Beats & Rhymes FC

Omar Cummings interview: Bass chords and a Scorpion kick for Jamaica striker

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

 

An All-Star selection during his time in Major League Soccer, Jamaican international Omar Cummings is currently leading the North American Soccer League’s scoring charts with the San Antonio Scorpions, keeping a beat beside him, whether it’s to ramp up the tempo or for those moments of reflection.

Players are so often switching teams in the professional game that it is much rarer these days to see lasting associations built up. However, this had been the case for forward Omar Cummings, who joined the Colorado Rapids out of college and had six seasons with the club, becoming an MLS champion and enjoying a roundly positive on and off-field impact.

The past two years saw the Jamaican wearing the orange of Houston Dynamo, although the goals and appearances were rather more sparing than they had been in his spell in the Centennial State. The 33-year-old remains in Texas, with a move to the 2014 NASL champions, the San Antonio Scorpions, providing him with a fresh spark.

Omar sits atop the league’s list of scorers, with ten strikes thus far, and his energy and experience has made a significant difference. Soccer observers in the U.S. have had ample opportunity over the years to witness what he brings to a forward line, although perhaps not everyone will be aware of how much of a role another element plays in tuning him into the desired frame of mind when game day comes around.

“Music is always important,” he explained. “It’s what can pick you up, and even in some cases, it says the things you want to say in a different way.”

“It definitely is something that 99% of soccer players use to get that rhythm, that up-beat, that energy going into a game or even just on your chill time to relax. I like all music, to be honest.

“I go from reggae – Bob Marley, Cocoa Tea, Damian Marley, Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Shaggy – to hip-hop, from 2Pac, Biggie, to Jay Z, coming to modern day. Everything, you know?

“Reggaeton is coming up. I like everything.”

Soccer Bowl 2014 glory for San Antonio against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers meant the Scorpions headed into the present NASL campaign as defending champions. It has so far proved somewhat tougher than they would have hoped, with a Spring Season placing of 7th and a current Fall Season position of 9th, although they do have games in hand on much of the league, having played just eight times.

Team success is of course the biggest objective and it is a point Omar has made when receiving recognition for his form in the red and black. He has so far been included in the NASL Team of the Week on three occasions and won the Player of the Week accolade after his double in the 3-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who led the standings at the time, back in July.

The heights Omar was able to hit as a Colorado player did not go unnoticed either, with his career-high tally of 12 assists in the 2009 MLS season ensuring he was named Rapids MVP.  Across the whole of the league that year, only Brad Davis of the Houston Dynamo could match him in that respect and Omar went on to hit a career-best total of 14 goals the following season.

Heading to Houston ahead of the 2013 season in exchange for midfielder Nathan Sturgis and allocation money, Omar finished up with Colorado with 39 goals and 27 assists to his name. The Old Harbour-born frontman also had his contributions on the music side of the Rapids’ pre-game locker room scenario, although a Haitian international also had his playlist input.

“When it comes to dance or reggae, I could put in a little bit. At Colorado, Steward Ceus was one of the goalkeepers – he actually plays for Atlanta (Silverbacks) right now – he was one of the DJs there, for sure.”

In Colorado’s MLS Cup-winning season of 2010, Omar’s goal haul of 14 was only bettered in the league by Dwayne De Rosario (Toronto FC), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes). He was named MLS Player of the Month that September and went on to earn a place in the 2011 All-Star Team alongside previous music/soccer interviewees on this site, Bobby Convey, Matt Besler and Kyle Beckerman.

That line-up was beaten 4-0 by Manchester United at Red Bull Arena in a game which began with Omar starting in attack next to Mexican international Omar Bravo and Thierry Henry, a player who famously wore the number 14 that Omar has also favoured for many of his years in soccer. Such league-wide recognition was fitting given his part in the Rapids’ success the previous year, which had been secured with a 2-1 extra-time victory over FC Dallas at Toronto’s BMO Field.

One of the players featuring alongside him as they won the trophy under Gary Smith that night was a defender who hails from Japan, although Omar once introduced him to the sounds of his heritage.

“Kosuke Kimura – that guy’s big on music. I got him a lot into reggae music and he fell in love with it.

“In the Dynamo, Giles Barnes took over the radio. Here, I think Stevie (DeRoux), Nana (Attakora), (Josué) Soto, and Marvin (Chávez).”

It was Omar’s two-goal display in the 3-3 comeback draw with the Atlanta Silverbacks earlier this month that took him into double figures for the season and the assist on his late levelling strike came from a compatriot – full-back Stephen DeRoux. The Scorpions added a third Jamaican to their roster recently as they brought midfielder Khari Stephenson, who featured in his own interview on here in 2012, in on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes.

As this site’s concept is to dig deep within the connection between music and soccer, numerous Jamaican players have been the interview subject over the last few years, sharing their experiences of the country’s globally-known love for song and rhythm. Interviewees have included current national team players like aforementioned Houston forward Giles Barnes, as well as some of those involved in the Reggae Boyz’ solitary World Cup appearance of 1998.

