The first. Number one. Omar Salgado has been stalked by the lowest cardinal number in the infinite sequence of numbers since he was born. The eldest child of the Salgado family was born on September 10, 1993, and kick-started the next generation of his family. As with all eldest and first born, you have placed on you an unspoken responsibility/debt to do great things. In 2011, the 18-year-old was the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft. This sent him up north to Vancouver after a successful youth career in Guadalajara with the highly esteemed Liga MX club, Chivas. His high school years were cut short, spending merely one month at Cathedral High. Since his birth, he has been the first in many things.
In 2018, El Paso was chosen to be the next round of clubs entering the USL Championship. A few months later, El Paso’s very own Omar Salgado was the team’s first signed player. While we had yet to name a head coach, choose a badge, or hire a large portion of the front office; Omar was first. “The pressure has been there for a while,” the 6-foot four midfielder tells me. “The fans, from day one, expected me to score every game,” he chuckles.
That immense pressure isn’t something that fans or even staff see, let alone feel. From the moment he put his John Hancock on his contract, the glory of his first goal and the expectation was cemented. Predictions across the internet flooded feeds and timelines; “Salgado is scoring the first goal, no doubts about it.” Rehash that with a sprinkling of your own words and speech pattern and you get the message. From that day forward, the first player of a nameless team had the bar set as high as his stature. As every minute in each match passed, there was a palpable sense of “Here it comes. This one. It’s going to happen.” You could feel that Salgado’s first was coming. But, as in every great story, you need a bit of drama.
Ten matches in and Salgado looked as dangerous as a rattlesnake preparing to unleash its fury, yet, the midfielder hadn’t opened his scoring account. The 11th match would prove different; something poetic about the 1-1 in the number eleven. Portland Timbers 2 took the lead late in the first half after being awarded a penalty that Logan Ketterer initially saved but that rebounded into traffic off the deflection. In the waning moments of the half, it happened in cinematic fashion. After receiving a pass at the top of the box, the left-footed attacker cut to the right to create space off the defender and let a shot rip with his right foot into the bottom corner of the net. His lone goal would keep El Paso’s six-game unbeaten streak alive.
“You know, the first emotion I felt after seeing the ball go into the back of the net was relief. Just a monkey off my back kind of thing,” said Salgado. “I have just been trying to take things one step and day at a time. Like I said, there was always that pressure gnawing at me, but I knew that I just had to keep going and playing Mark’s game plan and that the results would follow.” Trusting in your coach and trusting in the process has carried the young attacker around the world in his pursuit of the next. His next goal, his next achievement, and his next time stepping onto the pitch in a Locomotive kit.
This weekend, El Paso returns to the misty Pacific Northwest to face a Tacoma Defiance squad who have tied their last three matches. The question floating around the Twittersphere is “Will Salgado find the back of the net again in this match?” Tune in at 9 p.m. MT and catch all the action and to get the answer to your question.