Fresno FC gave Qudus Lawal a chance on trial and they are benefiting from the returns.
In Kid Cudi’s song “Reborn“, the rapper/signer harmonizes and sings, “I’m so, I’m so reborn. I’m moving forward. Keep moving forward, keep moving forward.” Just like the Man on the Moon is singing, Fresno FC forward Qudus Lawal is enjoying a career rebirth this season with Fresno FC, moving forward from past failures. After a disappointing first stint in the USL, he is now proving to be a valuable player at this level.
During the 2015 and 2016 USL (now the USL Championship) seasons, Lawal played for Sounders 2 and Wilmington Hammerheads FC. In over 40 matches, he registered only five goals and one assist. Following the 2016 season, he moved on to teams in lower divisions like Chicago FC United and RWB Adria. Now, he’s back in the league he once played in and he’s here to stay.
Following a trial with Fresno FC last year, he signed to the second-year-club in January and has five goals and one assist in eleven league matches already this season. “It feels so great because me going back to the lower levels used to affect me,” he said. “I’ve learned some things now that I didn’t learn before in my first time in the USL. Now, everything is working out for me because I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve learned and now I’m here for real.”
“I feel smarter this time around. I’ve been in this league before and now I know how to manage and play the game better.”
Not only has Lawal’s soccer career been a journey, but his life has been as well. The 23-year-old has not been back to his native Nigeria since 2010. He represents the African nation proudly and hopes to one day wear the jersey of his country with the national team. I asked him to tell me something I should know about his native country and he responded, “Something cool about us, Nigerians, is the way we dress, and our accent. Teammates make fun of me in the locker room when I say “Haa-ah”, now everybody is saying that. It’s not a word, it’s a reaction. How I would react when you say something and I feel surprised by it.”
With a wealth of experience, in life and soccer, Lawal carries a great amount of confidence with him onto the pitch, which you can see most clearly when he finds himself in a 1-v-1 situation against a defender. “Oh yeah, I feel like 1-v-1 is my biggest attribute, it’s something that I can confidently say I’m good at,” he explained. “I’m not at where I want to be yet, but I’m going to keep working on it more because that’s really something that can help me in perfecting my game. Because of my speed and strength, the 1-v-1 is so special to me.”
“When I get a 1-v-1, I’m thinking this is my meal right here, so let’s finish this food.”
Yesterday, Fresno FC played to a 2-2 with Portland Timbers 2. After finishing in 12th position and outside of the playoffs last season, the Foxes currently occupy 6th place and have only lost once in their last six matches. “Coming into the season, I knew the talent we’ve got and I’ll say this: we’re not done yet. We still have a lot of room to improve, but we’re close – we’re right there, and the spirit in the locker room, and everybody having the belief, is that we know that we can do it. We’re going to keep pushing it, and hopefully by the end of the season, we get to celebrate together,” Lawal said.
That confidence must be music to the ears of Fire Squad Fresno, Vigilantes, Fresno Skulk, and everyone that loves Los Zorros. With Lawal’s breakout performance, Jemal Johnson, Jackson, and the rest of the squad, Fresno FC will be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch in the USL Championship Western Conference.