Taylor Washington has waited a long time for his first goal in Major League Soccer.
Now 29, Washington was drafted by the Philadelphia Union in 2016, but never played in an MLS match. Washington signed for Nashville SC in December 2017, among the first handful of professional players to sign with the club.
Quickly a fixture for Nashville, he made 67 appearances in the two seasons before Nashville debuted in MLS, and was one of the four players Nashville brought with them from the USL side. Now, entering the club’s fourth MLS season, he’s the only one left.
“I’m super grateful. Super humbled as well,” he told reporters on Saturday night. “To continue to be a part of Nashville SC is one of the biggest dreams of my life.”
Washington has been in the matchday squad for all but six of Nashville’s 104 games since 2020. On Saturday night, his consistency was rewarded. He scored his first MLS goal, thundering home a volley after a crafty run at the back post. It was clear from his celebration; Washington was ecstatic.
“I don’t know if I could put it into words, just sort of surreal,” a beaming Washington told reporters after the match. “I knew as the play was building up, I saw Shaq in such a great position. The way he serves a ball, man, just perfectly weighted. I was able to get in front of my defender and put the ball away. And then just utter bliss. Utter bliss. Thank God!”
The celebrations from his teammates and fans signified more than just the importance of the goal for Saturday’s 2-0 win over Montreal. They gave a glimpse at his impact in the locker room and the community.
“I’m absolutely delighted for him. I think pretty much everyone in here understands the type of individual he is,” Gary Smith said in his post-match comments. “Not a bad bone in the lad’s body. Just a terrific individual and a very, very good professional.”
But Washington’s point to the sky hinted at more than just what he called the “utter bliss” of scoring. He dedicated his first-ever MLS goal to Dominic Liples, a young boy Washington met during his 2016 rookie season.
The two met on May 23, 2016. Liples passed away on December 7, 2016. In just six short months, walking through Dominic’s fight with cancer together, the two became inseparable. In a 2018 blog post, Washington called Liples “my best friend.”
One look at Washington’s social media profiles will tell you how near this cause is to him. His profile pictures have remained unchanged for years, still a photo of him and Dominic. Twice named Nashville SC’s Humanitarian of the Year, he continues to be active in the fight against cancer, spearheading the club’s Kick Childhood Cancer campaign.
On Saturday, Washington’s mind immediately went to Liples, emphasizing the significant impact the pair had on each other’s lives, the impact Liples had on Washington and others.
“When I got back to my phone, his mom was the first person I saw when I checked all the messages,” said Washington. “The things that I saw and went through with him… It’s definitely for Dominic.”