” Rubin’s father said.
25 minutes later he did it again.
With daring determination Rubin cut back and forth multiple times, at the top of the box, tripping up the opposing players in his wake before tucking the ball in the bottom right corner with ease. Once again he made his way over towards where he family sat, this time pointing at the name on the back of his jersey.
“The goal celebration was one I’ve done since I was little, something for my parents.,” Rubin said. “Whenever I would score a goal, I would do a celebration like that featuring Omar Bravo and Chicharito who’ve actually done it before. That would be my celebration trying to copy those kinds of players and I just decided to do that to my parents because I know that they have seen that before.”
Moments later he exited the pitch as Douglas Martniez came on as his substitution. The forward walked off slowly, hands clapped together as all in the stadium stood and cheered.
It was an emotional moment.
The voyage Rubin has been on since becoming a professional has been long and winding, and there were doubts about his ability to succeed once again at the top level, but as he stepped off the pitch with his family in the crowd, the sentiment set in. After the match, when he greeted his family in the stadium, those emotions all came washing back as he took photos and spoke with his family.
“My family was always behind me, they believed in me and this was such a special moment to be able to come out with the win and score a couple of goals,” Rubio said. “I’m so happy to be part of this team and to be given this opportunity from the front office and the coaches that believed in me. I’m just very happy at the moment.”