As we move deeper into an unusual season for the USL Championship, there are some clubs struggling mightily to score goals with four of them scoring less than five goals so far in 2020. Looking for offense down the stretch, a USL club could turn to a motivated, established striker in the league. With the 14th-most goals in league history, Sammy Ochoa is ready for one last ride.
Talking to BGN, Ochoa discussed his desire to get out there and help a club while getting to say a proper goodbye to a long-lasting soccer career. “To play one last time would mean a lot to me,” he said. “That way, I know it’s actually going to be my last year and I can enjoy it and go out like I want to go out.”
Sammy broke into the professional ranks in his native Mexico with Tecos before making the move to MLS with Seattle Sounders FC. His introduction to the USL came with the now-defunct Wilmington Hammerheads, where he scored six goals in one season. His breakout stint came with the Tulsa Roughnecks, scoring 20 goals across two seasons. After leaving Tulsa, he scored eight goals and added six assists in one season for Sacramento Republic FC. “I’ve had lots of fun playing in the league, as it’s grown, with a lot of clubs,” Ochoa said.
Most recently, he played as a target man for Las Vegas Lights FC. Across the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Ochoa scored 13 goals and tallied nine assists and that was in some less than ideal circumstances. He said that he picked up a serious shoulder injury early during the 2018 season vs. Real Monarchs SLC and played the rest of the year with the injury.
In the following offseason, he had surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff. But, in 2019, he would only appear in nine league matches after he states the club tried to buy him out of his contract. Ochoa didn’t go with the buy-out because he wanted to finish his career with the Lights and would’ve only received a small amount of his remaining money. When he got his chances in a limited role, he was able to score twice in the USL and once in the US Open Cup. The club shut him down with more than ten matches to go, not including him in training or the matchday squad, despite having slimmed down and having no issues with his shoulder.
Now, Ochoa is as healthy as he’s been in years and he doesn’t want his soccer journey to end on that bitter note from 2019. He’s been training and working out in California and he’s ready to help one of the USL Championship clubs in or near the Golden State. If you’ve watched the USL in recent years, you know what Ochoa can do in the attack. He’s as physical as any number nine in the league and can hold up play with the best of them. With his experience, Sammy said he’s willing to be a veteran leader for a team or even a player/coach. “It’s very important to give young players confidence and try to guide him,” he said. “Because, at the end of the day, you want them to have a great career and why not teach them what you learned from the years you played?”
He’s realistic about his soccer career and knows he’s in his final days as a productive player on the pitch, but Sammy Ochoa is determined to help a club down the stretch as he says goodbye to his historic career in the USL.