By Dylan Butler
The collective eyes of the soccer world were on RFK Stadium in Washington Saturday afternoon where 14-year-old phenom Freddy Adu was set to make his professional debut for DC United against defending MLS champion San Jose.
But before Adu made his much-anticipated entrance in front of a sellout crowd, Alecko Eskandarian stole the show, at least as far as one famous Queens-based soccer family is concerned.
Eskandarian hit Jaime Moreno’s perfect pass first time with his left foot from 12 yards out, knocking the ball off the far post and into the net.
Moments after scoring what proved to be the game-winner in the 39th minute, Eskandarian lifted up his black and red United jersey to reveal a touching tribute scrawled on his white T-shirt: “Nicole, We Miss You!”
Eskandarian’s message was for Nicole Megaloudis, who was killed in a car accident Feb. 9. She was the daughter of Queens native Nick Megaloudis.
She was 19.
“That goes out to Nicole Megaloudis. She passed away about a month and a half ago,” Eskandarian told a national television audience at halftime. “(She was) a very good friend of mine. I’m a huge friend of the family so Nicole, Mrs. Megaloudis, Chris, everybody, that’s for you guys.”
Yet not one Megaloudis saw the touching tribute live. Not Nick Megaloudis, his brother Michael Megaloudis nor his nephew Chris Megaloudis.
They were all doing what the Megaloudises do best — they were all on the soccer field, albeit separate soccer fields.
Nick Megaloudis, who grew up in Astoria and played at Long Island City High School and Long Island University, was on a soccer field in Florida when his cell phone rang at about 4:45 p.m.
It hasn’t stopped ringing.
“It’s breathtaking; it’s a wonderful feeling,” Nick Megaloudis said of Eskandarian’s tribute to his daughter. “It kind of helps in the healing process and helps in the everyday coping.”
Nick Megaloudis lost his only daughter — and one of only three female children in the large Megaloudis extended family — on a Monday morning in February when Nicole Megaloudis lost control of her 1995 Volkswagen Jetta on Interstate 64 in Richmond, Va. and crashed into a tree, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Megaloudis, a freshman center midfielder at Virginia Commonwealth University, was pronounced dead later that morning at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.
Playing with Chris Megaloudis at the University of Virginia, Eskandarian grew close to the Megaloudis family and Nicole, in particular. He served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
“She was a dear friend of mine, probably the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sister,” Eskandarian told the Washington Post. “She means the world to me. … That goal was dedicated to her, for sure.”
Eskandarian’s DC United teammate Bobby Convey was also very close to Nicole Megaloudis and had a similar message on his undershirt but didn’t get a chance to display it.
Convey became close to Megaloudis because her stepfather, Thomas Rongen, is a former United coach.
“It goes to show you what she meant to a lot of young people,” Michael Megaloudis said. “I had no idea she knew Alecko Eskandarian and Bobby Convey so well. It made me feel real happy.”
Added Chris Megaloudis, Nicole’s cousin and a former McClancy standout: “It’s great to see that. It shows the type of person he is. He took the spotlight away from Freddy Adu and gave it to Nicole.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.