Pete Hamasian walked in on the first day of his first year in charge of the West Haven boys soccer program and did what any first-year coach may have done. He put the upperclassmen in one group and the underclassmen in another.
Among the first-year players in the program was a sophomore, Salah Oumorou. He impressed Hamasian right away.
“Before we even finished the first drill, we moved him over to work with the varsity guys. That quickly, we could see Salah’s skill level,” Hamasian said. “He was going past defenders like they were standing still. He was a man amongst boys.”
Soon, everyone else in the Southern Connecticut Conference would see Oumorou’s skill level. He finished with 23 goals and four assists to earn the Register’s Area MVP award.
“I worked very, very hard to try to be the best player in the whole area,” said Oumorou, a native of Togo, a country in West Africa.
It’s the second straight year a West Haven player earned the award. Pablo Perez was the recipient in 2013.
Oumorou, who turned 18 on Dec. 1, said he started to play club soccer in Togo when he was 9.
“I like everything (about soccer). It makes me feel confident,” Oumorou said. “Soccer is my life. I just want to be a soccer player.”
Opportunity to play, and succeed, was not easy in Togo. He felt he would fare better in the United States. With his father already living in West Haven, that made the decision easier. Oumorou arrived after the conclusion of the 2013 soccer season.
“The thing that truly makes him special is how he plays in such tight spaces with the ball,” Hamasian said. “A lot of guys at this level don’t have the technical ability to do that. His knack to score goals, his killer instinct, you don’t see that every day. … It’s so nice to have a player you can lean on in games where we were struggling and he would come up with a clutch goal to allow us to get a positive result.”
The Westies finished second to Fairfield Prep in the SCC Quinnipiac Division and lost in the second round of the Class LL state tournament.
Oumorou feels he needs to work on his conditioning in the offseason. Hamasian feels Oumorou needs to improve upon his versatility to make him an even more dangerous player than he already is. More defensive attention for Oumorou is certain to come next season.
“It’s scary how good he can become,” Hamasian said. “We will try to push Salah to continue to work as hard as he has. He could become the best player in the state, if not next year, in the next two years. I truly believe it. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t truly believe it.”