Santiago Echavarría had the pro debut he'd always dreamt of having, with it happening over 3,000 miles away from his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.
On Saturday, May 4, a group of family members got together in the Trianon barrio of Envigado to watch a soccer game. That’s something very popular to do on a weekend in Colombia, but this time it was different for the Echavarria Passos family. The match they did the watch party for was the first since Santiago Echavarría officially became a member of Lights FC’s roster.
After being a part of the prestigious Atletico Nacional academy for 5 years, his pursuit of becoming a professional soccer player landed him in the Fabulous City of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The 20-year old has been practicing with Lights FC for months now, but the wait for paperwork to go through the proper channels didn’t end until 8 games into the 2019 USL Championship season. The anticipation had been building since he arrived at Las Vegas, and he finally was about to receive his first chance to step onto a professional pitch during an official game.
Flashback to February 2, 2019. Santiago was already rocking Lights FC’s colors during MLS Soccer Spring Training in Cashman Field against Toronto FC, where Eric Wynalda used him as a substitute player in the second half against Toronto FC. He came in with Las Vegas ahead 2-1, his first touch was a heel pass that ended up being an assist after Edwin Rivas put the ball in the back of the net to extend Lights FC's lead to 3-1.
He has been nicknamed “Magic” back home in Medellin for a long time, and fans in the Entertainment Capital of the World quickly found out why. Less than 10 minutes after coming into Saturday’s match against
Sacramento Republic, Echavarría made Cashman Field explode by shooting the ball past goalkeeper Josh Cohen to put his team in front 3-1. There’s something about this kid and 3-1 leads, first in preseason action and now in his first game as a pro … he touches the ball for the first time, BANG! 3-1.
“All week long I visualized it. My mother told me, ‘Son, I want you to debut by scoring a goal, you have the support of God and your family’”, mom is always right folks. She was one of 14 family members that got together at her house to watch Santi’s first game as a pro, and at 11:12 p.m. (local time in Colombia) the group started jumping and screaming as Echavarría made his mother’s vision a reality, but not only for getting a goal on his first game … but also because it was on a very special date.
“It’s my mom’s birthday, this goal was for her,'' said Echavarria. “But this also goes out to the Echavarría Passos family and to all my friends who are supporting me in every part of Colombia, I know they stayed up late to watch the game and I thank God for receiving the opportunity to play and being able to help the team, which was the most important part.''
Santiago wore a tank top underneath his jersey in which he wrote in Spanish "Happy Birthday Mom" with a marker.
And his teammates were certainly filled with joy by watching Santiago make his dream come true, with every player on the gameday roster running towards him to congratulate him. “I haven’t seen an entire team do that, ever!” stated Lights FC manager Eric Wynalda. “The guys love him, he’s special”.
Medellin is over three thousand miles away from Las Vegas, but on Saturday night that distance was shortened by Santiago Echavarría, his goal and a Lights FC victory.