One of those who represented the country at that tournament was striker Deon Burton, who recalled on here how one of the players would run up and down the aisle of the team bus with a microphone on the way to a game, getting the group hyped up. Omar made his international debut in the summer of 2008 and he has also got to witness this kind of unique pre-game tempo-raiser.

“That’s happened on occasions. I think it’s more so dancers; I think you have more dancers than you have DJs or singers.”

 

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

 

Although Omar comes from the Caribbean, he actually attended college in the U.S. At the University of Cincinnati, he became the first Bearcats player in school history to be a First-Team All-American selection, scoring 13 goals and claiming 16 assists in his collegiate career.

The 31st overall pick in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft when he was acquired by Colorado, Omar’s first ever CD was one with a little Philadelphia flavour.

“I think I stole a lot of my brother’s CDs for the most part. The first one I owned was, I think, Will Smith (alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff as The Fresh Prince) – ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.’”

As much as we have seen a sizeable amount of former English Premier League players venturing to MLS over the years, many have also moved the other way. Omar’s physical attributes and his attacking capabilities had alerted overseas clubs during his six seasons with the Rapids and a matter of weeks after helping them to their MLS Cup triumph he headed to Birmingham for a trial with Aston Villa.

Training with the Premier League side during former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier’s tenure at Villa Park, Omar impressed the Frenchman, who commented that he was getting better with every session. Villa and the Rapids agreed a loan deal but the move was ultimately scuppered due to work permit issues.

Despite the breakdown of his potential switch to England, Omar has played for teams at various levels through his soccer life, but has he ever had to go down the route of performing an initiation song?

“Luckily, I haven’t been the one to sing. I’ve been asked to make speeches and stuff, but no singing so far.

“In Colorado, probably one of the best performances was singing and dancing by Ross Schunk, for sure. Here, I think the Saad (Abdul-Salaam) / Tyler (Gibson) combination was always good.”

Music is something enjoyed all over the world by people of all ages and situations, so there are understandably athletes from around the globe who use it as motivation or just as a tool to relax their mind. In soccer, there are some whose interest goes that bit further, leading them to experiment with putting together their own songs.

When Omar was asked which of his career teammates he would choose to record a song cover with, he thought back to one of his Colorado counterparts, a former Chicago Fire forward with undoubted on-field talent who has since moved on to San Jose Earthquakes.

“I think the most musical person I’ve come across on the Rapids was Quincy Amarikwa. He was pretty good at making tracks, so we would collaborate, put them together, and at least get a good beat going.”

After the 1-0 home win over the Jacksonville Armada last time out, the Scorpions return to action away to the same opposition this coming Saturday (August 29th). When Omar isn’t helping lead the line for Alen Marcina’s team, at their home venue of Toyota Field or on the road, he does his best to keep the pace slow during his leisure time in San Antonio.

“I’m a pretty chill person and I do love the River Walk, whenever I do get a chance to go down there.  I think it’s great, absolutely wonderful.

“For the most part, I like hanging out with the guys. Every once in a while, we’ll do a grill or just be chilling.

“Of course, music is always involved. Jojo (Joseph Nane) tries to put in his music and his African beats, also.

“Nana (Attakora) is one of the DJs when it comes to that; I think Nana, Stevie (DeRoux). I just try to hang out.”

Although the idea of this site is to bring something unique to player interviews through the music angle, it is also about exploring wider perspectives on life wherever possible. As well as being a standout performer for San Antonio, Omar is also a player with many experiences to draw upon, with his Scorpions teammates able to benefit from the wisdom he can subsequently share.

“Soccer has always taught me ups and downs. It’s always been there for me.

“It’s taught me about what’s going on in life. You just keep going and keep fighting through it because you eventually hope to get a break and you’ll get better.

“Never stop, never give up, just keep going.”

 

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

Photo: Robin Jerstad / San Antonio Scorpions

 

Hoping to keep the goal trail blazing for the rest of the season, Omar will continue to act as a focal point for the Scorpions, while remaining a huge part of any opposing team’s plan to nullify the San Antonio attack. The regular closing question on here has the featured player take a last look back over the teammates they have had in their career.

The way this works is to select four of those teammates to play alongside them in a fantasy 5-a-side line-up. In a small-sided game, it pays to have good close control throughout the team, so Omar went a step further and even threw an outfielder in goal!

With representatives from his Colorado, Houston and national team days, as well as his current side, here is Omar’s selection.

“That’s a tough one…I can’t answer this. This one is tough.

“I’m looking for a goalkeeper with the best feet and reflex savers. Tyler’s not too bad, Stevie’s a good goalkeeper…big guy, poor feet.

“Tyler Gibson as goalkeeper – good feet and good on reflex. One defender…I want a solid defender.

“I’ll go with Jermaine Taylor as one of my defenders. I’m going to put my boy Kosuke (Kimura) in there as a midfielder because he’s a defender/midfielder, he’s very quick but he’s also good on defence/attack and he works his ass off.

“One forward…I’m going to go with my boy Conor. He’s a big guy, good feet, good in the air.

“He can hold up balls, can work off them – Conor Casey.”

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