Even while donning the Old Gold and Black for Wake Forest and playing amid the comfortable surroundings in Winston-Salem, N.C., that he considered home for the past three-and-a-half years, Scott Sealy was able to display the pride he has in his native land of Trinidad.
Amongst a sea of players around the ACC whose wrists are adorned with various yellow LiveSTRONG and other multicolored bands, Sealy's thick red wrist band with the national flag of Trinidad & Tobago stood out. And when you're still playing college soccer after having already been capped for your country's full national team, you can pull that off.
Same goes for the perma-grin that never left the 23-year-old's face after getting drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the first round in the MLS SuperDraft. Although Sealy appeared to be just as ecstatic to watch his collegiate teammates Michael Parkhurst, James Riley and Amir Lowery get their names called during the four-round draft as he was when the 2004 MLS finalists chose him with the 11th overall pick, he really lit up when the upcoming World Cup qualifier against the United States on Feb. 9 was mentioned to him.
"It's a big, big game for us," said Sealy, who scored a goal in his first match with the Soca Warriors last summer in a 4-0 victory against the Dominican Republic. "Everyone in Trinidad knows about it and has been talking about it since the date was set. It's all over the newspapers there already."
Recently, his name has been front and center as well. After returning to the side following the draft, Sealy was quick to make another strong impression on manager Bertille St. Clair as he fights to make the final roster for the first of 10 final-round qualification matches. Over a three-day span last weekend, Sealy started two matches as one of three forwards for the Soca Warriors, and scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Azerbaijan on Jan. 21. After going 54 minutes in a 2-0 win against the same opponent two nights later, Sealy was kept on the roster for the team's pre-qualification training camp that started at Queens Park Oval on Tuesday.
On draft day, Sealy quickly corrected a reference made to his being a full-fledged member of the T&T national team.
"I'm in the training pool," he said. "That's all I can ask for now."
To Sealy, being in the "pool" is a compliment all to its own, considering the magnitude of the match against the USA, and his relative inexperience at the international level. Of course, that may have changed over the past week, and could be cemented with two exhibitions against Haiti on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3.
To play against the U.S. national team would be somewhat of a dream come true for Sealy, considering he's lived here since 2001 and will be moving to Kansas City in the near future to start his professional career.
"It's the best team in the region, so right away it'll be a huge test," he said. "It's very important for our country to start out on a good note. It doesn't matter if it is the United States or if it was one of the other countries, it's still a home game, and we'll be going for the full three points."
Regardless of whether the U.S. goes down there and defeats the Soca Warriors, as it is expected to do to, or if the home side pulls off a remarkable upset that would put the CONCACAF region in upheaval to start the final round of qualifying, Sealy's focus will quickly turn back to the Wizards.
"It's nice knowing that I can add to an already great team," said Sealy, who is looking forward to reuniting with former Demon Deacons teammate Will Hesmer. "They have great forwards (Davy Arnaud and Josh Wolff), but I'm gonna work hard for a starting job."
After scoring 43 goals and amassing 108 points over his four years at Wake, he's shown his prowess around the box and nose for the goal. But it's his work rate and maturity off the ball that St. Clair noticed right away when he brought in the young striker, as well as what those around the college soccer world will not exactly miss about him.
"He was simply a handful to play against," said South Carolina assistant coach Bryan Cunningham last month. "He scored two goals against us last year and would have beat us this year if we didn't have (Brad) Guzan. You need more than one defender and a great goalkeeper to stop a player like that."
While standing with a MLS head coach at the Combine earlier this month, he remarked how he hadn't seen Sealy do anything in the match yet. Moments later, the Petit Valley, Trinidad, native made a well-time diagonal run to perfectly open up a space for himself between the defense. Once the ball was played through, Sealy calmly took two touches with his left foot while shielding the defender to his right, looked off the on-rushing goalkeeper near the top of the box, and sidestepped him with ease before knocking it into the open goal.
The head coach turned with a smirk that spoke volumes of how impressed he was.
"That's the thing," said Sealy. "I do a lot of things that don't fit the stereotype. The stereotypical view of a Caribbean player is that we play with flair and are fancy with our moves and all that. I play very simple. I can play with my back to the goal and get the midfielders involved by combination play, and try not to do too much dribbling."
It's also apparent that Sealy's a real student of the game, as he mentioned the likes of Brian McBride, Ronaldo and Gabriel Batistuta, amongst others, in the same sentence when talking about the ins and outs of being a good striker.
Perhaps he'll include someone like Wolff to that list once he's able to pick the veteran forward's brain.
Of course, those type of guru sessions will have to wait a few weeks until the two are new teammates again, rather than likely opponents in a World Cup qualifier.