IRVINE, Calif. – Orange County SC announced on Thursday it had reached an agreement on the transfer of Haitian forward Ronaldo Damus to GIF Sundsvall in the Allsvenskan, the top division in Sweden, pending league and federation approval.
The Most Valuable Player of the 2021 USL Championship Final, in which he recorded a pair of goals in OCSC’s 3-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Rowdies to claim the club’s first league title, is the latest top USL Championship player to be transferred to a top-flight club in Europe.
“I’m very thankful to Orange County SC for all of the opportunities they have given me to help me improve my skills on and off the pitch,” said Damus. “To be given the chance to make my professional debut and win a championship last year along with winning the MVP, it was more than I can imagine. Now transferring to play in Europe is a dream come true. Those moments will never be forgotten, but will always be used as a tool for the future while playing on the stage in Europe.”
Damus signed for OCSC ahead of the 2021 USL Championship season and appeared in 31 matches last season, scoring a team-high 18 goals across the regular season and playoffs. During OCSC’s playoff run, Damus scored four of the club’s five goals, including a first-half brace in the USL Championship Final. He also spent three weeks away from the club in the summer to represent Haiti in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Located on the northeastern coast of Sweden, GIF Sundsvall was recently promoted to Sweden’s highest tier of soccer and already signed 2021 USL Championship Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso in the offseason to bolster its defense. Now, with Damus’s addition, Sundsvall brings aboard a player who has built his career in the USL’s professional divisions, having previously competed in USL League One for North Texas SC.
“Transferring Ronaldo to GIF Sundsvall in the Allsvenskan, the top division in Sweden is another landmark moment for Orange County SC,” said OCSC President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Oliver Wyss. “Ronaldo will definitely be missed on the field, but his development is a credit to the entire club, technical staff and his teammates. We have dual ambition of winning Championships and developing young players in Orange County and Ronaldo’s success is the perfect proof of concept. We are excited for Ronaldo to have the opportunity to showcase his talent in Europe and he will always be remembered as an Orange County great.”
Former Orange County SC forward Ronaldo Damus was named the 2021 USL Championship Final MVP after leading the club to its first league title. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies
Damus joined Orange County with the goal of showcasing his talent and developing under the OCSC coaching staff’s direction in order to put himself in the best position to move to the next level with a first division European club. He becomes the latest talented young player to demonstrate their potential in a professional environment with OCSC and earn a transfer move, following previous moves that saw the side compete its first transfer with international partner club Rangers FC of Glasgow, with young goalkeeper Aaron Cervantes making the move to Scotland. Cervantes signed with OCSC in 2018 after playing youth soccer in Southern California and making his professional debut in goal just days after his 17th birthday with OCSC.
Prior to Cervantes’s transfer, Maryland native Bryang Kayo joined OCSC in 2019 and completed a move to Vfl Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga.
“I am thrilled that OCSC has once again successfully collaborated with a young, ambitious player to help him achieve his goal of playing first division soccer in Europe,” OCSC owner and CEO James Keston said. “As a fan of OCSC, I am disappointed to see Ronaldo leave us; but with exceptional young talents representing the OCSC first team, and a pipeline of exceptional youths coming up fast on our OCSC reserve team, OCSC will continue to deliver exciting young talent to the transfer market for years to come.”
On OCSC’s 2022 roster, defender Kobi Henry and midfielder Francis Jacobs–both 17-years-old–highlight the ongoing progression of the club’s Pathway to Professional model.
Henry, who made his professional debut with OCSC at 16-years-old, played an important role in the club’s defensive unit during the tailend of last season. It earned Henry a call-up to the USMNT U20 squad for the Revelations Cup, followed by his first senior team call-up at the USMNT annual December camp and friendly. Jacobs, who made his professional debut with the club at 14 years old, has played numerous games with Rangers FC, including joining their U16 team in the prestigious 2020 Alkass Cup in Dubai.
Meanwhile, newcomers like 19-year-old defender Alex Villanueva left the Seattle Sounders FC organization and 18-year-old forward Korede Osundina signed from Barcelona Academy USA looking to build their professional careers with OCSC along with their sights on achieving their dreams of playing at the highest level.
“OCSC’s commitment to its young players has always been that we will challenge them in a structured environment made up of experienced professional coaches and players,” said Keston. “And give them the tools and instruction to help them improve, and actively help them to achieve a move to the highest levels of professional soccer around the world.”
Prior to OCSC, Damus recorded 21 goals in 35 appearances for North Texas SC in USL League One over two seasons. In 2019, he was the USL League One’s Golden Boot winner and a part of the title-winning team alongside current FC Augsburg and United States Men’s National Team forward Ricardo Pepi. In winning the Championship title a season ago, Damus became the first player to win both USL League One and USL Championship titles.