April 28, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Los Angeles Galaxy
SANDY, Utah - Charlie Rugg was offered a huge opportunity on Saturday evening when the LA Galaxy faced off against Real Salt Lake.
With Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan unavailable due to injury and Jose Villarreal was back in Southern California with the U-20's, Rugg was presented with his MLS debut and first career start against RSL.
Just 13 minutes into the match with LA already up 1-0, Rugg received yet another opportunity. Jack McBean cut through the RSL defense before firing a pass to right midfielder Hector Jimenez, who launched pass across the goal mouth.
When the ball fell to Rugg, the rookie forward had just one thought.
"I have to get this on goal."
And he did as he scored his first MLS goal in his league debut to seal a 2-0 victory for the LA Galaxy. With the goal, Rugg became the first LA Galaxy rookie to score in his MLS debut since McBean scored in his debut on Oct. 23, 2011.
Throughout his 71 minutes of action, Rugg was confident as he combined well up top, but he admitted that there were a few nerves as he prepared to take the field for LA.
"I was a little bit nervous, but once I got out there and got my first touch, it was just another game. I'm just trying to do my thing and it worked out," Rugg told reporters after the game. "I think I did well tactically, doing what the coaches talked about. And I was dangerous, so it worked out."
Where Rugg was particularly effective was in his ability to hold up possession and use his physicality to pressure the RSL defense. With the Galaxy on the back heel as RSL tried to push forward after going down 2-0, both Rugg and McBean were tasked with holding up possession and required to use their physical nature to pester RSL center backs Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler.
Prior to the opening whistle, Rugg received plenty of attention and words of advice from coaches and players, but LA's stand-in captain Mike Magee chose a different approach.
"I talked to Charlie - every time someone comes up onto the field, a million guys try to tell him what to do," Magee said. "I told Charlie just to 'be fast, be strong, and stay in front of the defensive backs.' He really did better than I told him."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was particularly impressed with the rookie from Boston College.
"Charlie did a good job. He kind of hit the wall a little bit in the second half, as expected, but a good first goal - a good first game," Arena told reporters following the victory. "Again, he's another player who played his first game tonight. We were really pleased that he got a goal in his first game. We can't complain about that."
With McBean stricken with a fractured left clavicle that will likely keep him off the field for an extended period, Rugg is likely to be in the contention for more minutes up top.
As for Rugg's confidence, could it be any higher?
"I couldn't expect more. I mean, what else can this do for confidence," Rugg asserted. "Just getting the start was huge, and scoring early, couldn't have been better. I'm just happy."