COLUMBUS, Ohio – Had Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers known what a fantastic story Revolution rookie Zak Boggs was weaving on Saturday night at Crew Stadium, perhaps he would’ve thought twice about scoring the game-winning goal in stoppage time to lift the Crew to a 3-2 victory.
Then again, maybe not.
Boggs scored the first two goals of his professional career in his first MLS start, capitalizing on a deflected strike in the 29th minute before expertly finishing off a fantastic buildup 11 minutes later. He came inches from nabbing a hat trick – and matching the feat accomplished by fellow rookie Zack Schilawski just weeks ago – but his 79th-minute drive sailed just high of the upper right corner.
“He’s done fantastic,” said head coach Steve Nicol after Boggs’ two-goal performance. “His second goal was a finish anyone would be proud of, I don’t care what league you’re playing in. The first one he got a bit lucky, but the second one was a great move, a great goal. And he nearly got his hat trick at the end from a great shot that just drifted right. He had a great performance tonight, and if he continues to put in shots like that, he’ll be fantastic for a long time.”
Boggs’ performance would’ve been a career highlight no matter where he’d done it, but the fact that he did it in Columbus – just two hours from his hometown of Vienna, W. Va. – made it extra special. Much of his immediate family was in attendance, as was a group of more than 40 people brought to the match by his high school soccer coach.
The only one who couldn’t make it to Crew Stadium on Saturday night? His mother.
“(The day before) Mother’s Day – go figure,” Boggs quipped.
He did manage to get a hold of her by phone a few hours before kickoff to let her know that he’d be starting, but Boggs wasn’t positive she’d been able to get a television.
“I told my mom – she couldn’t be here – I said, ‘You should probably get to a TV somewhere,’” he said. “She’s like, ‘I’m in the sticks! I don’t have a TV!’ So I don’t know if she saw it or not.”
The 23-year-old South Florida graduate was a relative unknown when the Revs drafted him in the second round (31st overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. After Saturday night’s two-goal haul, he’ll quickly find that he’ll now be recognized around the league as an offensive threat.
Central midfielder Pat Phelan – who earned an assist on the second goal – admitted that Boggs wasn’t the likeliest of goal scorers when the game kicked off. But just the same, Phelan said he could care less where the goals come from, so long as they hit the back of the net.
“I think Zak surprised everyone with those goals, except himself,” he joked. “That’s what we needed. We needed a spark from somewhere. We don’t have a consistent goal scorer right now, so we’ll take them where we can get them. It sure kept us in the game tonight.”
It took a bit of good fortune for Boggs to open his professional account in the 29th minute – his 25-yard shot took a deflection before Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer let it slip through his hands – but the effort simply proved that putting shots on target leads to good things.
There was no fortune needed for the second goal, however, as Boggs helped set up his own fantastic finish by beginning a flowing passing move in the 40th minute. Boggs laid a short pass off to Phelan, who quickly fed the ball in to Kheli Dube at the top of the box. With his first touch, Dube slipped the ball across the box to Boggs, who placed a low shot inside the left post from 15 yards out.
“Boggs made a good run from the side and he gave the ball to Pat,” Dube said. “I saw that he kept on running, so I had to get him through and he was wide open.”
Boggs nearly completed the hat trick in the 79th minute, but his rasping drive from outside the box missed tagging the upper right corner by inches. It would’ve been just the fourth rookie hat trick in MLS history, and remarkably it would’ve been the third by a member of the Revs, as both Schilawski and Pat Noonan accomplished the feat while wearing the Revolution jersey.
Yet, Boggs claims that the idea of a hat trick never crossed his mind. Instead, after the game he chose to focus on the positives as the Revs look to move forward from the heartbreaking loss.
“I look at the positives,” Boggs said. “One game at a time. We look ahead and take what we built on in this game, because it was obviously better than the last game (a 4-0 loss to Chivas USA). So I think we just take that and go forward.”