Stephenson believes MLS move will boost career
Kwesi Mugisa, Gleaner Writer
Reggae Boy Khari Stephenson believes a move to Major League Soccer (MLS) team San Jose Earthquakes, away from Norwegian team Aalesunds, will prove to be a fruitful one, as he is more suited to the American outfit's style of play.
The Jamaica international player secured a permanent move to the MLS club earlier this month after going on trial back in August and recently wrapped up a 10-day stint with the squad as they prepared for the season in England, at the training facilities of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur.
"In Norway they play a lot of long balls, straight to the forward and he takes it down, the midfield runs on, it's a lot of work without the ball. At San Jose the ball is played short and I have an opportunity to get into the game more, it's more fun and that suits me better," Stephenson told The Gleaner via telephone from London, shortly after training at the Tottenham grounds.
Stephenson, who started out his career at MLS' Kansas City, moved to Swedish premier division club Gais, in 2006, for one of the largest transfer fees in Sweden's football history.
After an outstanding season, the player moved to another Swedish Club, AIK, before moving to Norwegian club Aalesunds in 2008. Despite a positive impact at the club, as the player found himself outside of a consistent starting spot after picking up an injury.
"I picked up an injury in the first half of last year and after that I wasn't used as much. A loan deal was secured to the Quakes, I think I fit right in, they are a good group of guys and there was a move to make the deal permanent," Stephenson explained.
The 6ft, 2ins central midfielder joins fellow Reggae Boy Ryan Johnson at San Jose and believes the chemistry with Johnson and a few other players has made the move easier.
"Ryan is here and I have good chemistry with a lot of the players so, I think that made the move a lot easier for me," he said.
Stephenson also credited the MLS with having made significant strides since he made his debut for Kansas almost seven years ago.
"The quality has improved tremendously, the pace has increased, it is no longer viewed as a retirement league," Stephenson pointed out.
"Players leave from here and go to Germany, Spain, all over the world really. I would not have made the move if it hadn't (improved)," he added.
Stephenson earned himself a recall to the national squad in September last year for a friendly international against Trinidad and Tobago. The player was, however, unable to make the match due to visa issues.
Although disappointed that he was not able to appear for the game, the player insists that he is always available and hopes playing in a league closer to home will make it easier.
"I have always made myself available for national duty, that is the first time I wasn't able to attend, but I look forward to future call-ups," he said.
"We know perhaps playing in the MLS will help in that respect, you can't say you don't know how he (Stephenson) is doing. It is closer and a lot of the games are shown on Jamaican television," he added.