Chimdum Mez joins the San Jose Earthquakes

Patricia Carpenter

Hard work and perseverance are two words that can describe Sacramento State forward Chimdum Mez during his journey to becoming a professional soccer player. He suffered a setback in his college career that drove him to stay hungry so he could make it to the next level.

“One thing a lot of people don’t know, my true sophomore season I was actually cut from the team, so that actually put a chip on my shoulder and made me want to work a lot harder,” Mez said. “It really opened up my eyes. I came back in the spring and earned a scholarship. Eventually, I just realized that hard work can do anything because I still had dreams of becoming a pro.”

He achieved that goal when the San Jose Earthquakes selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at 66th overall on Jan. 20.

Sac State coach Michael Linenberger said that he was proud of his former striker and knows that he’s going to be able to create a successful career for himself in the MLS.

“He’s a guy I feel his ceiling is still very high because he’s so athletic and driven,” Linenberger said. “I think he hasn’t even come close to reaching his peak yet. Hopefully, the coaches of the Earthquakes will see that as well and the potential that he has.”

In his senior season at Sac State, Mez, 22, put on a great showing by earning All-Big West first team accolades for scoring seven goals in 19 games, which tied a Sac State record with the ninth most goals scored in a single season.

Despite having a breakout campaign in his final year, Mez wasn’t invited to the MLS player combine, but in December he did get an opportunity to show off his skills in the San Jose combine.

“I showed pretty well [in their combine], but I had no idea what was going to happen, so I was hoping somebody would be interested and fortunately it was the San Jose Earthquakes,” he said.

After his first week of training, Mez said he is off to a great start with the Quakes and couldn’t be happier about having this opportunity with his new team.

“It’s been really cool and the staff has been very welcoming,” Mez said. “It feels like the next level, seeing all of the professionals that I watched on TV. It’s cool to see how they’re just regular guys like me who play soccer, but just do it for a living. They’re very cool guys.”

Mez’s cousin, Amobi Okugo, 23, was able to give him advice when it came to playing at the professional level and prepared Mez for the next step in his life.

“My cousin, Amobi Okugo, he played with the Philadelphia Union and recently got traded to a new team in Orlando, Florida, so he’s been giving me a bunch of pointers,” he said.

His cousin went through this same experience when he was drafted in 2010 by the Philadelphia Union and is currently a center-midfielder for the Orlando City SC.

Okubo said the two were close with one another when growing up in their hometown of Sacramento. He said they’ve maintained that relationship since their younger days.

“Chimdum has grown a lot,” he said. “He started soccer late, but once he got started he’s been one of the hardest workers around and he took a lot of growing when he got cut [in college], but his spirit never wavered. He used his setback as his motivation and I’m very happy for him.”

On Jan. 26 the Quakes opened up training camp at their new stadium in San Jose and Mez had his first taste of what it was like to train with the pros.

“The first day we did technical work, had a 7-on-7 drill and stuff like that,” he said. “We had media day for a couple of hours on Monday (Jan. 26). There was a bunch of photo shoots. We did the beep test. We also did some training as well. Wednesday (Jan. 28), we had our first scrimmage against the academy team.”

When asking what his goals are heading into this season, Mez responded by saying, “I want to learn from all of the new guys, I want to take in as much as I can. College to the pros is faster and quicker, so I know it’ll take time to get used to, but everything is looking solid as of right now.”

In his career with the Hornets, he capped 10 goals and four assists in 68 appearances with the program, including 40 starts. He is the fourth player to be taken in the MLS draft from Sac State.

He was able to attend the Sac State men’s soccer banquet on Saturday, Jan. 31 and caught up with Linenberger.

“We chatted with him a little bit on Saturday evening to see how it was going,” Linenberger said. “[Mez] feels he’s playing pretty well. The biggest thing he told us is that the speed of the game is faster, but said he’s making progress.”

“I’m so thankful for the experience and I’m glad I have a huge support system back home in Sacramento,” Mez said. “All of those guys are like family to me, we’re really close they’ve been a huge help for me.”

The Quakes left Monday for a week of training in Tucson, Arizona.