Roma is Sophia’s choice
When her former Niagara College coach Rob Lalama suggested Sophia Al-Kayed try out for the Club Roma Wolves in the League1 Ontario Women’s Premier Division, she jumped at the chance.
“I really wanted to do it because I hadn’t played in a long time, especially competitive,” the 22-year-old St. Catharines resident said. “I thought it would be a lot of fun.”
The Saint Francis grad had last played competitive soccer for Niagara College in 2020 after losing her third collegiate season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is thrilled to be back in a competitive atmosphere.
“It is awesome,” she said. “I like being able to compete because when you play rec or Sunday leagues, it is a fun thing but you are not practising and you are just there for fun. This is fun and competitive put together which is what I like.”
It didn’t take too much time for her to get back up to speed.
“It wasn’t too long because I was still playing but just not as competitively. I missed that part and now that I have that again it is a lot of fun.”
Al-Kayed has suited up in 12 games for Roma this season and is averaging 24 minutes of playing time. She has scored a pair of goals and is happy to fill in whenever or wherever she is needed.
“He has a certain playing style and I will do whatever he (head coach Lucio Ianiero) thinks is right.”
Al-Kayed has been a starter and a key player everywhere that she has played so it is a new role for her to come off the bench.
“It is definitely a different mindset because it has never happened to me before but I am glad to fill the role.”
Ianiero likes what she brings to the pitch.
“She has come from some good programs and has had some good coaching and she is an absolutely great technical player,” he said. “She has great vision and is a good decision maker. And she works hard.”
Al-Kayed plays left and right wing for the Wolves.
“She hasn’t played all that much but Arianna (Zumpano) is ill today (Sunday) so she is stepping in,” Ianiero said. “I always tell the girls that no matter who we put on the field, the expectation is the same. We have faith in every one of our players and today it is her turn to do the job.”
Al-Kayed, who works as a receptionist at Martindale MediSpa, was looking forward to starting Sunday against London FC.
“It should be a lot of fun to start and play a bit,” she said, before the game.
Starting or coming off the bench, Al-Kayed’s preparations remain the same.
“You have to come in ready and happy to play.”
She is still evolving as a player.
“It’s to keep working and keep getting better while having fun and playing competitively.”
Her favourite part of the experience has been the camaraderie.
“I have made so many friends and it is a lot of fun. We are all in this together and it’s good to have that.”
The Wolves entered Sunday afternoon’s game 10th in the 20-team league with 7-7-1 record. They dipped under .500 with a 1-0 loss to third-place FC London (12-2-2).
The Wolves play at Alliance United FC Wednesday before hosting Vaughan Azzurri Friday at 8:45 p.m. at Club Roma.