WEST HAVEN >> Salah Oumorou heard the pop during a preseason soccer scrimmage.
The senior from West Haven High knew it wasn’t good: he had injured his groin, just before his final season was about to begin.
“It was really tough (playing with the injury),” Oumorou said. “It’s something I probably should not have played with at all, but the team really needed me and I really wanted to achieve the goals I had because it was my last year playing in high school and I wanted to do it no matter how I was feeling.”
So Oumorou labored through his final season. Yes, his numbers dipped, as the 18 goals and four assists will attest to. But the Area Boys Soccer MVP for the third straight season did have four game-deciding goals and helped a team that had lost nine starters from the season before.
“Now that we know the extent of the injury in hindsight, we would have sat him more in the preseason and early in the (regular) season,” West Haven coach Pete Hamasian said. “When we decided to give him more rest, the damage was done and we were where we were with it. At that point, we were just managing it, not try to heal the injury.”
Oumorou, who turned 19 on Dec. 1, said he was “never even 70 percent at any point” during the season. He sat out two different regular-season games. In the games he played, he only would average 40 minutes per game.
He came to some practices in street clothes – but he didn’t miss a single practice, according to Hamasian.
He was doing physical therapy two-to-three times a week. He never missed practice. Even in street clothes, he would provide constant support,” Hamasian said. “If he wasn’t into it, the season would have been a wash from day one. That was the biggest role he had. I wasn’t sure if he was capable of that. He didn’t even want to be captain, but he still took over that (leadership) role more than either of us expected.”
The Westies qualified the SCC tournament. They lost in the quarterfinals to Cheshire, then 1-0 in the first round of the Class LL state tournament to Shelton, which advanced to the LL final.
Oumorou finished with 72 goals and 11 assists in just three years. He came to West Haven from Togo in Africa.
The loss allowed time for Oumorou to rest his groin. He did travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, to play in the sixth annual Boys High School Soccer All-American Game Dec. 3 .
Following his junior season, Oumorou had very little interest at the next level, Hamasian said at the time. Once sent a highlight tape out to many Division I schools, plenty responded like North Carolina Syracuse, Florida Gulf Coast, Northeastern, VCU and UConn.
“I thought I’d get email responses,” Hamasian said. “I wasn’t getting (phone calls) from the assistant coaches, I was getting the head coaches at these big-time programs.”
Oumorou verbally committed to the UConn program last March. He is expected to sign his national letter of intent in February.
“I must prepare myself before I get there. I really need to be 100 percent (healthy) before I get there,” Oumorou said.
We’ll never know what kind of numbers Oumorou would have put up if he were completely healthy this past season. But despite that, Hamasian has no doubts the legacy Oumorou left on the league – and his first three years coaching at West Haven.
“He is all I’ve known. It wasn’t your average coaching situation,” Hamasian said. “People always argue and have their opinions, but I don’t think the SCC, as far as I can think back, has had a player like him and I don’t think one will come around for a long time. This is a rare situation. Kids will put up the same numbers as him but if you go use your eyes and just watch the game, it’s just different. He’s just a different player.”
Videos via Vantage Sports Network and PG Sports