At long last, Femi Hollinger-Janzen has scored his first professional goal. The New England Revolution forward added the insurance tally in Saturday night's 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire, ensuring the home side kicks off its three-game stand at Gillette Stadium on the right foot.
Picked in the third round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Femi has emerged as a super sub for the Revs, and he shined in that capacity against the Fire. Coming on in relief of Diego Fagundez, the Indiana University product capped off a sterling performance when he headed home a lofted cross from Juan Agudelo in the 84th minute.
Femi, who previously caused an own goal in a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on April 27, was somewhat lost for words when trying to encapsulate his strike.
"Words can’t describe how happy I was after it went in the back of the net," Femi said. "Great ball by Juan there, just setting me up for the finish, and it’s great to come out of here with three points and [we’ve] just got to keep it going."
Way back in preseason, the 22-year-old was considered a long shot by many to even make New England's roster. Jordan McCrary and Michael Gamble were both selected ahead of him in the SuperDraft, but it's Femi who has most seized his chance.
Always a tireless runner and willing passer of the ball, the Benin native finally got his reward against Chicago. Mindful of those qualities, head coach Jay Heaps was not surprised by Femi's breakthrough.
"Well, I thought Femi went in and instantly gave us an energy," Heaps said. "He brought a presence. He’s been very close to that goal a few times and I was real excited to get him in there, and then for him to finish. He just had an energy about him all week and I thought he was going to get a goal tonight, and that’s why we put him in."
Merely one facet of a jam-packed offense, minutes won't come easily for Femi down the road. When back to full health, both Charlie Davies and Teal Bunbury will be champing at the bit to see the pitch more often, not to mention the presumed starting role of the newly acquired Kei Kamara.
Instead of wilting at the competition, Femi welcomes it, particularly noting how Kamara's presence helps his own game reach its fullest potential.
"Oh, it’s awesome," Femi said. "Guys kind of suck to [Kei], so it gives me a little more space to do things with the ball. So, you know, it’s really fun."
Perhaps lost in the excitement of Femi's goal was that it essentially put any hopes of a Fire comeback to bed. Throughout 2016, the Revs have often tallied, only to let teams linger and secure a draw.
However, Femi fulfilled his role with aplomb, icing a game in which the Revs desperately needed three points. Time will tell if Femi's hot streak continues when the Revs host FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders in the coming weeks, but the rookie's importance is undoubtedly amplifying.
"We’ve definitely been working on finishing lately to try to get a couple more goals ahead of teams, and tonight when I went in there, that’s what I tried to do and was able to do it tonight," Femi said. "So I definitely want to keep it going to the next games here."