Aaron Schoenfeld’s first start of the season came with a price — a bruised face.
Schoenfeld, a former soccer star at East Tennessee State, is in his second year with the Columbus Crew of MLS. He got his first start of the season Sunday in a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers, and it was a memorable one.
Schoenfeld was taken down and kicked in the face by Portland’s Pa-Modou Kah in the early going, leading to a red card and a penalty kick. Although Schoenfeld’s teammate Federico Higuain missed the penalty kick, Portland was forced to play with 10 men the rest of the game.
“I got kicked in the face and I’m pretty bruised up,” Schoenfeld said Monday morning. “The guy pulled me down. I got kind of upset. I had a one-on-one with the goalie. We got the PK and the red card, but I wanted to get a shot off.”
Schoenfeld, a 6-foot-4 forward who had 20 goals in 72 games for ETSU, has appeared in seven of the Crew’s 19 games this season.
He’s yet to score in an MLS game, although he’s gotten several goals in reserve-team matches.
“I’m trying to get minutes regularly,” he said. “Being a forward, I just have to score consistently and take the chances when I get them. I have to try to be sharp and link up the play. I’m doing pretty well. I think I’ve been just short of scoring a couple of goals here and there. I’m playing behind a couple of good guys. I just have to keep working.”
The Crew broke a three-game losing streak with Sunday’s victory. The team is in contention for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, and Schoenfeld is hoping to help it get back to the postseason after it didn’t qualify last year.
“Hopefully I can help the team make a playoff push,” Schoenfeld said. “I’m hoping to play some consistent minutes and make an impact.”
Columbus, one of the original franchises in MLS, won the league championship in 2008. It had the first soccer-specific stadium in the country and averages better than 14,000 people at each home game.
“I like playing here,” Schoenfeld said. “It’s a nice city and they have good fans. And it’s close to home (Knoxville) so my parents are able to come to some of the games.”
Schoenfeld came back to Johnson City to train in December. He still keeps in touch with his friends and former teammates at ETSU.
“Everyone from ETSU has always been good to me,” he said.
As he continues to try to earn more playing time, Schoenfeld reminds himself this is the life he wanted all along.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I’m getting to live out a dream. I can’t think of a better day than where the only thing I have to do is play soccer.”