Peguy Luyindula had some great and important moments with the New York Red Bulls. But his first goal for the club wasn't one of them. July 13, 2013: Montreal Impact is visiting the Arena; RBNY gets a penalty kick in the 87th minute of a 3-0 game for a 4-0 win.
A gimme goal in a game that was already won: forgettable, but for the fact that goal was very important to Peguy and to his career as a Red Bull.
Peguy's career prior to arriving at RBNY was impressive, if stilted: he won three consecutive Ligue 1 titles with Lyon from 2002 to 2004, then flipped out to Marseille, where it was hoped he might be the club's replacement for Didier Drogba. He wasn't able to fill those shoes, moved around on loan for a while, and finally landed at another big French club: Paris Saint-Germain.
Things did not go well in Paris: the team was nearly relegated in Peguy's first full season. He stuck with the club until 2013, but he was never the reliable scorer he had been for Lyon, Marseille, and even Auxerre (on loan - all told, Luyindula had double-digit goals in Ligue for four consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2006).
He fell so far out of favor in Paris, however, he played just one competitive match in his last two seasons with PSG. Still, he arrived at RBNY as a player who had scored 99 goals in 403 league appearances in France’s top two divisions. And he had won league and cup titles and a small number (six) of international caps for France. Frozen out at PSG or not, when he came to MLS we expected him to score goals.
But he didn’t score. In his first 11 appearances he didn’t score any goals for the Red Bulls. He seemed like another bust, another struggling Red Bull, another over-the-hill signing.
Indeed, if all you do is scan his Wikipedia page, you might think he was absolutely a bust for RBNY: just nine goals in two years. But if you followed the team in that time, you know he wasn't.
He wasn’t a bust for one reason: Thierry Henry didn’t let it happen. The man that played with Peguy on youth national teams, the same man that convinced him to terminate his PSG contract and sign with the Red Bulls, would not let his friend flop. So when Jeb Brovsky clipped Lloyd Sam and the referee pointed to the spot, Henry - not the team's regular penalty-taker, but the captain and the player everyone on the field turned to if there as uncertainty over who was taking a set piece - pointed to Peguy. Titi gave his friend a chance to get the monkey off his back, and exorcise his MLS demons.
Watch the relief on Peguy's face. His long embrace with Henry. His diligent high-fiving of his teammates. Then finally watch him walk over to the South Ward and thank the fans. He thanks them for their patience.
We all thought Peggy would repay us with goals after that. But that was Peggy’s only goal that season. Instead, he settled down to setting them up. As a playmaker, he made his more memorable contribution to RBNY history: down 1-0 against Chicago, Peggy had a hat trick of assists, winning not only the game for the Red Bulls but also the Supporters' Shield.
And when he did score goals, he made them count. In 2014, he broke the curse at Gillette. And most importantly, he sealed our first play-off victory against DC. But without the gesture of his old friend, Thierry - that crucial invitation to get his name on the scoresheet and settle himself with his new team - perhaps those moments never happen.
It is crazy to think that that single goal could have changed history. But how long would Petke and the fans have waited if Peguy didn’t score against Montreal? Would he have been given the time and opportunity to find himself as the team’s number 10? Would we still have won the Supporters' Shield? Thankfully, we’ll never know. Because all I do know is Peguy slotted the penalty and the Red Bulls went on the win the Shield.