Oumar Ballo couldn’t speak the language when he arrived in the U.S. as a nine-year-old. Born in Bamako, the capital of his native Mali, Ballo moved to Baltimore, Maryland to link up with his father following his parents’ divorce. After early struggles adapting to American life, Ballo committed himself to learning how to speak perfect English and spending time in the gym.
His father encouraged him to focus on his studies, but, despite academic success, Ballo’s athletic prowess was unavoidable and he ended up playing five sports in school. Even with a multi-sport background, Ballo always stood out primarily on the soccer field.
It was his skill on the ball combined with his athletic and powerful frame that saw him head to the University of Maryland – Baltimore County after spending his freshman year of college at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex. He made 65 appearances for UMBC over a three-year career, tallying five goals and three assists and helping the Retrievers reach the NCAA College Cup for the first time in program history in 2014, falling in the final four to eventual champions Virginia.
During his time at UMBC, Ballo was twice named America East Defender of the Year and was also a two-time All-American, while he was one of eight defenders listed on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List as a senior.
At the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, the Houston Dynamo traded up to select Ballo in the second round (30th overall). The Dynamo made that trade with Sporting KC in a deal that saw Servando Carrasco head to Kansas City.
After spending preseason with the club, making appearances against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Houston’s Under-18 team, Ballo signed for the Dynamo on February 23. He was sent on loan to Houston’s USL affiliate the Charleston Battery on March 24 before being waived and joining the Swope Park Rangers in 2016.