One is a local soccer product fresh out of college. The other is a Haitian national team veteran. When it comes to Minnesota United FC, both are players searching for bigger roles.
Ish Jome and Steward Ceus both shined in their first North American Soccer League match for the Loons this season. They made their case for more minutes with key contributions in a 3-1 victory over Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night.
Jome, a 21-year-old forward and former standout at Prairie Seeds Academy in Brooklyn Park, scored the Loons' third goal. Ceus, a 27-year-old goalkeeper, made four saves, including big second-half stops to prevent the Strikers from drawing even.
"He's a young guy that's been working really hard," Ceus said of Jome. "He comes in early, leaves late. It's good to see him get his chance and have a successful debut."
Said Jome: "He made a great debut as well. He's like a bigger brother to me."
An announced crowd of 8,379 at the National Sports Center Stadium in Blaine saw the Loons move to 10-2 in their past 12 matches against Fort Lauderdale. Minnesota (3-1) earned a second consecutive league victory, while Fort Lauderdale (0-4-1) again missed getting into the victory column in the fall season.
First-half goals from J.C. Banks and Christian Ramirez — both on assists from Ibson — provided an early cushion. Banks scored his first goal in a league match this season, while Ramirez tallied his league-leading 11th goal.
Ceus and Jome took their star turns in the second half as the Strikers got rolling. Paulo Junior beat Ceus with a ball against the grain that hit the pipe and deflected in. The goal cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1 in the 54th minute. Two minutes later, however, Ceus preserved the lead by getting his glove on a drive from Luis Fernandes.
"Personally, I feel every save is just as big as the last," Ceus said. "But I think in the moment it was a momentum swing for us."
Ceus played well in Wednesday's exhibition match against AFC Bournemouth and replaced Sammy Ndjock, who drew worldwide jeers for throwing the ball into the Loons net for an own goal during the 4-0 loss.
A few fans voiced support for Ndjock, who played every minute of the previous 13 league matches this season, when he reached the team bench.
Jome entered the game in the 63rd minute. Just seven minutes later, he found himself alone in the goal mouth yelling for a ball from Danny Cruz.
"And then he passed it," Jome said. "So a big thank you to him for passing me the ball."