Knee surgery cost Minnesota United forward Tani Oluwaseyi his final collegiate season two years ago and recurring hamstring injuries limited his first MLS season last year.
He played just 12 games over those two years, and 10 of those came last summer for the Loon's MNUFC2 reserve team.
Entering Saturday's game at Colorado, Oluwaseyi has appeared in both games so far this season. He made his MLS debut in the 89th minute of last month's 1-0 season opening victory at FC Dallas. He entered in the 80th minute in last week's home-opener scoreless draw against New York Red Bulls.
"The first one was kind of surreal," he said. "It was a lifetime dream I've had to make my professional debut. I just did the job I was sent on to do. My instructions were to help the team get over the line and that's what I did."
He had his chance for the go-ahead goal in the first minute last week after he subbed for Franco Fragapane against Red Bulls, but his left-footed strike in the snow went wide left.
"I almost got a goal there, didn't work out," Oluwaseyi said. "Every time I step on the field it's to contribute — get a goal, get a clearance, whatever I can to get the team over the line."
The Loons selected Oluwaseyi 17th overall in the 2022 SuperDraft out of St. John's University in New York City, knowing well he was on the long road back from left-knee surgery. Nigeria-born and Canada-raised, Oluwaseyi was supposed to miss the entire 2021 NCAA season, but came back for the regular-season finale and the Big East tournament's quarterfinals.
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"If I knew what was going to happen, I probably would have sat out my entire senior year and not try to rush back," Oluwaseyi said. "But you see the light, your senior year. You're excited to get going. Things didn't work out the way I wished, but I learned from it."
He credited his 10 games played last summer with MNUFC2 for getting him back with the first team now.
"I finally fulfilled my dream and having it continually stunted over and over again, it wasn't easy for me," Oluwaseyi said. "Thanks to all the people around me here, I was able to stay strong and do what I had to do to come back."
He didn't rehab beside injured teammate Hassani Dotson because of differing rehab routines, but they became close friends because they shared the road back.
"Hassani being back makes me happier than me being back because I saw how hard he worked," Oluwaseyi said.
Now 22, Oluwaseyi impressed Loons coach Adrian Heath and his staff before the draft with his 6-2 height and athleticism that helped him score 11 goals in 2019, when he was named Big East Offensive Player of the Year.
"He's still learning, he's a project for us," Heath said. "When we drafted him, we knew he had issues with his knee, but we thought there was enough there to have a gamble on him. He's working really, really hard and if he listens and continues to work hard, he has tools that will make people uncomfortable playing against him because he's super athletic.
"He's big. He's strong. He's quick. Now we've got to work with him to get him consistently in the right paces at the right time."
The Loons already have forwards such as Mender Garcia and Luis Amarilla who also play up front. But with Amarilla missing or limited the first two games, Oluwaseyi made the 20-man game roster both times.
"He has been scoring in training," veteran defender Kemar Lawrence said. "He's in the squad each and every game. Once you're in the squad, you're going to play."
Heath has called upon Oluwaseyi in limited roles so far.
"Whatever Adrian asks of me," Oluwaseyi said. "I have my abilities that I bring and sometimes there are other things that are asked of me. Whatever he asks, I'll go do."