When you are going to get advice from someone, it’s always wise to ask the person you know that has been through a lot or traveled the world rather than your friend that has had an easy go at it in life, still living in your hometown. If I were a young player on the Phoenix Rising FC roster, I would spend as much time as I could picking the brain of defensive midfielder James Musa.
Despite only being 27-years old, Musa has played for Wellington Phoenix, Team Wellington (multiple stints), Waitakere City, South Melbourne, Fulham, Hereford United, Saint Louis FC (multiple stints), Swope Park Rangers, Sporting Kansas City, and Phoenix Rising FC. Discussing his unique experience, Musa said, “It’s been integral to my career. You know, futbol has taken me all around the world. I’ve played with world class players and not so good players. I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’ve taken little nuggets from each coach I’ve played for and every player I’ve played with to make me the player I am now.”
In addition to his impressive club resume, Musa has experience with the New Zealand national team. “It’s always amazing when you put on the silver fern (a symbol of New Zealand that has featured on national team kits). A lot of people play the sport worldwide and not a lot of players get to represent their country,” he said. “For me, it’s an honor. I wasn’t born there, but I grew up there. It’s been a big part of my life. Making the decision to play for New Zealand was a very easy one. I grew up playing for the youth national teams.”
When asked if he remembers his first cap, Musa reflected, “I remember it like it was yesterday. We don’t play a lot of games back home, but I was fortunate enough that this game was back in New Zealand. My family came out. I actually came off the bench at left back with about thirty minutes to go against South Africa. That was special because my family is from Africa, not South Africa, but still from Africa. I made a play to keep the game level at 0-0.”
His journey, for club and country, has now led him to the desert with Phoenix Rising FC. Last year, the club fell to Louisville City FC in the USL Cup final. In regards to the loss, he said, “It’s a major motivation. Unfortunately, I missed out on the playoffs due to injury. I really want to be there this year. Last year was my second year in the cup final (with Swope Park in 2017) and I’ve lost two years in a row, so to make the third time lucky would be huge for me and super special.” Now in his second season with Rising, he has played in nine matches, registering one goal, one assist (Likely the assist of the year if we’re being honest. You can see it below.), 86% passing accuracy, and 71% tackle success. When asked what three things make him a special player, Musa answered, “Consistency, communication, and reading the game.”
— Phoenix Rising FC | Rising Together But Separate (@PHXRisingFC) June 8, 2019
After another $1 Beer Night victory at Casino Arizona Field last week, Musa explained the home atmosphere, “It’s very good. I don’t know if unless you’re out there and a part of it, what being in front of this home crowd means. When you go away, you really have no support and the crowd is all against you.”
“Coming here, it’s refreshing and you feel at home. You feel like everyone is here to support you and the team and wants to see you do well. It lifts us and it gives us more motivation and more fuel to get those three points.”
As Rising continues to…well…rise up the table, they will need contributions from the crafty veterans, young players, and everyone in between. What is Musa’s advice to the young players? “Just be patient. It’s a tough sport and there’s a lot of opinions in it. Work hard every day and when you get your chance, you have to take it. Listen to those around you because you don’t know everything and there are a lot of other experiences and life experiences that you can gain from other people. I try to learn every day from people and if everyone has that same mentality, everyone will be successful.”
With Musa helping lead the way with leadership and experience, Phoenix Rising FC have four straight wins and should be expected to be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.