There’s a balance required to coming into a new locker room as an established veteran, especially a locker room coming off the best finish in club history with most of the core of the roster returning.
It’s something the veteran midfielder Sebastián Velásquez was mentally prepared for when he signed with the club as one of the final pieces added to the talented roster. However, he’d have to wait to show how his physical talents blended with his teammates on the pitch.
The 32-year-old suffered a hip injury in the offseason, causing him to miss preseason camp and the first two matches of the regular season with his new club. The midfielder worked with the club’s medical team and received an injection to relieve pain and return to the pitch. After two intense weeks on training ground, Velásquez made his 901 FC debut and 100th USL Championship appearance when he came in as a reserve against Miami FC
“I’m going to play this way,” Velásquez said. “It completely knocked the pain away which is pretty cool. It’s crazy what science and medicine can do, and to be quite honest, I’ve looked very good in training. I’m feeling like myself.”
Velásquez is back in the USL Championship after spending the past four seasons between El Paso Locomotive and Miami FC. The Columbian also scored two goals in 18 appearances with Isreali side Hapoel Umm al-Fahm in the winter before signing with 901 FC in late-February.
Upon his return from the injury report, Velásquez has helped 901 FC bring back a point after a 1-1 draw to Miami FC and dismiss One Knoxville SC 2-1 in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup.
The momentum from the past two games and camaraderie built since the preseason is something Velásquez said he can point out to show the club can overcome the slow start to the season.
“We’re going to be okay. There’s 93 points still on the table. It’s only game four,” he said. “If we go win here and win the rest of the season no one’s going to be talking about the first two games. That’s what we’re looking to do.
“It’s been very exciting. I think the team camaraderie is very exciting right now. I’m happy to be back with the guys as well. Memphis hasn’t really seen me play so I’m excited to put that on the table as well.”
On the field, Velásquez brings a dangerous presence devoted to scoring goals that he looks to pair with the ball striking ability of Aaron Molloy, creativity of Jeremy Kelly and finishing pedigree of Phillip Goodrum.
“I have almost 40 goals in this league,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of good things in this league, so I want to challenge myself to help the team and create chances for my teammates, score goals, get assists and at the end of the day, win games.
“I came to Memphis to win and that’s the only mentality we have. I’m one of the older guys so I think being a leader on the field is going to make a big difference because we have a lot of great players, but we need to be able to handle the whole 90 minutes.”
That leadership can serve as an extra boost to a club that ranks among the youngest in the league, and in Memphis he’s found a locker room that has welcomed him with open arms.
“It’s amazing what the locker room has become. I could tell the first few days, you could tell guys were really quiet. This is a game where you really have to express yourself,” Velasquez said. “The guys that want to make a difference have to make a difference not only in the locker room, but also on the field. I think we’ve given everybody that family vibe where everyone knows that we can count on each other. I believe that that’s what’s going to get us through.”
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