It was a long wait for fans and David Ochoa himself, but the 21-year-old Mexican international finally made his return to MLS action on Tuesday, debuting for D.C. United against LAFC.
The match didn’t play out the way the Black-and-Red would’ve hoped for—a second caution given to Steven Birnbaum reduced D.C. United to ten men early in the second half—but Ochoa’s performance was positive in the eyes of head coach Wayne Rooney.
“I thought he did well,” Rooney said after the match. “Some big saves, some important saves and it was his first game for a long time, so I thought he did really well.”
When asked about his assessment following the match, Ochoa told reporters, “To travel across the country and play the best team in the league on paper, I thought we held our own and defended really well. Unfortunate about the red card, but I thought we were doing good, and hopefully it’s the start of something good that Rooney’s building here.”
D.C. United acquired Ochoa from Real Salt Lake through the end of the 2022 season with the prospect of extending his contract for the 2023 season.
He made his professional debut for the Real Monarchs at 17, leading them to the 2019 USL Championship title, and earning the starting role with Real Salt Lake during the 2021 season. Prior to joining D.C. United in late July, he had not made an appearance during the 2022 MLS season.
He has quickly emerged as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world, earning national team caps for the U.S. at the U16, U18, U20, and senior ranks. Ochoa, who also holds Mexican citizenship through his parents, declared his decision to represent the Mexican national team earlier this year.
When it comes to making your debut for a new club and a new coach, there’s always pressure. Doing so away against one of the best teams in the league only adds to that. But Ochoa found comfort in playing just an hour south of his hometown in Oxnard, California.
“Obviously, I was a little shaky going into it, a little nervous,” he said after the match. “But once the whistle blew, the adrenaline took over and it just felt automatic almost. It’s something I’ve done my whole life.”
With his international allegiance sorted and now a fresh start at D.C., Ochoa hopes to continue making a name for himself in Major League Soccer. Tuesday’s performance was a strong start, one that he’ll look to build on as D.C. United enters the final stretch of the 2022 season.
Ochoa’s performance on Tuesday made a strong impression to start his D.C. United career, one he will hope to build on in the final stretch of the season.
“It’s not easy obviously with a new coach and trying to adapt to a system, but I think it’s positive what happened [in LA], and I think going forward, we’re going to keep learning and growing and then get better results.”