Where the USL Cup goes, Devon ‘Speedy’ Williams follows.
The former Robert Morris University standout midfielder will once again be playing the USL Cup Final on Thursday, when his club, Louisville City FC will look to become the first USL team to repeat as postseason champions, when they take on Didier Drogba and the Phoenix Rising. (8 p.m. ESPN2),
As a kid growing up in Jamaica, by the time he was 15, he lost both of his parents, and was raised by his Grandaunt, who’s both deaf and mute. Williams was scouted by Robert Morris coach Bill Denniston who saw him play in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica.
“This experience certainly gave me a different outlook on life. It opened my eyes to the fact that life is unpredictable and we just have to adjust as we go along,” Williams wrote earlier this year on USL.com. “Focusing on things we can control. Things like living and making memories, building lasting relationships and putting smiles on faces.
Williams initially dealt with some culture shock when first coming to the Steel City — primarily in getting used to colder weather.
But the one thing he could control was his path to becoming what he wanted to do more than anything.
“I wanted to become a professional soccer player,” Williams said.
Along with former Robert Morris teammate and current Pittsburgh Neco Brett, Williams charted out his ‘path to the pros’ at Robert Morris, with an outstanding career and college experience.
“We used to stay up some nights just talking about if and when we would become professionals,” said Williams.
“To be honest, that was always the thing – to make it professionally,” added Brett. “We were trying to be noticed, trying to influence the younger kids from back home.”
Now, after eight years as a college and professional soccer player in the United States, playing in playoff games in cold weather has become just part of Williams’ routine.
After going on trial with Major League Soccer’s NY Red Bulls, he was signed by the club halfway through the 2015, Williams played his first two seasons primarily with the RB’s new USL s team, Red Bulls II. Among his experiences with the Red Bulls, he appeared against Chelsea FC of the English Premier League in the International Champions Cup.
The fact that Williams has been part of successful teams hasn’t been a coincidence. From the holding midfield spot, the former Colonial has been among the most accurate passers in the league for the good part of his pro career — completing 85.4 percent of his passes and is dishing it off 61.6 times per 90 minutes this season. Williams has a 65.9 percent success rate on long passes, and owns a pair of assists to go along with his three goals in 2018.
On Saturday in the semifinal win against his former team, Red Bulls II, he scored twice in Louisville City’s 5-2 win to advance to the USL Cup, with a little celebration to boot…
— USL (@USL) November 3, 2018
The 2015 RMU alumnus has also earned a pair of call-ups to the Jamaican National Team this year, appearing in a friendly against South Korea on January 30 and a CONCACAF Nations League qualifier against Bonaire on October 14.
Williams has been a part of the last two USL Cup-winning sides, previously raising the trophy with Red Bulls in 2016 and Louisville City last year. He provided the assist on Cameron Lancaster’s 88th-minute winner against Swope Park Rangers last November, setting up his striker with a curling cross from the right flank.
What has made Louisville City a strong contender each year in USL has been its ability to put all of its parts together.
“You can’t be defined just by stats and individuals,” Bob Lilley, Riverhounds SC head coach said earlier this year. “You need to be defined by the collective of our team. I think Louisville really demonstrated that last year in winning a championship,”
On the precipice of doing it again, in the middle of the field, Lou City will turn to a seasoned, reliable and talented midfield that includes Williams. The Jamaican’s deft passing, ability to make the rest of his teammates better and steadying presence are the attributes that have already contributed to multiple USL championships.
And maybe another one.
“I made the move to Louisville City FC in 2017 and was again a part of that championship team, ” Williams said earlier this year. “Winning back-to-back USL Cups, with two different teams, is one of the biggest accomplishments in my career thus far. “Winning is fun and you want to do it as much as possible, That’s my motivation, just to keep on winning and not being satisfied out there. I’m always wanting more.”
Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, he’ll be known as the Robert Horry of the USL.