Amine El Moumen said he and his family moved from Morocco to Montreal when he was “five or six years old.”
“My mother wanted to move to Canada for personal reasons ever since I was a baby,” said El Moumen.
He started playing soccer in the streets of Casablanca and when he moved to Montreal, “I really fell in love with soccer.”
He traveled all over Canada to play and, in 2008, his Challenger soccer team played an exhibition game against the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
The next year, his best friend, goalkeeper David Girouard, attended UMFK where he backed up Giovanni Sinclair.
Girouard was recruited by UMFK coach Bill Ashby, and Girouard suggested to Ashby that he recruit El Moumen.
“We lost some wingers and I thought Amine could help the team,” explained Girouard. “And he has been a great addition.”
He certainly has.
El Moumen is UMFK’s second-leading scorer with 22 goals and seven assists.
Meanwhile, Girouard became the No. 1 goalie a year earlier than expected when Sinclair got married and left school. And he has responded with 18 shutouts and an 0.26 goals-against average.
El Moumen had other offers, but felt UMFK had the best soccer program.
He has surprised himself this season as he and his mates prepare to play Grand View (Iowa) in the NAIA National Tournament’s Final 16 in Alabama next Tuesday. UMFK is 22-0 while Grand View is 19-1.
“It has gone even better than I had hoped,” said the 18-year-old El Moumen. “I figured if I worked hard, everything would be okay. Hard work pays off. But the results have come really fast.”
“Amine is very quick,” said Ashby. “He isn’t fast but his first couple of steps are very quick. He keeps the ball close to his feet and his body so he’s able to get around people. He’s also good in traffic. He can finish in traffic situations.”
“He gets in the right spot at the right time and he’s good at placing the ball,” said Girouard.
El Moumen and Girouard are two of six players from the Challenger program at UMFK, and El Moumen said having former Montreal mates with him has been very helpful.
“I don’t feel alone,” he said.
El Moumen admitted that scoring goals has always come “naturally” to him, but he said he has benefited from having a lot of talented teammates around him.
“This is one of the best teams they’ve ever had here,” said El Moumen. “We want to come back with the title.”
While El Moumen has been finding the back of the opponents’ net, Girouard has been making sure the opponents don’t find the back of his net.
“I knew before the summer I’d be the number one ‘keeper,” said Girouard. “I tried to prepare myself the best I could. It has been a challenge for me. With the help of my teammates, I’ve done well.”
“David has become our goalie a year sooner than we expected, but he has done a good job for us,” said Ashby.
The Montreal connection was instrumental in UMFK’s 3-2 win over St. Thomas University (Fla.) on Saturday in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament.
Girouard backstopped the win, El Moumen scored the second goal and Kevin Dionne’s diving header proved to be the game-winner.
Montreal’s Dionne has four goals and two assists.
“(Dionne’s goal) was huge for us,” said Ashby.
The other Challenger players are Sebastien Arsenault (1 goal, 2 assists), who has provided quality minutes in the midfield and in the back, according to Ashby; back Pierre-Oliver Lachance (1 & 2), who is a “good ball-winner in the air” and is a projected starter next season, and backup goalkeeper Johathan Daoust.
“(The Challenger players) have been very important (to our success),” said Ashby, who earned his 300th career win against St. Thomas.
He is 300-162-21 in 26 seasons, including a 93-6-3 mark in his five seasons at UMFK.
Ashby and his players will bus to Portland today and fly to Alabama on Thanksgiving Day.