Carbondale's own Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal made a big impression on the soccer world over the weekend during MLS' Sporting Kansas City's 4-1 win over Minnesota United FC.
The 19-year-old midfielder made his first appearance with Sporting KC last week when he was subbed on late in the second half in Sporting's 0-0 draw against Columbus Crew SC. He made the bench again Sunday night and was called upon to replace Yohan Croizet in the 18th minute. Seventeen minutes later, he scored his first goal.
"It was unbelievable," Kuzain said after the match. "I just wanted to make an impact positively in the game, and I did."
Kuzain's impact was certainly positive as his goal ended up being the game-winner, and spurred on a 10-minute onslaught that saw a Cristian Lobato goal and an Ilie shot that rang off the crossbar. He hardly put a foot wrong in his "emergency shift," completing 31 of 32 passes and registering four ball recoveries.
The goal ended up a product of something that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes had been preaching all year: Get runners into the box.
"All season, Peter has been saying, 'If there's space, get in the box. We want runners in the box,'" Kuzain said. "I saw [Graham] Zusi get down the line, and Daniel [Salloi] make a run, and just wanted to sit at the top of the box in case anything came there. It did, I got some decent contact, and it went in."
Kuzain didn't think he would end up with a goal in only his second appearance.
"I haven't even scored for Swope Park yet," he said. "To get it for the first team feels good. Hopefully it keeps coming."
The Carbondale native had appeared in 21 matches, logging a little over 1,500 minutes for Swope Park Rangers, Sporting KC's USL squad, over the past two seasons.
Born to Malaysian parents in Carbondale, Kuzain spent several years with the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club before joining the Sporting Kansas City Academy in August 2016.
He signed an Academy contract with the Rangers later that month, allowing him to play for both SPR and the Academy while retaining his amateur status.