Former Portland midfielder Lawrence Olum (above in 2008) returned to the Rose City with Sporting Kansas City for the first time since playing two seasons for the USL-1 Timbers back in 2007-08.
"It's very nice, I like what they did to the stadium and everything,” Olum said. “It's my first time being back, and it's a good feeling."
Olum chalked up six goals and an assist in 47 appearances for the Timbers in his first two pro seasons after attending Missouri Baptist University. What Olum remembers most about his time with Portland isn’t the first game he started or goal he scored, it wasn’t beating Cascadia rival Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs in his rookie season or bagging a 90th minute equalizer against Atlanta midway through his sophomore campaign.
"The fans always being there loud, and cheering the team on,” he said. “I count that as one of the big memories I have of Portland."
Olum went on to find success in stints with the Minnesota Thunder (2009), Austin Aztex (2010) and Orlando City S.C. in 2011, helping the Lions win a USL Pro Championship in their inaugural season.
The Nairobi, Kenya native signed with Sporting KC as a defender in short order on September 17, 2011 after an impressive tryout period.
He credits his rise through the ranks of pro soccer not to a lucky break, but "just plain hard work. Even when I was on the lower teams and everything it was just hard work. Every day trying to get better, and somebody saw me somewhere you know, that's why I'm here."
After journeying through the second divisions of the US pro soccer world, earning a stable place on the country’s highest soccer stage has Olum feeling good about what he’s achieved.
"I don't want to say I've made it, but it's a good thing to be in the MLS because it's the top league in the country,” he said. “I'm not going to say I made it, but it's definitely a plus."