Over the course of two legs in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, D.C. United did not have much luck against Queretaro F.C. Whether it was Tiago Volpi standing on his head in the first leg and then saving Chris Rolfe's penalty in the second leg, or the woodwork denying Steve Birnbaum and Taylor Kemp in Mexico, United seemed destined to finish their CCL adventure without a goal as the game wound down last night.
But Julian Buescher, United's first round draft pick in January's MLS SuperDraft, gave United fans something to smile about by swerving a shot in from 30 yards out. The apparently unbeatable Volpi was finally beaten by something truly special from the young German in his home debut. Just in case you haven't seen the goal, check it out here on our site. In addition, click here to see Deadspin give love to United's rookie.
The Black-and-Red had to address the center midfield position during the offseason after Perry Kitchen's departure and Davy Arnaud's apparently impending retirement. Buescher was selected 11th overall in the SuperDraft, after two successful years with the Syracuse Orange. Though United added several other players to play centrally - Marcelo Sarvas via trade, Luciano Acosta on loan, and Paul Clowes about an hour or so after Buescher on draft day - and are currently using former wide man Nick DeLeon in the middle, Buescher has seen playing time in the team's first two games, giving United two solid 15 minute shifts each time.
"What I try to do is get in as many minutes as possible. I'm a young guy, so I have to learn still, work everyday, and keep my head down," Buescher told reporters after yesterday's draw. "It has worked so far, and I'll go from there. The goal doesn't make a difference, it just makes me happy and gives me confidence."
In the first game, Buescher was brought on with 15 minutes left to spell Acosta, who had tired as the game progressed in Mexico. Buescher brought a spark of energy on the field, but was responsible for not recognizing Sinha on the ball late on, allowing the midfielder to pick out a pass for Edgar Benitez's goal.
By the time he entered last night, the series was well out of reach for United. Angel Sepulveda's 4th minute goal meant United needed to find four goals of their own to advance. When Buescher entered in the 76th minute, the Black-and-Red hadn't scored, with Volpi denying Rolfe from the spot early on in the second half as well as robbing Sarvas before that.
So there was little on the line when Buescher collected a pass from Fabian Espindola in the Queretaro half, and made his way towards the middle of the field. The visitors preferred to stand off of him, and Buescher - with no hesitation - smacked a shot from distance that swerved in off of the post, scoring his first professional goal with his first professional shot.
"Ben [Olsen] told me in practice that I have to shoot everyday. He tells me shoot, shoot, shoot," Buescher said of his manager's instructions. "I guess I can shoot pretty well. It worked out today. I saw a free space, I had my shot, and it went in."
The goal in the 84th minute meant very little in terms of sparking a comeback, as it was clear at that point in the game that United wouldn't get the requisite four goals to move on to the Champions League quarterfinals. But for the rookie looking to earn more playing time as United starts the MLS season this weekend, moments like that can help him find the field more.
"I'm just learning. How good I am? I don't know. That's the crucial part," Buescher added. "I'm just learning from the other guys. I got lucky with the goal today, but it makes me feel a bit confident for the future for sure."
Losing for the second consecutive year at this stage of the competition, United were understandably disappointed after the game last night. Having created enough opportunities to get past their Mexican counterparts, there was a feeling that it was an opportunity missed to go on and challenge for the cup. Nonetheless, there was considerable excitement for Buescher's goal, and what he might bring to the team in the future.
"It was great," said Birnbaum of Buescher's goal. "He's got a cannon on him. I've seen it a couple of times in practice, but it was nice to see it in a game."
Olsen, likewise, was full of praise for the German born midfielder.
"I'm happy for Julian. The kid can play. He's fearless. I'm happy he got his goal."