When Lloyd Sam scored a goal in a 5-1 win to clinch the 2013 Supporters’ Shield, it represented the first major title for the New York Red Bulls organization. One supporter told Sam that he actually cried at that moment as the Red Bulls “had never won anything that big.”
That special moment was just one in the illustrious career of this Leeds, England native, arguably one of the greatest to ever grace the American game. Seven MLS seasons. 149 appearances. 10,141 minutes of play. 25 goals. 34 assists. The statistics, though daunting, don’t do Sam’s career justice.
Sam also spent time with some of the top clubs in the United Kingdom, including Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday, Southend United, Leeds United, and Notts County. While at Charlton, Sam received Man of the Match honors in his starting debut in the Premier League, a game that won’t easily be forgotten.
Sam’s international career is even more impressive, spending time with the England U-19 and U-20 national teams in 2004 and 2005. This was a golden age of English football and many of Sam’s teammates became legends with the senior national team. Alternatively, Sam’s career took him to America and eventually to Ghana’s national team, where he earned his first cap on October 13, 2015. The opportunity to represent two countries was special, something very few have done.
“I really embraced the culture after playing for Ghana,” Sam noted. “I really felt more Ghanaian after that and it was very special for my mother and father.”
Playing at the international level allowed him to play some of the world’s top players, but a fellow teammate proved to be the best player that he ever played with.
“Thierry Henry, without question,” Sam responded when asked about his former Red Bulls attacking partner. Sam praised Henry’s skills, but his soccer intelligence gave him the edge even late in his career. The best player that Sam faced off against in his career was none other than Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.
Playing against soccer legends certainly rubbed off on Sam, who has accomplished so much in both the U.K. and U.S. His new task is leading the way for The Miami FC in the NPSL.
“I was very pleased by the level of talent that we have on this team,” Sam continued. “We are a team that is going to cause some trouble in the U.S. Open Cup.”
The Miami FC is a team that has made its mark with deep runs in the Open Cup and an NPSL national title less than a year ago. Sam is excited about the club’s prospects in the USOC, admitting that the competition is deserving of more attention. This comes from a seasoned veteran who has experienced it all in numerous appearances in the FA Cup and the U.S. Open Cup.
The Miami FC is also expected to be one of the strongest teams in the 2019 NPSL season and the inaugural Founders Cup.
Sam mentioned a number of managers, coaches, and front office staff that made an impact on his career, including the likes of Jesse Marsch, Mike Petke, and Ben Olsen. Petke gave Sam glowing reviews when asked about his contributions with the Red Bulls.
“In my rookie year as a coach in New York, Lloyd was one of many key players that were the reason why we won the Supporters’ Shield that year,” Petke remarked. “His ability to isolate out wide, he was so talented on 1v1s. His ability to get crosses across and his competitiveness. Literally he was one of my favorite players to coach. Professional, easy going in the locker room, always brought a smile to everyone’s face. Someone you could count on. I’ll never forget the goal he scored against Chicago. It was one of my favorite goals ever to watch. Lloyd is someone that is a big part of me as a coach and a big part my development, having to work with someone like him.”
Former Red Bulls teammate Chris Duvall, who just happens to be an NPSL alum, spoke highly of Sam’s contributions on and off the pitch.
“As a leader I think his best quality was just being a team guy,” Duvall stated. “He holds himself to a high standard. He holds everyone to a high standard. I think he’s one of those guys that gels the locker room together. He’s got a lot of personality. I don’t think I have ever met anyone that doesn’t like him. He’s a guy that brings everyone together. I know that when we traded from New York to D.C., it definitely left a huge void in our locker room. It says a lot to be that kind of guy. As a player, for a few years he was one of the most dangerous wingers in the league. He can score, he can beat you off the dribble. He’s a good player.”
Sam is excited to work with Miami FC head coach Paul Dalglish and that feeling is clearly mutual.
“Sam brings a wealth of top-level experience to our team,” said Dalglish. “His skill set and leadership will be invaluable to our club as we look to build on our success from last season.”
Sam will be part of a talented squad at The Miami FC, one that includes the likes of Shawn Chin, Marco Franco, Miguel González, Tomas Granitto, Brenton Griffiths, Brian James, Robert Baggio Kcira, Dylan Mares, Jalen Markey, Mark Pais, Lance Rozeboom, Darío Suárez, and Mohamed Thiaw.
2018 was a special year for The Miami FC and 2019 looks even brighter thanks to the leadership and skill of the one and only Lloyd Sam.
Photo Credit: Ken Tishenkel/ISNSoccer.com, Alenny Orovio/Orovio Photography, and Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com