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Raves: Amobi Okugo

Editor’s note: Here is the last of the “Raves” about our favorite Philadelphia players. They need not be the team’s best players, but they’re guys we like. You hear plenty of rants when the Union losing. These are the raves, wrapped up with Eli’s rave about Union midfielder Amobi Okugo.

The season may be over for the Union but let us not forget that this is a team that was built for the future, and that future is bright. Danny Mwanga has highlighted the rookie class and youngsters Jack MacInerney and Roger Torres have provided excitement and spark when given the opportunity. And while these three young stars have excited the PPL faithful, a fourth member of the rookie class appears poised to explode into the spotlight next season, having grown as a player throughout the year.

"Step aside old man" (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

Amobi Okugo isn’t the sexiest name on the roster but, damn, can he cover ground. As the modern game moves towards winger dominated attacking play, the holding midfield role has greatly increased in importance and the bulldogs of past great teams, players like Spain’s Marcos Senna and Italy’s Gennaro Gattuso have been replaced by more athletic, versatile players. Sergi Busquets and Xabi Alonso in this summer’s World Cup winning Spanish team are prime examples of this trend.

As the season progressed, Okugo used his appearances for the Union to develop in leaps and bounds, growing with each appearance and, along with Andy Jacobsen, making the protection of aging Stefani Miglioranzi and Eduardo Coudet in the expansion draft entirely unnecessary. From the simple standpoint of yards covered, Okugo’s work rate is immense. It is not uncommon to see him winning consecutive tackles and providing the kind of steel to the Union midfield that keeps them in possession and on the attack.

Brains of a Veteran

Pop quiz. An attacking player beats a midfield player in the center of the pitch. What happens next?

Too many times this year, we have been subjected to either a violent, cautionable tackle or the complete opposite: leaving the player in space as they attack our area in full flight.

Not so with Okugo.

If he gets turned or beaten in the midfield (not often, but it does happen) he makes the smart play— he takes the foul and allows his team to recover. Sure, it may seem like a minor thing, but when you’re talking about a 19 year old player it speaks volumes about his overall soccer IQ and can go a long way towards keeping the opposition off the score sheet. After all the criticism the Union’s center backs have taken this season, I doubt they will be complaining when Okugo steps into the starting XI and helps to lock down the center of the pitch. That kind of confidence from a defense can affect the entire shape of the team and when the players have more belief in each other we will be treated to even more of the kind of positive play that we were fortunate to enjoy this season.

Real Distribution

Enough with the ticky-tacky, three yard, ping-pong in the Union’s midfield. In his limited playing opportunities, Okugo has shown that, not only can he spread the ball, he also wants to. Whether it is switching the field of attack or attempting an ambitious through-ball, he takes his chances and, the more opportunity to play he is given, the more dangerous he can be. Unlike the old guard that has patrolled the Union midfield thus far, Okugo’s upside is enormous and the more he plays the more we will see from this young man.

"Not today SUCKA!" (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

GO TIME!

So, now that we are officially into Year Two of the Philadelphia Union, it is time for Amobi Okugo to be given his shot. He has earned the opportunity to go out and cement himself a place in the first XI. He simply needs to be on the field.

How confident am I in Okugo? My Union jersey bears the number 14 on the back, that’s how confident.

Year Two is going to be a great one!

(Cover photo by Nicolae Stoian)

7 Comments

  1. Eff yeah, big-time distribution! I look forward to a more athletic Union next season. I’d pick Okugo over Leiva Lucas today!

  2. Have any of you guys seen this piece of shit that some idiot wrote about the expansion draft and Union? A bunch of Union people were freaking out on facebook about it. My god I think we found the Christine O’Donnell of the MLS writing world. http://wvhooligan.com/2010/10/26/2010-expansion-draft-list-philadelphia-union/

    • Yeah, I saw it. He clearly hasn’t followed the Union much this year, but he generally has a decent site.

      Based on seeing that yesterday — and the Daily News piece last week — I went nuts and wrote an 8-zillion word expansion draft preview that will appear on PSP later today.

  3. Great article!! Missed you guys for the last game!! Would love to see an article on what you think MLS will look like in 4 years (conferenes, playoffs, player pool, etc…)

  4. Columbia Dave says:

    But what about Ameobi, like?

  5. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Seger for World Player of the Year & more news

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