One is a soft-spoken holding midfielder from the Caribbean. The other is an eclectic, energetic fullback from Africa, known for his head-scratching, jaw-dropping on-field antics and exuberant personality. Yet for over two years, Jordy Delem, 24, and Nouhou, 20, have been teammates, roommates and close friends.
Delem and Nouhou sat down with SoundersFC.com to discuss their friendship, first year in MLS and life together in Seattle.
Note: Both native French speakers, Delem is more fluent in English, and Nouhou’s quotes were translated by Delem.
Delem signed with S2 in April 2016, after impressing the eye of then-S2 Head Coach Ezra Hendrickson. Hendrickson, a national legend for St. Vincent & the Grenadines, spotted Delem, a member of the Martinique national team, at the MLS Caribbean combine. Delem soon joined a USL club that had acquired three French speakers a month earlier – all from Cameroon – in midfielders Wily Kapawa and Mark O’Ojong, and defender Nouhou Tolo.
In their first year in the U.S., Delem and Nouhou found their footing. At left back, Nouhou led the team with 2,061 minutes in 24 appearances, while Delem was a mainstay in the defensive midfield, and at times filled-in at center back, in his 19 appearances.
By the end of the season, though, Kapawa and O’Ojong were no longer with the club, and Delem and Nouhou were the only French-speaking players left. Thankfully, there was one other person around who they could speak with.
“I think Djimi is really important for us because he speaks French, but he’s also helpful for the young players and that is a very, very good thing for us,” Nouhou said of Assistant Coach Djimi Traore, who comes from northern France.
In January 2017, Nouhou – who at this time decided to drop his last name, Tolo – signed with the First Team. Five weeks later, Delem inked an MLS contract. Teammates and roommates, they knew they had each other as they entered their first year in MLS.
“[We are so close] because we speak French and we can say some words together that we don’t know in English,” Delem smiled. “He’s really funny, we have a good relationship. It’s good for us.”
Added Nouhou: “It’s a great thing because Jordy can help me with English. It’s good, he helps me learn things.”
Last season, Delem showed his versatility and usefulness for the Rave Green. He stepped in admirably at right back before the signing of Kelvin Leerdam, and also earned minutes as a depth piece in the defensive midfield. Nouhou began the year as the primary backup to Joevin Jones, but ended up working his way into the starting rotation. Along the way, Nouhou emerged as a fan favorite for his athletic – and sometimes panic-inducing – displays.
“I am very happy about the fans. It helps me keep going to keep working,’ he said. 'It was a great season, unforgettable.”
Comfortable and confident, the roommates are stoked for Year 3.
“Now, I feel like this is home,” Nouhou said. “It’s my third year now, I know everybody. I think it’s a good thing and I hope we do a good job this year.”
Delem feels similarly.
“I feel so comfortable now,” he said. “It feels like a big family and that’s a good thing for us.”