Salah Oumorou wasn’t going to take any boys soccer team in the Southern Connecticut Conference by surprise this season.
Oumorou was a relative unknown to start last season, a native of Togo in Africa who moved to West Haven following the boys soccer season in 2013. Then he scored 23 goals as a sophomore as teams had to make the adjustment to him quickly.
Despite being double- and triple-teamed more often than not, Oumorou finished this, his junior year, with 31 goals and five assists to lead the Westies to the SCC tournament final and earn the Register’s Area MVP award for the second straight season.
“He truly carried us to some big wins,” West Haven coach Pete Hamasian said. “It was a matter of when he scored. He went on a streak where he scored every single game. Salah was physically stronger this season because of how much time he spent in the gym and worked out in the off-season.”
Oumorou definitely became harder to slow down, let alone stop, as this past season progressed. On Oct. 21, he scored four goals against Wilbur Cross, the SCC Oronoque Division champion.
He matched that number in the opening round of the SCC tournament against Cheshire on Oct. 31. Then he and Blaise Haba each scored to shut out defending champion Fairfield Prep 2-0 in the semifinals two days later.
“We were so happy about that (Prep win),” Oumorou said. “I had to stay confident and be able to score goals. … It was a great run (to the SCC final).”
It was West Haven’s second trip to the SCC tournament final and Oumorou scored in the first half. But Shelton adjusted defensively to try and stop Oumorou, something the Gaels hadn’t done against anyone else to that point. Oumorou didn’t score in the second half, Shelton did and won the title 3-2.
“They have a dynamic player and you have to prepare for him,” Shelton coach Joe D’Auria said after the final. “We left our defensive center-mid in his shape which is Jimmy Hunter. He contained him. He (Oumorou) is probably one of the better players I have seen in high school (soccer).”
Oumorou scored the only goal in West Haven’s Class LL state tournament opening-round game against Fairfield Warde before the Westies lost at Glastonbury, the eventual champion, in the second round.
‘He is a great kid,” Hamasian said. “But like any other high school player, he gets frustrated at times and is hard on himself. He needs to have short-term memory loss and get right back to it.”
If it’s possible to be surrounded by even more players, Oumorou may face that for his senior season. West Haven graduates nine starters, including center-midfielder Blaise Haba. Hamasian said he may have to move Oumorou, who turned 19 on Dec. 1, to different positions, including center-mid.
“I don’t want him standing for 20 minutes up top without touching ball,” Hamasian said.
Said Oumorou: It’s going to be really tough. I’m going to miss Blaise a lot. He was the one who knew everything about me, all those passes he gave me.”
The chance to show some versatility may help in Oumorou’s recruitment. Hamasian said only Southern Connecticut State and New Haven have shown interest, something the second-year coach is surprised by.
“We have to do more to get his name out there,” Hamasian said. “At this point, if someone is seeing something in his game that they don’t like, I would love to know so we can hopefully help him out and (help generate more college interest).”