It took all of six minutes for Charleston Battery striker Mamadou Diouf to make his mark in his professional debut.
Diouf, a second-round pick of the Vancouver Whitecaps back in January, scored just minutes after entering the game in the second half, but the Battery had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the club's season opener against Orlando City on Saturday night before a crowd of 3,373 at Blackbaud Stadium.
Diouf, the 30th overall pick in Major League Soccer's 2014 SuperDraft, said he wasn't nervous when he stepped onto the field at Blackbaud Stadium.
After all, this was a moment he'd been preparing for his entire life.
"I had plenty of confidence going into the game," Diouf said. "This was no big deal to me. It's just another game. I know you have to be ready every time you go on the field. In college or pro, it doesn't matter. The game is still the same."
The former University of Connecticut star wasted little time having an impact in his first professional game. Getting a pass from Omar Salgado, a former No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the Whitecaps, Diouf showed some fancy footwork stepping past an Orlando defender just outside the 18-yard box. The Dakar, Senegal, native took a stride and then blasted a shot past Orlando City keeper Miguel Gallardo-Aparicio for the score in the 65th minute.
"What a great individual effort by Mamadou," said Charleston Battery coach Mike Anhaueser. "He made a great move on their defender to get past him just outside the box and then what a finish. It was a bomb. No keeper is going to stop a shot like that. You can see why Vancouver is so high on Mamadou. He has that little extra bit of technical skill when he gets a scoring chance."
The only downside for Diouf and the Battery was that Orlando City's Austin da Luz tied the game at 1-1 10 minutes later.
"I think everyone is disappointed we didn't get all three points," Diouf said. "When you get a lead, you need to hold onto it and we didn't do that. Orlando is a very good team, a very big team and physical. They are one of the best teams I've ever played against, but I would have liked the three points."
Orlando won the USL Pro Division last year and has announced they'll move up to the MLS next season. While Anhaeuser was disappointed with giving up a late lead, he was encouraged by the team's performance against the defending champions.
"I think it was a fair result," Anheauser said. "We had some chances in the first half that maybe we should have scored on and they probably had the better run of play in the second half. They are a very talented team, a tough team to play against, so getting a point I think is definitely something we can build on. We play them two more times and I know those games will be just as tough."
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