LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Speed of foot, in the game of soccer, can win you cheers. It can win you fans, it wins you admirers, it can even win you the occasional big contract.
Speed of thought wins you games.
Schillo Tshuma, a 21-year-old Zimbabewean by way of the University of Maryland and Generation adidas, obviously has speed of foot. He knows it, and everybody who's watched him play for a hot minute knows it.
He's determined to show that he's got speed of thought as well. He's determined to win some games.
"I like to play the ball on the ground. I like dropping [into the hole to make plays], so I could help the midfield build up a lot," Tshuma explained on Friday evening after his team's 2-0 win in the 2014 MLS Player Combine, a win that featured a sweetly taken second-half goal from the star attacker.
"Today, I felt like that goal – I'm gonna give credit to a lot of my teammates. It's good to be in a team where everybody wants to play the ball on the ground."
The goal itself was like something out of an instruction manual, with Tshuma and Curaçao native Quinton Christina playing a lightning-quick series of one-twos through the middle to create space. The last touch was the best, though, as Tshuma drifted into space instead of relying only on his jets.
He knew, he said, that there would be a gap – and that if he got the right ball, there would be a goal.
"Christina played a 1-2, and I felt it. I knew there was gonna be space behind me," Tshuma said to reporters afterward. "And there was so much space."
Tshuma's patience on the play, and the problem-solving he showed against an aggressive defense, spoke to the traits that have made him a top MLS prospect since he broke onto the scene with the Terps in 2012. He scored 10 times as a freshman in College Park, helping lead his team to the College Cup semifinals.
A year later, though, things weren't quite as smooth. The Terps went farther – all the way to the College Cup final – but Tshuma scored only six times. Had opponents figured him out?
The answer is "maybe." Tshuma wasn't able to find space in behind as easily in 2013 as he had in 2012, and while all the important questions aren't yet answered, he's at least showed that he doesn't need acres to be dangerous. Whether he's playing as a second forward or on the wing, there will be gaps to exploit.
He's determined to find them.
"I'm happy that I scored a goal like that," he offered as the sun went down on Friday night. "I'm pretty sure that some people are going to see it, to see that I can be creative in those areas."