“He never loses his focus. His work ethic is far and above any other player I have ever coached. He gets up as early as five in the morning to go and get in extra work and shots on goal. No matter how underhanded the tackle against him, he is the first one up and extends his hand to help up the player who just took him down. His creativity is sick. He is that game changer who makes the team better because he elevates the level of play of his teammates.”
Those are the words of Torch Sports Ministry President and Torch FC Men’s Head Coach Rich Sparling. The gleaming review happens to be about former Torch FC standout Sachem Wilson, who is now playing professionally in Slovenia.
Wilson’s journey is a special one, something built on talent, passion, and faith. That isn’t to say that the journey was easy, but rather it resembled that of a roller coaster with twists and turns and ups and downs.
The Stow, Ohio native was the first NPSL alum to ever play professionally in Slovenia and also the first to play in the UEFA Europa League. Getting to play at that level overseas was a major milestone for Wilson’s career, but also for the NPSL as a whole.
A few weeks after playing in the Europa League with Slovenian PrvaLiga side ND Gorica, he suffered an injury that looked to be serious enough to warrant surgery and several months of recovery and rehabilitation. Being a foreign player in a country 4,000-plus miles away from home didn’t help matters much. Even worse, due to the language barrier, he unknowingly signed a termination of contract.
His backup plan fell into place and he signed with one of his former clubs in the Slovenian Third Division.
“For a half season I had to play with the injury because I didn't have time to get the surgery mid-season,” Wilson noted. “Then, thankfully, a prayer team from Germany was visiting my church there, and they prayed that my foot would be healed. Now, although according to the x-rays and MRI I still need surgery, I haven't felt any pain since that day.”
Wilson went on to be the league’s leading scorer with 22 goals in 22 full appearances, attracting the interest of First and Second Division teams in Slovenia.
“But after a lot of prayer by my family and I, we decided the wisest decision would be for me to sign with my current club here in the Second Division, NK Krka, so I could continue to develop,” Wilson continued. “Midway through the season I'm now our leading scorer and fourth in the league in goals, so things are looking promising, but the work continues.”
The work began in the NPSL with Torch FC in Pennsylvania as the club developed his skills, preparing him for the next level.
“The NPSL played a huge part in my development as a player, because it taught me how to balance physicality with creativity,” Wilson added. “To quote sports psychologist Bill Beswick, the NPSL helped mold me into more of an ‘artist-soldier’ as opposed to just an ‘artist.’ This really helped take my game to the next level, and it's a skill I especially need now at the professional level.”
Becoming a professional player is not an easy task as one might imagine, but a proper foundation gave Wilson the best chance at success.
“At the top levels, you have to learn to perform at your best regardless of how you feel mentally or physically. It's not about talent, it's about tenacity. It's not about effort, it's about execution. It's not about participation, it's about perfection. Obviously, professional soccer is not for the faint of heart, but the NPSL and the Buxmont Torch gave me the spark.”
Wilson made quite an impression on his Keystone Conference opponents, more than enough to garner an invitation to the 2016 NPSL Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“The NPSL combine was a great experience for me on multiple levels,” Wilson concluded. “From the top-class facilities where we played and lived and trained to the coaches and guest speakers who are living legends, every second was a learning opportunity that I was able to take full advantage of. Playing with the best in front of the best showed me what both my strengths and my weaknesses were in a high-pressure situation. This is exactly what the professional game is like on a daily basis, so I was fully prepared when I got my shot, thanks in large part to the experience I had there at the combine.”
The NPSL and the combine experience has helped make Wilson the player he is today. He has many fans all over the world, most notably NK Krka Head Coach Borivoje Lučič.
“At the beginning of the season he really struggled because he needed time to adapt, but after about five games he started to find his feet, and he continued to improve game by game until at the end of the half-season he was our best player. I think Sachem is definitely capable of playing in the 1st division here in Slovenia, but we'll see over the next few months if he has what it takes to move on to one of Europe's biggest leagues. I know he can make it to the highest level here, but I think he has the potential to go even further.”
Lučič went on to compare Wilson to former Chelsea standout Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
“He was a very good player, and a very strong player, but his biggest strength was his ability to score goals. Sachem reminds me of him.”
That’s quite a comparison considering the fact that Hasselbaink scored an amazing 197 goals in 468 appearances, winning the Premier League Golden Boot in 1998-1999 with Leeds United. Not to mention that Hasselbaink had 23 caps with the Netherlands.