Guyanese international and League1 Ontario 2014 alumni Emery Welshman was signed by MLS side Real Salt Lake on Monday. For the 24 year old Sigma FC academy product, the signing represents a welcome mile-marker in his already eventful career.
After a very promising college career at Siena College and Oregon State, Welshman got a brief taste of the MLS after he was drafted 16th overall by Toronto FC at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, before being released by his hometown pro club in early 2014.
Despite the disappointment, Welshman quickly returned to Sigma FC and, as team captain, contributed greatly to the club's impressive 2014 League1 Ontario performances.
"League1 Ontario will hold a special place in my heart for giving kids such as myself a competitive league to fall back on and continue developing," said Welshman. "Not all players will move on to be professionals but L1O gives enough competition for high quality players to continue playing the sport they love at a very high level."
Various players from Welshman's Sigma FC generation have since moved on to the MLS, including high-profile signings such as Orlando City's Cyle Larin and Richmond Laryea, with another cohort snatched up by USL clubs, and a third group placed in tier I NCAA programs. Welshman attributes the success of the academy to technical director Bobby Smyrniotis.
"In all honesty, coach Bobby makes you want to be a better player, and makes you want to show up to training because you know after every session your going to be a better player," said Welshman.
"I had to go back to Sigma after TFC released me to find my confidence and love for the game again, but the coaches and managers at Sigma have a very professional way of running things," he added.
"They hold a very high standard for themselves and also the kids. They've helped me fine-tune some things in my game that have prepared me for college soccer, and more recently professional soccer."
Welshman's hard work first attracted the attention of Real Salt Lake in early 2015, when he was invited to the club's training camp as a trialist. The Utah club did not offer a MLS contract at the time, but instead placed Welshman with their USL side, Real Monarchs, for further observation.
Not to be deterred from his goal, Welshman's hard-working attitude kicked in once again.
"Because it was a brand new team, we struggled in the early stages of the season to find our identity and to adjust to the physicality and ruggedness of the USL," he said.
"But we learned to trust each other, and trust the coaches' methods, which lead us to having a fairly successful ending of our season."
After an impressive 19 appearances and six goals, Real Salt Lake offered Emery Welshman a contract on Monday January 25. It has been a long road back to the MLS, but the humble and determined Welshman is now well prepared.
"This season I hope to make a positive impact on our team whenever I'm called upon and help them win games," he said. "Regardless, there will be bumps along the road, some more severe than others."
"I will have to adapt to whatever challenges come my way. Whether its dealing with injuries, playing time or loss of form, I'll just have to stay true to the process and what I've been doing."
"I'd let anybody know to always work hard and believe in themselves," concluded Welshman.
"They have to hold themselves at the highest of standards. The road to success wont be easy, but if you stay true and don't give up, you can get there. I myself am still on that path to success, and I still have a long way to go."