Long Tan has made himself a fan favourite in his brief cameo appearances to date for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. On Wednesday night, he sealed that status with a goal and a proclamation:
“A Chinese guy can play [in] MLS,” Tan said after getting his first goal in league play.
His goal, which came shortly after the halftime break, made history in a 2-1 win over D.C. United, as Major League Soccer’s first-ever Chinese-born player became its first ever Chinese goalscorer.
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“He’s put a lot of work into the last two games and I was really happy for him,” head coach Tom Soehn told MLSsoccer.com following the win at BC Place. “You could see the excitement in his eyes when he scored.
“He’s earned it and he’s given us a lot of life out there and competes hard,” Soehn continued. “He’s slowly increased his minutes for that and he put a lot of work into it, so you could see he got tired at about the 60th minute, but I’m happy for him that he got the goal.”
Tan’s quiet ways and work ethic in training and reserve matches have made him a popular figure in the dressing room, and his goal was clearly enjoyed as much by his teammates, as the goalscorer himself.
“It’s great that he could reward himself,” Joe Cannon said. “He’s had such a good year - it’s tough when you have such great guys like Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento, and Camilo in front of you. He’s worked hard all year long and kept at it in reserve games, it’s great to see.”
The victory brought Whitecaps FC off the league basement, as they leapfrogged New England Revolution to step up into 17th place overall.
“Mentally, for the club, for everyone, it’s something you don’t really talk about, but it’s great that we’re [off the bottom of the table],” Cannon said. “Obviously, we have two more games and anything can happen, so let’s try to keep moving up and start something special for next year for this club.”
“It means a lot,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “We said that coming in, that if we win tonight, we’re not the last place team in the league. Nobody wants to be that either, but of course, that will matter most at the end of the season.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon