Israel Sesay has experienced more at the professional level at the age of 24 than most players and coaches experience in a lifetime. The Sierra Leone native began his soccer journey as one of the youngest players in MLS history with the LA Galaxy.
“Making my MLS debut is something I will never forget,” Sesay recalled. “Playing for the Galaxy was a good experience and I learned a lot. It made me who I am today.”
At the tender age of 17, he was lining up against the likes of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Eddie Lewis in training everyday. No wonder he had trouble breaking into the regular XI, considering this was his first professional experience and he had three legends in front of him on the depth chart.
“It wasn’t easy to be honest. I didn’t get a lot of time to play. I really feel that I was good enough to be there yet I was never given a real chance to prove myself.”
Sesay would excel in the MLS Reserve League, but games were sporadic and he was not playing week in and week out. Like most footballers, he contends that you get better by playing in games and that was just not a regular occurrence for the young striker. Had he been part of the current MLS/USL PRO agreement, things could have gone very different.
Even though he didn’t stick with the Galaxy, things were just getting started. After playing with Hollywood United, the Cleveland City Stars, and Real Maryland he found a more permanent home with the Los Angeles Blues. He would spend two seasons in LA before stumbling into a career in the indoor game.
He would become one of the great rarities of the beautiful game, a star that gets the job done both indoors and outdoors. His speed and immense technical ability made him the perfect choice for faster, more physical play indoors. A chance encounter with the Milwaukee Wave coaching staff made this transition indoors a real opportunity, but Sesay was just not convinced initially.
“I told him that’s not what I do. He thought I would be perfect, but I didn’t believe him. He kept emailing and calling. He promised to teach and show me the game.”
He gave it a try and the rest is history.
Sesay would later sign with the Ontario Fury in the fall of 2013 before being traded to the Las Vegas Legends. He returned to the Fury this fall with an opportunity to play in the revamped and expanded MASL. He excels at the indoor game because it plays to his strengths, which happen to be ball skills, technique, and pace. Simply put, he was made for this style of game.
“The speed of play is really fast like hockey. There is a lot of contact. On top of that you have to know what to do before you even get the ball.”
Even as Sesay plans to continue his outdoor career, he sees the positives of the indoor game and the edge it will provide him outdoors.
“You get to work on your ball skills and perfecting that first touch. You improve your dribbling and get good touches.”
Also looking back at his development as a player, Sesay thought he would have benefited from being part of an MLS academy. He’s become a big proponent of the system and how it helps young players like himself when he signed with the Galaxy at 17.
“That’s the route to develop players in Europe. Academy players concentrate more on their soccer, something that would help make the sport grow in this country.”
When asked what advice he had for those aspiring players, Sesay was quick to respond with a valuable lesson.
“Work hard and try to be on the team. Once you make it, don’t let anyone tell you are too young or inexperienced. Push for a chance to play.”
That is great advice from a player that has seen it all, been a star at every level, and has a tremendous future ahead of him.
Photo Credit: Rodrigo Peña/Ontario Fury