When Yaya Dosso arrived in the United States from the African nation of Cote d’Ivoire in 2015, he spoke four languages. English wasn’t one of them.
Facing a daunting communication hurdle in a new land, Dosso turned to what he knew best — the global language of soccer.
Three years later, the Hillcrest senior has emerged as one of the top strikers in the Dallas area. And he’s blossomed in terms of his conversational and social skills off the field, too.
For both developments, he credits his teammates and coaches with the Panthers.
“I couldn’t talk much,” Dosso said. “My teammates helped me learn how to speak English. They are like a family to me.”
Dosso grew up as the only athlete in a family of engineers, drawn to soccer because it’s the most popular sport for youngsters in his home country. He came to Dallas with his older sister seeking a better future, and soccer was the most logical place to start.
“The first day he enrolled at Hillcrest, he came looking for me,” said Hillcrest boys soccer coach Willy Flores. “Since then, he’s made friends with everybody.”
Dosso’s first name is Issomaila, but his American friends call him by his catchy middle name, Yaya. “That was the easiest name for my friends to say,” he said.
Still, even soccer was challenging for Dosso as a freshman, since the style of play here is more technical and more physical than the fast-paced game he often played on concrete in Cote d’Ivoire.
Dosso eventually adjusted. As a junior last season, he posted 32 goals and 17 assists, was named the MVP of District 11-5A, and led the Panthers to the third round of the playoffs. He also has been a standout with the FC Dallas youth select program. Yet he’s keeping his focus on other goals, too.
“There’s more opportunities after you graduate. That’s why I came here,” said Dosso, who plans to graduate this spring and play soccer next year at Hill College in Hillsboro. He eventually hopes to pursue a degree in international business.
Dosso almost turns into a different person on the soccer field, where his emphatic displays of emotion — he sometimes does backflips after scoring a goal — run counter to his humble and soft-spoken nature. “Soccer makes me be positive and forget about my problems,” he said.
Flores has noticed plenty of other changes in his go-to scorer, who’s not the shy and quiet kid he first saw at practice three years ago.
“As he had a stronger communication with everybody, he started to learn the system,” Flores said. “He’s grown not only on the field but also in school. He’s grown as a person a lot.”