Harrison soccer standout is Sowe good; position change leads to scoring explosion

For the first two years of his high school soccer career, Omar Sowe was a standout as a defender, the last line of the Harrison High School defense before the goalkeeper. Sowe was establishing himself as a center back, a lockdown defensive wizard.

But in his mind, Sowe always thought he had a chance to be an offensive performer.

“I feel my position is more of an attacking player,” Sowe said. “I like to score goals. It’s natural for me.”
After the Blue Tide lost to Newark East Side in Red Bull Arena early in the season, veteran head coach Mike Rusek decided that he had to make a change.

“John (Rusek, Mike’s brother and long-time assistant) and I went back and forth with it,” Rusek said. “John and I have always been offensive coaches. My father (assistant coach Mickey) always said that defense wins championships, but we want to score goals. So we decided to give it a try and move Omar to midfield.”

No one could have ever dreamed what the move would mean, because Sowe has been totally unconscious as a scoring machine for the Blue Tide.

Over the last four games, all victories, Sowe has scored 10 goals and added six assists. He registered the three-goal hat trick twice in that span against Lyndhurst and Bergen Charter. He has scored at least two goals in seven games and now has a total of 19 goals and 15 assists for the 10-1 Blue Tide.

I never could have imagined how it turned out,” Rusek said. “He’s having a great season.”

“I’m excited about it,” Sowe said. “This is great. I love it. For me, I always think of myself as an attacking player. It’s a better position for me. I have some great players around me and it’s great playing with them. We all play together and know what each other is trying to do.”

Rusek knew that Sowe had goal scoring potential.

“He scored 13 goals as a freshman,” Rusek said. “We put him where we had a necessity. He wasn’t happy playing defense, but we needed him there. He’s happier now and we’re happy. The kids we put back there have also adapted. We’ve only given up one goal in the last five games.”

Rusek likes the way Sowe plays as a midfielder.

“We’ve had good offensive players in the past who were good with the ball, that were smooth and slick,” Rusek said. “But Omar is so different. He’s so powerful. You see other defenders backing off him. Omar has also had kids hanging on him and he’s still dribbling the ball through. He can shoot with either foot. Both are effective shots. He’s a midfielder at heart who likes to distribute the ball. He’ll take five or 10 shots, but he’d like to dish off for an assist as well.”

Rusek believes Sowe has a chance to be one of the all-time greats _ and that includes his older brother Modou, the former All-American at Harrison who was the New Jersey Player of the Year when he was a senior in 2013. Modou Sowe is currently playing for Rowan University.

“Modou had a great junior and senior year for us,” Rusek said. “We’re hoping we can say the same thing with Omar. Right now, he’s the main engine for us. He’s the one who gets us going and the rest are following real nicely.”

Omar Sowe said that he has always looked up to his older brother.

“He’s my inspiration,” Sowe said. “He’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be in a soccer player. He’s my role model. I hope to be like him some day.”

Sowe likes the way he’s playing right now for the Blue Tide, who own a 10-1 record and will begin play in the Hudson County Tournament Thursday against a team to be determined, more than likely North Bergen at Harrison High.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence,” Sowe said. “We’re having a great season so far. This is awesome, the way we’re playing.”

And as for playing center midfield?

“It’s just another challenge for me,” Sowe said. “Things are looking great right now for me and the team.”

Rusek likes one prominent quality about Sowe.

“He wants to win,” Rusek said. “He’s one of those players who will do whatever we need to do to win. And he’s going to find a way to do it. Right now, he’s been involved in two-thirds of all of our goals. He’s been carrying the team offensively. So he’s the one who will get us where we want to go.”

Sowe would love to play college soccer when he graduates from Harrison.

“I would love to play in college,” Sowe said. “It would be amazing to be part of that.”

Sowe has someone who admires his play, namely his little brother, Mustapha, who is a freshman with the Blue Tide.

“I know he looks up to me,” Sowe said of his little brother. “I want to do well so he can follow me. Right now, I’m not doing this for me. It’s also for the team. If I’m attacking and scoring more goals, then as long as we’re winning, that’s all that matters.”

CAPTIONS

Harrison junior Omar Sowe, shown here dribbling through two Lyndhurst defenders last season, has exploded as an offensive force for the 10-1 Blue Tide, scoring 19 goals and adding 15 assists so far. Photo by Jim Hague

Harrison junior midfielder Omar Sowe has become an offensive juggernaut for the Blue Tide. Photo by Jim Hague

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer