KANSAS CITY, Mo. – To his manager and teammates, he's “Lo.” To fans who appreciate his hard work and his steadiness in big matches, he's “Leapin' Larry.”
Now, after scoring game winners in two of Sporting Kansas City's last five victories – and helping them put together a six-match unbeaten run heading into Saturday's away date with Toronto FC (7 pm ET; Stream of the Week, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada), Lawrence Olum has a new nickname:
Olum laughed when he heard that – as a defensive midfielder, it's more his job to disrupt attacks than finish them – but also said he's not done trying to score.
“Any chance I get,” he said, “I'm going to try to get one in.”
The soft-spoken Kenyan international's recent offensive contributions have just added to his value, manager Peter Vermes said.
“As much as he's a very quiet guy,” Vermes told reporters after a training session earlier this week, “he's got a strong winning mentality.”
Olum had 14 goals in five years of USL PRO play – but after joining Sporting Kansas City in 2011, he didn't find the net in any competition until scoring a late winner against Philadelphia (a result that eventually led to Sporting hosting the MLS Cup final) in the 2013 regular-season finale.
Both of his goals this year – putting home a loose ball in the area at Portland on June 27 and a put-back header in last weekend's 2-1 home victory over the LA Galaxy – have been marked by positioning and opportunism.
“If you get more and more chances to play, you also start to feel more and more comfortable doing some of the things that are consistent and a part of your game,” Vermes said. “Maybe in the beginning, when you're not playing a lot, you just come in and make sure that you do your role and do it correctly and not necessarily go outside the lines too much. Now I think he's getting more comfortable, and he's starting to do that.”
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Stability in Sporting's lineup doesn't hurt either, Olum said. He began the year as Uri Rosell's backup in the defensive midfield, then found himself seeing some duty in central defense after Sporting's backline was ravaged by injury and international absence, but now has established himself as the first-choice d-mid after Rosell was sold to Sporting Clube de Portugal in early June.
“On any team, once you have consistency, you kind of know habits, tendencies,” Olum said. “You can tell what your team's going to do even before. So it makes it easy to anticipate and play better.”
And with Honduran World Cup veteran Jorge Claros recently signed and expected to contend for minutes in the defensive midfield, Olum will have to step things up even further – a challenge he welcomes.
“It's always a competition – within the team, against other teams,” he said. “It holds everybody to a high standard. So it's a good thing. You know you've got somebody behind you who's just as good as you.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.