In his MLS debut, Danny Cepero became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to score a goal — from 81 yards.

This historic feat by Danny Cepero happened 12 years ago Sunday on Oct. 18, 2008.

By Michael Lewis

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero admitted he didn’t even see one of the most historic goals in MLS history.

It’s funny because he was the one who scored it.

With Red Bulls clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute, Cepero launched a free kick from the 24-yard American football marker on the Giants Stadium field Saturday night.

The ball bounced once at the top of the penalty area and over the head of over an outstretched goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and into the net as the Baldwin, L.I. native became the first keeper in the league’s 13-year history to score a goal — and from 81 yards.

“I just put it in the general area with no intention of scoring,” he said. “I just hit it up somewhere where my teammates could do something with it. I didn’t even know it went in. I had to ask Kevin [Goldthwaite]. Did that just go in? ‘Yeah.’ Do I get credit for that? ‘Absolutely.’ ”

Not too shabby for someone playing his very first MLS match under ridiculous pressure. Cepero was thrust into goal and into the spotlight after regular keeper Jon Conway and Jeff Parke were slapped with a league-record 10-game suspension Thursday for using performance-enhancing drugs.

“That’s crazy to say the least,” Cepero said. “It’s incredible. It’s one of those random stats that I guess I can always look up and say, ‘Hey, there I am.’ ”

Crazy for his teammates as well.

“My first reaction was, ‘Who the hell are you kicking that to?’ ” defender Andrew Boyens said. “I was actually pretty disappointed in the kick because it was going straight down the middle but when I saw the ‘keeper coming, saw the bounce, it was a great moment.”

The goal was the cherry on the icing of the cake. The 23-year-old Cepero was under enough pressure with the Red Bulls facing a must-win situation in their quest for the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the Red Bulls (10-10-9, 39 points) would go in as the eighth and final seed.

They achieved the win against the best team in the league — the Crew (16-7-6, 54), who have scored the second most goals (49).

“I’m extremely proud of the guys,” coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “Fantastic effort, considering all of the circumstances. The most pleasing thing is that we displayed throughout the 90 minutes great chemistry. The desire and the willingness to play adversity and at the end, I think we got what we deserved.”

The Red Bulls can clinch a post-season berth if they defeat the host Chicago Fire in their final game Thursday.

In the tumult of the 23-year-old Cepero scoring, it would be easy to forget about the two second-half goals that Juan Pablo Angel tallied in the 48th and 76th minutes (they were sandwiched around Steve Lenhart’s goal for the Crew in the 62nd minute).

“Juan has shown everybody what kind of professional he is,” Osorio said.

Saturday night, though, was Cepero’s night.

“This might be one of the best in soccer history,” Angel said of Cepero’s debut.

Another view of the goal. Video courtesy of YouTube

“It’s a massive game and he’s come through with a steady head and a lot of maturity,” Boyens said. “When he needed to, he came up with two massive saves and so you can’t ask for anything more – or maybe a goal here or there.”

Cepero made only two saves, but his first was a vital one, parrying Ezra Hendrickson’s header over the cross in the 45th minute.

“It had been 44 minutes since I touched the ball,” Cepero said. “I made some contact and distributed it a bit. There’s nothing like getting that first save and breathing that sigh of relief. OK, I have been here before. I’ve done this . . .”

That was when Boyens smashed a shaving cream pie into the right side of Cepero’s face.

“So this is a little crazy, an occupational hazard, I suppose,” Cepero said. “These guys are all practical jokers.

“I kind of wished it was whipped cream, something edible. What are you going to do?”

Video courtesy of YouTube

Asked if he was prouder of his goal of save, Cepero replied, “To be honest. I’m proud of getting a win in my debut. I think it was important for us as a team to get that win to further our chances of getting into the playoffs.”