BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, August 9, 2011
After playing last season with Sigma Olomouc's second team, Stefan Jerome has broken into the club's first squad, playing in the Czech club's first two games of the season.
Jerome, 18, joined Sigma last January on a six month loan from Traffic Sports, the Brazilian- based sports management company that currently owns his playing rights.
Over the summer Jerome's loan to Sigma was extended through December 2011 and Jerome played regularly with the club's first team during the preseason. As a result, he made his first team debut in the team's opening game.
"I thought I had a pretty good preseason," Jerome told YA from Olomouc. "I had an injury problem with my hamstring and that set me back a little bit but ever since then, I think I've been playing very well."
"The coach gave me an opportunity in the first games and I thought I did well. It was my first time playing with a first team in Europe. I was happy with the way I played."
Jerome feels far more settled and confident in his game now than when he joined the club eight months ago. The main reason for this is that he feels that he has taken his time and adjusted to the style of play in the Czech league.
Last season, Olomouc finished in fourth place in the league and were in a push to qualify for the Europa League. This season, the team is expected to compete again, but Jerome is more integrated into the team from the beginning after playing in preseason.
"Last year I was having hamstring problems, but I didn't play in any preseason games...I came in midseason," Jerome explained. "The coach team [last year] just wanted me to get used to the style of Czech League playing with the second team."
"This year playing with the first team during the whole preseason did a lot for me," he continued. "I think I've been playing much better this season than last season. I'm more confident. This year I knew what I was coming into - last year I didn't. I've been getting my opportunities recently."
As for his adjustment, Jerome said it took awhile for him to adjust to the Czech League. There have not been many Americans that have played in that league with success but Jerome is enjoying the challenges that the league has to offer.
Jerome describes the league as a hybrid of styles that combines both physical and technical play.
"The Czech league is good," Jerome discussed. "It's somewhat like England. There are a lot of long balls. You can't really hold the ball. You have to play quick. There are big defenders and they are very tough. They are also very good and technical."
Playing with a team that is ambitious in Europe has forced Jerome improve his game with a more serious approach. When he was playing with the US Under-17 national team and with Miami FC, he did not play with the same sense of urgency he is now.
"I'm trying to be more consistent," Jerome admitted. "I'm not taking any plays off. When you take plays off here, bad things happen. I did that a lot when I was younger and in the States. I am not lazy anymore...I've fixed that."
"I've also added a one-two touch dimension to my game which is good because that is how our team likes to play."
As for his future with Sigma, Jerome is unsure. His loan will expire at the end of December but he is not worried about what lies beyond. He wants to stay and he likes club. He remains confident that if he continues to just focus on his game the situation will have a positive outcome.
"It's not on my mind that much," Jerome stated bluntly. "I just want to keep playing. As long as I keep playing well, I think I'm in a good situation. I just want to keep working and getting better. At the end of December we'll see what happens."
After earning four points in their first two games on the season, Jerome and Sigma Olomouc will return to action on Wednesday when they visit fourth division club Slovacka Sparta in a Cup match.