The dramatic development of Rashawn Dally

Sitting poolside behind the Legacy Hotel at IMG Academy, Rashawn Dally grabbed a pen and signed his first professional contract. He called it a dream come true and the start of something special.

Months later, his growth has been special, but it’s impossible for Dally to think he would’ve accomplished so much so quickly.

In March, Dally started for Memphis 901 FC on loan in the club’s inaugural match. That was special.

Scoring his first pro goal on March 24 – in front of 433 people at a barren Talen Energy Stadium – was special too.

As was his MLS recall and first appearance last month.

But none of these moments compared to Dally running toward the southeast corner of Nippert Stadium with FC Cincinnati teammates streaming behind him and 26,276 fans roaring in his ears.

Last Saturday, Dally scored his first MLS goal in Cincinnati’s 3-2 win against the Houston Dynamo. After Mathieu Deplagne won a tackle and slipped a pass to Dally, the Jamaican forward first-timed a screaming shot into the top right corner of the net.

The goal’s significance was obvious instantly.

Yes, it was important for Dally, a young striker who’s constantly topped one big moment after another. But it was equally important for Dally’s club.

When he scored in the 38th minute, he doubled Cincinnati’s lead. Considering the Orange and Blue hadn’t led in a match since May 19, leading 2-0 felt monumental.

The team winning 3-2 for its first win since May 11, still feels monumental.

So, maybe the goal and the win can be seen as a turning point for the club to start producing results during the back-half of the 2019 season. For the forward, maybe it’s the turning point from Dally searching for a first goal to the realization that he’s going to start scoring a lot more of them.

“I feel like every game and every training session, I am getting to know my teammates more and what they like to do and what I like to do,” Dally said. “It’s just developing relationships on the field because that is going to help us as a team. I feel like I am starting to gel everywhere now.”

That’s evident.

What the No. 49 pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft has shown is how quickly he can adapt, grow comfortable and create.

In his MLS debut on June 22 against LA Galaxy, Dally tried but often failed holding up the ball for teammates as the No. 9, which is completely understandable from someone seeing his first-ever MLS minutes and playing against multi-million-dollar backlines. Especially when that someone also spent last fall playing in a mid-major college soccer conference.

But in just three games into his MLS career, there’s been visible growth in his ability to shrug off defenders and make space for others.

“Rashawn has been training very well,” FCC Interim Head Coach Yoann Damet said after beating Houston. “He earned a spot in training for his performances.”

Dally’s development has been both promising and a necessity for Cincinnati, as that last portion of Damet’s quote suggests

In a season that’s seen Fanendo Adi start, then miss time for injuries and legal matters, in addition to Darren Mattocks having an injury and international duty, Dally’s been forced to step up.

So far, he’s exceeded expectations, perhaps even for himself.

Whereas Adi can hold up the ball and Mattocks can use his speed, Dally has a mixture of both attributes. What he’s honing now is developing Adi’s soft feet in the box and Mattocks’ positioning. More experience will be crucial for both of those attributes to flourish, too.

But for someone who scored his first goal in only his third MLS match, maybe this is just the latest accomplish for Dally, who’s quickly becoming something special.

“Every game I want to go out there and get better to get a goal, especially at my position,” the Jamaican said. “I just want to make an impact in ways to do that and continue to do that going forward.”

On the second day of the MLS SuperDraft, Dally sat at his computer constantly refreshing it. He was in his family home in Connecticut and was desperate for a team to take a chance on him. FC Cincinnati did, and have been unequivocally better for it.

And what’s even better is the realization that Dally is only just getting started.