While the rest of the country divides itself over the issue of welcoming refugees into America, Darlington Nagbe and Kei Kamara faced off in Sunday's MLS Cup.
Nagbe, a star forward for the Portland Timbers, is wrapping up one of the best years of his career, which featured his first call-up to the U.S. National Team.
Kamara, meanwhile, overcome a leg injury to lead the Columbus Crew SC in his first visit to Major League Soccer's championship match. Kamara, who also plays for Sierra Leone's national team, is one of the bigger stars in America's professional league.
Nagbe's Timbers wound up winning the match, but the story beyond the pitch is perhaps even more compelling. Those two stars aren't just the stars of their respective teams. Both are refugees who came to America in flight from their war-torn countries.
According to Think Progress, Nagbe's family fled Liberia soon after his birth in 1990, stopping in Sierra Leone and Europe before locating permanently to Lakewood, Ohio. Kamara was forced out of Sierra Leone when he was 7, after a bloody civil war erupted.
At that young age, Kamara couldn't fully comprehend what the civil war meant. But he quickly become acquainted with the risks of life in the country.
"It was difficult growing up in Sierra Leone," Kamara said in an interview with Vice Sports. "As a kid you don't really know what the war is. Then you start losing family members, friends, waking up in the morning and seeing bodies on the ground and vultures eating through people."
Kamara's family applied to enter the United States through its Refugee Admissions Program. He describes the day they were accepted as "the happiest day of our lives."
Sierra Leone's civil war ended in 2002, and Kamara maintains ties with the country, primarily by participating on its national team. Nagbe, meanwhile, became an American citizen earlier this year. In Portland, Nagbe has found an accepting community, particularly among its soccer fans:
— Fanatics of Football (@footynews129) September 14, 2015
In five seasons, Nagbe has been twice been awarded the MLS Fair Play Award, given to the player who best demonstrates sportsmanship and commits the fewest fouls.
Their presence was impossible to ignore on the soccer pitch Sunday, but only in part due to their play. With the United States facing a crossroads over how it will accept refugees into the country, attitudes can be shaped by the positive influences it already imported during times of crisis and turmoil.