In 2016, the second year of the Seattle Sounders’ USL team formerly known as Sounders FC 2, there was massive roster turnover from the inaugural season.
The squad featured MLS SuperDraft selections Tony Alfaro and Zach Mathers, plus Sounders Academy products like Jordan Schweitzer, Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray. That year also signaled the first group of Cameroonian players: Mark O’Ojong, Wily Kapawa and Nouhou. Together, they were the core of the club’s developmental arm.
Nouhou, of course, has become one of the most exciting fullbacks in MLS. Aside from MLS appearances from Alfaro, Jones and Mansaray, there was minimal impact to the First Team and no one else remains with the club.
Lost in the shuffle, though, was a 23-year-old defensive midfielder signed from a B team in France: Jordy Delem. A soft-spoken guy from the Caribbean, he joined the team in April and played most of the season out of position at center back. Along with his roommate, Nouhou, he signed a First Team deal in January 2017 to little fanfare.
Two years later, he’s still here and still smiling.
Jordy Delem, left, and Nouhou have been roommates and teammates since 2016 when they both played for the club's USL affiliate. | Jane Gershovich
“Time flies, man,” Delem said from the lobby of the team’s preseason hotel in Dana Point, Calif. “People come and leave, and I’m still here. But that means something that I am still here.”
Delem, 25, acquired his green card during the offseason, which grants him permanent resident status in the United States. He grew up under the sunny skies and around the turquoise waters of Martinique, where his father was one of the best soccer players on the island. The game was instilled in him at a young age, and he, too, became one of the best talents in the country of nearly 400,000 people. After a year with AC Arles-Avignon B in Southern France — Martinique is an overseas region of France — Delem made the leap to S2.
- Jordy’s Journey: Delem’s remarkable road from Martinique to Seattle
Despite the challenges of adjusting from the Caribbean to France to Seattle, he’s never looked back. Comfortably set as a defensive midfielder, Delem has made 30 appearances over the past two regular seasons.
“I have a lot of ambitions; I work hard to get what I want,” Delem said. “You have to have a good mindset. I think that is one of my best qualities. Everything can happen, even when it’s difficult, if you stay strong. It’s not always going to be easy.”
Delem provides poised depth in the central midfield. He has made 30 appearances the past two seasons. | Mike Fiechtner
The transition has been particularly tough for Delem because of how close he is to his family. His parents and sister try to watch every match from back home, and all of his friends are aware that Seattle is a great city with a successful club.
“I’m good with everybody, I stay the same,” said Delem, smiling. “Yes, it’s weird now when some guys ask for pictures, but you can feel the respect.”
Delem spent a few months in Martinique this past offseason and has had a presence with the Martinique national team since he first went pro, accumulating nearly 40 caps and adding five goals. Multiple times throughout the year, Delem flies 4,000 miles to meet up with Les Matinino. He has learned to stay true to himself wherever he goes, even if it means leaving the sunny Caribbean for the gray Pacific Northwest.
“I feel comfortable,” he said. “I feel at home. I can only say good things about living in Seattle.”
And with his green card, Delem plans on staying here as long as he can.
“Thank you to everybody who worked to help me get it,” Delem said. “I hope it will open some doors and I can stay longer. I have to take care of business.”