Many of the Schwan’s USA CUP’s thousands of visitors have aspirations to play soccer on the sport’s largest stage. Ismaila Jome, a former USA CUP player with a goal to play soccer professionally, lived out his dream when he signed with his hometown club, Minnesota United FC, in March of 2016.
“The first time I played (in USA CUP) was with Northwest Kickers, based in Brooklyn Park. NW Kickers was actually my first organized soccer club, and we played in USA CUP. Just seeing all the kids, everyone from different countries just walking around, it was a really good time,” said Jome.
Jome excelled for the Kickers, and in subsequent years for Minnesota Thunder Academy, where he proved his professional quality potential on the pitch annually at USA CUP.
“I’ve always wanted to play pros since I was a young kid, and being able to play for my hometown has been the best experience,” Jome said.
When asked what advice he would give to an aspiring professional soccer player participating in USA CUP this week, Jome responded, “I would tell them it’s definitely possible. Keep working hard, stay focused, and keep believing in yourself.”
Most of Jome’s fondest memories from his three years playing at USA CUP, however, took place off the pitch.
Ismaila Jome, USA CUP alum and winger for Minnesota United, signed autographs for fans in the Sport Expo Center on Tuesday afternoon.
“I enjoyed just walking around the different fields, there were so many fields and just getting to watch other teams play. Waiting around for games, seeing other people’s games, and meeting new people from around the world were definitely the highlights.”
Jome will carry the American flag during tonight’s USA CUP opening ceremony, alongside current members of his former youth club, Northwest Kickers. Jome anticipates feeling a strong sense of nostalgia for his youth playing days when he enters the packed NSC Stadium.
Jome is a versatile piece for Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath, with high-level playing experience on the back-line, midfield, and the wings. The Brooklyn Park native made his MLS debut in April 29, 2017 against the San Jose Earthquakes, and has primarily been featured on the wing for the Loons. Jome is a pacey option up front for Minnesota United, who can pick apart opposing defenses with excellent footwork to create scoring chances.
Jome was first signed by MNUFC when the Loons were still part of the North American Soccer League (NASL), and has remained on the team throughout MNUFC’s transition to Major League Soccer, America’s premier soccer league.
“It’s been tough, to be honest with you,” Jome said. “This year, coming into the MLS, is just another level up. It’s a higher level, it’s getting used to not only players being better, but being fitter, faster, and having to step up to match up with everything else.”
Jome and the Loons will take on the Houston Dynamo at TCF Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, July 19 at 7:00 p.m. in a clash of MLS Western Conference foes.
The Loons sit just six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and will hope to pick up a needed win on Wednesday in front of a packed house of USA CUP participants. Jome will have the opportunity to make an impact for head coach Adrian Heath’s squad, with a depleted team sheet due to a combination of international commitments at the Gold Cup and injuries.
The two teams battled to a draw early in the season, but the Loons have their eyes set on a victory and three points with the benefit of home field advantage.
“We played on the road and we tied them 2-2. We definitely played well. That match was one of the turning points where we started to play better as a team, and I think tomorrow night could be a turning point as well if we get a ‘W’ heading into the rest of the season,” Jome said.
“It’s a big game for us. We have had a rocky past three games and we need to step it up and get a win tomorrow,” Jome added.
All USA CUP games will be completed prior to kick-off at the Minnesota United game, and USA CUP participants are able to receive a discount on a ticket for the MLS match.
Tag(s): July 18, 2017