Josh Perez has been one of the brightest prospects in American soccer since he was a young teenager.
Signed by Los Angeles Football Club a year ago from Italian side Fiorentina, the Southern California native has had to wait for his turn to play in LAFC’s vaunted lineup, but the versatile player has gotten some run this year.
On Wednesday, his true breakthrough finally came.
It was Perez’s first career MLS goal, in his 11th league appearance of the season and 13th of his career. Truthfully, before he hit this one, which was a sweet strike, there was a growing apprehension that maybe Perez would never score — he has had a hatful of chances this year and was finding new and creative ways to not score.
But that mounting frustration was palpable for Perez, too, as his celebration was wild and full of emotion, and the pure joy he displayed postgame was evident for finally notching that first goal.
“Definitely a special moment. I’ve been waiting a very long time for this to happen, for this to come,” Perez told reporters with a big smile after the 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. “I mean, my teammates tell me all the time to score, I have to score one way or another, so it’s just a moment that I won’t forget. My family’s here, supporting me all the time. It’s just a special feeling, for sure.”
While LAFC’s attack has been diverse in terms of scoring options, head coach Bob Bradley explained that he’s been aiming to expand the pool of contributors further, and Perez aided his cause to be in the mix moving forward, as in addition to his goal the youngster helped set up Diego Rossi’s opener on the night.
“It was also a night to get Josh on the field and Diego and Josh on each side from the start, I think that caused trouble. Obviously Josh was on a very aggressive move inside that led to the shot and then the rebound from Diego, that part was good to see. Brian Rodriguez is going to give us another option to be able to play those ways, so those are good things,” he said.
Perez is from a soccer family, his father and grandfather played professionally in El Salvador, and his uncle Hugo was also a professional who made 73 appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Josh himself has had expectations on him from a young age, part of the same cohort as Christian Pulisic and at one point considered a better prospect than the Chelsea midfielder.
At just 21, there’s plenty of time to develop his game yet, but Perez put together a performance on Wednesday that showed some end product with the hard work and silky touches, and perhaps that first goal is just the breakthrough he was looking for to help him push on to the next phase of his career.
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