Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Colombia, a dream, and a leap of faith: Jimmy Medranda on his incredible journey to Kansas City and the MLS

Posted on 4 March 2018 by Matt Bowers

Ahead of Sporting Kansas City’s season opener against New York City FC, we caught up with Jimmy Medranda to chat about his journey to the MLS from Colombia, his development, and more.

“It’s difficult to be away from family in another culture and language, but the fans and my teammates help me to succeed and have a better life by pushing me day by day.” 

Difficult seems like a monumental understatement when describing the departure of everything and everyone you know to pursue a career as a professional footballer in a foreign country at just 19 years old, but the left-footed Colombian is now thriving in Kansas City: 

“I love Kansas City. At first it was hard to change from my life in Colombia to life here, but now I feel very comfortable and I really love this city a lot.” 

 Jimmy Medranda initially joined the MLS club in 2013 on loan, but it didn’t take long for management to sign the 19-year-old Colombian talent to a permanent deal. In his four seasons with Sporting Kansas City, Medranda has played roles in all three areas of the pitch. A highly versatile and technical talent, you might have seen his incredible strike from outside the box against rivals Houston Dynamo last October. 

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It’s no wonder Medranda was keen on joining arguably the fastest growing football league in the world, now home to world-class talent like Sebastian Giovinco, Diego Valeri, David Villa and more. Jimmy probably didn’t predict he would have the opportunity to play against South American legend Ricardo Kaka or Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard in the MLS, but this is evident of the league’s rapidly increasing level of quality: 

“Before coming to the MLS, I heard a lot of negative things, but when I came the reality was different. It’s a very good league and every year it’s better. My whole life I’ve dreamed of playing in La Liga, but I’m really happy here. At this time, MLS is on a very high level competitively, and again is always improving.” 

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Medranda has played in the top tier of the American system since 2013, but his story began in a much different place. He was born and bred in Mosquera, a town on the outskirts of Bogota. But it wasn’t until the quiet and thoughtful 12-year-old went west for holiday to the citadel of Pereira when everything changed: 

“I was born in Mosquera and grew up playing football. When I was 12, I went to Pereira for holiday and ended up staying there playing football (with Deportivo Pereira football club) until I debuted as a professional. While playing micro football while there on holiday, a person I didn’t know offered me entry to the football school of Deportivo. I told him it was my dream to play but that I didn’t have any money, but he offered to pay for the school and spoke with my mom. I played five months in the school before passing to the minor divisions where all the best players were to reach the first team. I made my professional debut in 2012.”   

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Given that the speedy Colombian offers his club massive utility with the ability to play as a winger, in the midfield or as a fullback, I was curious to know how he’s handled the adjustment from Colombian football to the American game: 

“The difference is huge, Colombian football is very technical and full of passing whereas the American style is more back and forth, and modern. Back then I was able to play as a winger, a number 10, and as a number 3, but I didn’t have to defend much.” 

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As he’s clearly refined his abilities as a fullback and elsewhere on the pitch, Medranda has shown flashes of brilliance in his four MLS seasons. Used mainly as a midfield/wing substitute in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he had a breakout year in 2016 and earned himself consistent spots in the starting eleven. Used mainly as a fullback in that season and 2017, his evolution as a player is tangible. I was eager to hear whether he’s undergone a similar progression off the pitch:

“I’m still the same person I always was. I was always calm and confident and wanted to learn from the best and most experienced players. I’ve always been quiet, and have always wanted to play. The senior players at Deportivo had a very strong team and I practiced many times with them, learning everything I possibly could.” 

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When Sporting coach and scout Octavio Zambrano decided the youngster belonged in Kansas City, there wasn’t any question he was full of potential. In the beginning, the main concern seemed to be getting Jimmy ready for the highly athletic and aerobically-demanding style of MLS play: 

“I didn’t play much with Zambrano but he was confident in my abilities. Before, it was difficult to play 90 minutes here. But when you train hard and play the game hard it becomes easier with better fitness condition. The truth is, the lack of continuity with playing time made it difficult to improve my conditioning. I even had to fight some anxiety, but in the end it increased my confidence and I played better. Right now, I feel that I’m a lot better than when I got here.” 

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With a brand new season kicking off today at Children’s Mercy Park, Jimmy is eager to fight for his spot in the lineup. With two extremely talented fullbacks in Seth Sinovic and Cristian Lobato vying for the number 3 spot, Medranda is ready to contribute his versatility to help the team any way he can: 

“Lobato and Seth are very good players and can do a good job, but I always want to play. I am always ready to play and will do whatever I can to help the team. I have a lot of confidence in myself and am working everyday to improve and to win titles.” 

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Jimmy Medranda is a highly valued asset in Kansas City, occupying one of the limited foreign roster spots allowed for MLS clubs. His technical ability, pace, and versatility set him apart and make it nearly impossible for manager Peter Vermes to leave his name off the teamsheet.

If we’ve learned anything about Medranda over the last four years, it’s that his work ethic coupled with massive natural talent make it quite unlikely we’ll see him anywhere but the ‘Blue Hell’ anytime soon.


Featured image courtesy of Jimmy Medranda and Sporting Kansas City.