Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It only took a few moments to see why Romain Gall has generated so much interest as a top young American midfielder.
Gall made his professional debut with the Columbus Crew last Saturday in a 3-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo. Just 17 seconds after entering the field as an 88th minute substitute for Justin Meram, Gall gave the Crew Stadium crowd a glimpse of his speed and talent, nearly putting the Crew through on the counterattack.
“When he first came on, it was like ‘wow.’,” Meram said of Gall. “He just exploded. He’s very talented and he’s going to be great player going forward.”
The 19-year-old midfielder began his move when he controlled a bad pass from the Dynamo’s Ricardo Clark in his defensive third of the field. Within seconds, Gall used two touches to get past Clark, showed off his strength on the ball by powering past Dynamo substitute Jason Johnson on the far sideline, and then rounding a flat-footed David Horst with another two deft touches towards the middle of the field.
“I just play as I see it and I had to eliminate those players, so that’s how I went,” Gall told SBI following the match.
Gall next played a through ball down the left sideline towards fellow teammate Aaron Schoenfeld, though the pass was ruled offside, ending the attacking move. The French-American wasn’t able to do much in the rest of his limited minutes on the field, but the spark of raw ability on that play was enough for head coach Gregg Berhalter to use if he ever needed to defend the signing.
“I’m happy for him,” Berhalter said following the match. “It was a great game to make a debut in, his first run was electrifying, that’s the guy that we see. He’s going to take a while to get developed and get fully there but that’s what we expect from him.”
Gall’s appearance on the bench was surprising, in that he only signed with the club on Aug. 7 and started training the following week. There was also no warning ahead of the match from Berhalter that he would be giving Gall a shot to play.
At his age, Gall is certainly a player for the future, and in training he’s getting to learn from a star in his own right in Federico Higuain.
“Just watching those guys play, you can always learn,” Gall said. “Whether its just looking at their movement off the ball or touches with the ball, you can always learn from those kind of players.”
The U-20 USMNT midfielder came to the Crew from Lorient FC in France, but his appearance for the Crew wasn’t just a club debut, but also his professional debut, and one that he’ll surely never forget.
“Honestly it’s just an unbelievable moment,” Gall said. “Its just a thing you dream about as a kid. I was just happy to be able to make my debut. Especially on a 3-0 win, we’re up and the team is playing well, I can’t imagine a better debut than that.”