Commerce City, Colo. (October 5, 2011) - As Davy Armstrong walked over to the 4th official to enter the Champions League game against Isidro Metapan last week, team trainer Jamie Rojas called him over for one final instruction. Rojas told Armstrong to take his warm-up bib off.
"It was my first time going in to a first-team game, so a million different things were going through my head," the 19-year-old Armstrong told ColoradoRapids.com this week. "Like being calm, composed, and the right things to do on the field. And then I ran up there with my pinny on. I didn't even notice how high my shorts were tucked over my shirt until I got on the field."
In August 2010, Armstrong became the first former Rapids Academy player to sign with the professional team. He made his professional debut at Estadio Calero Juarez in El Salvador on September 28, 2011, replacing rookie Eddie Ababio in the 62nd minute with Rapids leading 2-1. Assistant coach Steve Guppy, who was coaching the team that night, chose Armstrong as his first substitute ahead of regulars Omar Cummings and Mac Kandji.
"I thought Omar and Mac would for sure get in before me, and if I did go in that I would go in for five minutes or so just to kill time," Armstrong said. "So it was a surprise when he (Guppy) told me to get up and get ready."
It was only the second time that Armstrong was named to the 18-man day of game roster, and the first since being an unused sub in the team’s U.S. Open Cup play-in game loss to Chicago in March.
"Omar and Mac are fabulous players, but just at that moment, I thought Davy was the right choice," Guppy said. "I said to him a few weeks ago that if I had the chance of getting him on, I wouldn't be afraid to do it, because I've seen a big improvement in him.”
Guppy’s instructions to the young mifielder were simply telling him what he was looking for to close out the final 30 minutes.
"(I told him) Do what you've been doing in training, don't worry about making mistakes, don't judge yourself, just go out and try hard and be a team player," Guppy recalls. "I think if you give players too many instructions, you confuse them. I just wanted his enthusiasm, his passion, and his effort at that moment in the game and that's exactly what we got."
Armstrong said his prayer while waiting to come on and then helped the Rapids extend their lead as the team won 3-1 and moved into second place in Group B with one game to go.
“It was a good 35-40 minutes,” Armstrong said. “It was a blessing, what I've been working for my whole life, and it was finally there. I'm glad I made the most of it.”
Guppy, who was discovered by scouts as a late teenager while playing on a club team with friends before beginning a long career that saw him capped with England, was happy to give Armstrong his opportunity.
“Ultimately, if we all look back through our careers, we always had someone give us a chance at some point,” Guppy said. “It was up to us to take it, and I thought Davy took it in Metapan.”
For Armstrong, it was a night to remember.
“It was a dream come true,” he said. “It was everything I could have asked for. It's been a long season, and we've been grinding it out, and to finally be rewarded feels awesome.”