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Player of the Week: Amobi Okugo

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Well now, that was refreshing.

While the overall team performance against Colorado on Sunday was still uneven, with the Union taking three road points, there is some reason to celebrate. What’s more, there were several quality performances.

One performance, though, stood out above the rest: Amobi Okugo’s. Okugo, as you’ll know by now, scored his first Union goal with a towering header from a Sebastien Le Toux corner kick late in the first half (and just after the announcers were saying “Why does Le Toux take corners?”—I tend to wonder that myself, but I’ll take the goal). It was a confidently taken goal, by a player who is clearly finding himself at MLS level.

Last season, Okugo was called in as an emergency center back. That he performed not just well, but at an elite level, was more than the coaching staff could have hoped for, but most Union fans (and the coaches, too) saw Okugo’s future in central midfield. With Bakary Soumare yet to start in 2013, he hasn’t gotten back to midfield yet, but considering how well Okugo’s playing from CB, it almost doesn’t matter.

Yesterday, the Amobeast was everywhere. He broke up play, he made tackles, he started attacks with smart passing — he’s easily the best and calmest passer in the back six — and, of course, he scored the opening goal.

My favorite moment of the day, however, came when Okugo challenged Deshorn Brown, himself a PSP Player of the Week winner when he was with Reading United in 2012, only for Brown to tumble to the ground from the slightest of nudges. When asked recently for the ASN Questionnaire what quality he dislikes most in an opponent, Okugo replied, “Flopping. I absolutely despise flopping. To try and cheat your way to earning a call or winning the game by flopping is what I dislike the most in a soccer player.” So, Okugo, ever-so-politely, informed Brown that, were he to continue behaving in such a manner, Okugo would be forced to actually give Brown the physical abuse he was currently only imagining, and that Brown wouldn’t like that.

Why is that my favorite moment? Aside from the general high-level bad-assitude of the comment, it displayed something that the Union has been otherwise lacking: leadership. Brian Carroll has never been much of a talker, and to top it off he’s started the season in poor form. (It was Carroll’s missed “tackle” that led directly to Colorado’s goal.) Okugo, however, is both a vocal leader and one who leads by example.

And it’s becoming clearer and clearer who the rest of the team is, or at least should be, following: Amobi Okugo, PSP’s Player of the Week.

25 Comments

  1. JediLos117 says:

    Hands down! Excellent match!
    .
    Okugo will not transition to a defensive midfield spot this year. He has claimed the CB position. Soumare will clain the Gonzalez spot on the pine.

  2. frankswild says:

    I missed the first half because my cable was out; does anyone happen to have a video or audio clip of Okugo putting Brown in his place?

  3. Okugo should be playing in place of Carroll. We need size in the back that Okugo does not have. Gaddis is responsible to 2 goals in 2 weeks. It is time for him to sit. I like to see Hoppenot or Kasey up top with McInerney. Trade LeToux for a CB if they are not going to play Soumare.

    • I would like to know who mac is paying for all the good press. letoux has an assist and a goal this year. Took a ton of knocks, accepts the place the coach asks him to play and also accepts the bench when called there. but somehow trading le toux for a CB comes up. sitting letoux for x/y/z.
      Mac is good but hes not van persie.
      Lets stop filling the kids head with greatness and let him fill it himself with actual greatness.

  4. I absolutely agree with the comment about Le2 and the corners- why have the guy that is supposed to be your goal-scoring target off on the side of the field? Not to mention the height that was missing from the crosses last year. Le2 isn’t tall by any means, but he is more of a target than Jack Mac and Hop.

    • Usually I’d agree, but his set piece attempts have been pretty solid thus far in 2013. Would still rather see Keon or (gasp!) ROGER TORRES taking them, however.

    • ebradlee10 says:

      We’ve seen Mac win head balls for goals…Sometimes it’s more about desire than height.

  5. Yesterday was a prime example of why I had touted Okugo as a candidate for captain when we had that debate a few months ago. The guy is a leader which is clear when you see how his teammates react to him. I’m sure that he gets a lot of respect in that locker room.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Looked like Parke was leading Okugo. Soooo…

      • Didn’t see that.

        Sooo, please give me some specifics.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Throughout the game Parke was orchestrating the back line. He was vocal in directing his fellow defenders where to be. (I watched this game on TV, so I cannot be sure as to what was actually said. Parke could have been singing Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That”, for all I know.) But, it appeared to me that he was the senior member of the back line and he handled himself accordingly. My ‘sooo…’ was in reference to (maybe) Parke getting consideration for the armband. (Carroll is obviously hindered by the weight of the ribbon.) Okugo’s young age and relative inexperience would hinder his selection for captaincy, although I agree that he is quickly becoming one of the leaders on the team.

      • i’m with black. that was my take watching the game as well. i’d love to see parke get the armband.

      • Fair enough, TBH. While I think that Parke would be a great candidate for captain, I can’t get my head past the fact that when he played for Seattle (a team that Sigi said was lacking strong leadership), Parke was never really chosen to wear the armband. One would have thought that he could have stepped into that void, but perhaps Sigi didn’t see him that way (although, aside from a spell where Ianni took his spot, Parke was a consistent starter for Seattle).

        Being a fellow Drexel alum, I love having Parke on our team and would love to see him with the armband. I agree with the general sentiment that Carroll isn’t really suited to be captain and for an introverted player, it’s too much of a burden for him to play that role.

  6. that first half was like watching washed out light blue, burgundy, and light green paint dry. the second was a testament to defense and counter-attacking away football that this team so desperately needs to be competent in.

    imagine how formidable that line-up would have been with soumare, okugo, and torres replacing okugo, carroll, and daniel? i can’t wait for saturday, in hopes that some of these marooned players end up seeing the field, and that 6 points awaits us 3 weeks in.

  7. Yesterday really made me consider if our style of play should change. I love the idea of controlling possession, but perhaps our skillset is better served with bunkering down and looking for the counter. Not the most attractive football, but certainly effective – just ask anyone that’s ever played in Serie A. That first 30 minutes against SKC was gorgeous to watch, but I don’t know how sustainable it is for 90. Parke and Okugo, along with our dozen or so defensive midfield options could be a fierce defensive unit if they could just get organized. Food for thought.

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  9. Anyone else want to see Okugo and ‘Get the F*** Up’ on a poster next week? Man, I wish I could draw!

    • +1. This needs to happen. A screen shot of that incident would do just fine. Grab it off MLS Live. Superimpose the quote, and bam, you’re set.

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