Jordy Delem (right) battles Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer for the ball. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
SEATTLE — After 34 exhausting days of covering the USA at the Women’s World Cup, it was time to go home. It was a rewarding yet, tiring experience, watching the Americans play seven games, mostly in the north part of France, except for the final week in Lyon.
On Tuesday, July 8 I departed the Courtyard at Marriott in a shuttle van for the Charles de Gaulle Airport for my Delta Airlines flight home to New York. The van driver and I struck up a conversation. He asked what I did for a living and I said I wrote about soccer, football. What a coincidence, because his brother not only played the beautiful game but competed in the United States.
Was I familiar with the name Jordy Delem, he asked?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t. The van driver’s name was Jean-Marie, and his brother Jordy played with Seattle Sounders FC. It was an informal conversation, so I wasn’t taking copious notes or recording it.
Jean-Marie was proud of his brother — both men are Martinique natives — playing professional football. He talked Jordy up.
The conversation ended when we arrived at the airport, but I figured there might be a story here sometime in the future.
I flew home and get back into the swing of things. Jordy Delem was placed on the back burner. Until Seattle secured a spot in MLS Cup.
On Friday, I finally got an opportunity to meet Jean-Marie’s brother during Sounders’ training at the team’s Starfire training complex in Tukwila, Wash.
We talked about brotherly love. As it turned out, Jean-Marie wasn’t the only member of the extended Delem family in Jordy’s corner.
“Well, I have some family in France, obviously,” he said. “I have been talking with my family every day, especially my brother. He follows me and that’s something good for me.”
I told Jordy that Jean-Marie sounded like his publicity agent. That didn’t surprise him.
“All the family is the same way,” he said. “They follow me a lot. They love soccer. For me it’s nothing new. They give me good support. They help me because I am here alone. Being away from home sometimes is difficult but I get a lot of support from my family back home or my brother.”
The Delem family traditionally have Sunday dinners. “So everybody is close,” Jordy said. “He is not the only one like that. All my cousins, my uncle are all like that. It’s something special.
The 5-11, 156-lb. Delem found his way to Seattle through former MLS defender Ezra Hendrickson, then the coach of Sounders 2, scouted him in Martinique and felt he would make a good addition for the USL Championship side in 2016.
“He saw me right away. He wanted me to sign for his team, S2,” he said. “He promised that if I did well, I would sign for the first team, which I did. I took my chance. Fantastic for me,” Delem said with a slight laugh.
That was in 2017.
He still has kept in touch with Hendrickson, who is now with Columbus Crew SC, “because he helped me a lot. If I am here now it’s by him and I give him a lot of respect.”
Like many Major League Soccer personnel and players, Hendrickson will be watching Seattle take on Toronto FC in the MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. A crowd of in excess of 69,000 is expected at the stadium.
“This is a very big game, especially at home,” Delem said. “Now we have a chance to play home in front of our fans. It will be something special for us because we want to win for them. We have been working hard. We will do our best to win.”
A defender, Delem played in a little less than half the minutes for Seattle this past season. That came out to 1,439 minutes in 17 starts over 23 MLS matches.
“We know each other well. It’s like a big family,” Delem said. “It’s something good. We’ve been working hard every day for each other. The coaching staff has pressed us to move forward. After 2017 after we lost [in MLS Cup to Toronto FC], we learned from our mistakes. Now we have a chance Sunday to do much better.”
Regardless how the Sounders fare Sunday, Delem will take a flight from SeaTac Airport with an eventual destination of Martinique. It’s not a personal trip, but one to represent the Caribbean side in the Concacaf Nations Cup in a vital home match against first-place Honduras (2-0-0, 6 points) in League A Group C. Martinique (0-1-2, 2) needs to win to keep its hopes alive of reaching the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Because Martinique is an overseas department of France, it is not a member of FIFA or eligible for the World Cup. The Gold Cup is a different animal.
“For me, it’s something great,” Delem said. “When you play for your national team, it’s always something special, especially when you play with guys who know each other since they were kids. The boys are like family. So, it’s something special. For us, it’s like the World Cup because of France we can’t play in the World Cup. This is our World Cup, actually.”
I mentioned to Delem that he might smell of champagne on his flight if things go right for the Sounders.
“Yeah, man, I don’t mind it,” he said with a laugh, “Especially when we will do, it will be a good feeling.”
Delem, 26, has made 44 appearances for Martinique, scoring six goals. He most recent goal was off a set piece in the 80th minute in a 2-2 Nations League draw with host Trinidad & Tobago Sept. 9. That result kept the Caribbean side in the running for a Gold Cup berth.
His most memorable goal, however, came in a 3-2 loss to Mexico in a 3-2 Gold Cup defeat June 23.
“Even if we lost but scoring against them is something good,” Delem said. “I wish we could have won.”
Delem also will get an opportunity to see friends and family. As of Friday, the brothers hadn’t talked this week.
“He was busy and stuff,” Delem said. “Actually, he came back home. But I am heading home next week so I will talk to him in Martinique.”