Player of the Week

Player of the Week: Amobi Okugo

Photo: Paul Rudderow

All of us remember the first time this season the Union took on the New York Red Bulls back in March at Red Bull Arena. The game was tight, with Conor Casey getting his first Union goal off a trademark long-thrown Sheanon Williams assist.

But then, Thierry Henry happened.

Amobi Okugo will certainly remember that day, because Henry was his mark, and Okugo allowed him to ghost past and win the game for New York. After the game, there was little in the way of recrimination—Okugo was still very early in his transition to being a top-level center back, and Henry had taken apart far better players in his world-class career.

And, of course, the Union got their revenge a few months later in June, pasting New York, 3–0. It was called a “signature win,” but that Red Bulls team was missing Tim Cahill and Jamison Olave (and Juninho, too, back when he was still in MLS), and it was at PPL, not Red Bull Arena, where the Union had never gotten a point, let alone three.

So when the Union, primarily due to the sterling work of Okugo and the rest of his defensive teammates, gutted out a difficult 0–0 road draw on Saturday against the full strength New York Red Bulls, it was true vindication.

Not only did Henry fail to deliver the hammer blow as he has so often done, he was essentially a non-factor, pushed far away from goal, and nullified by Okugo’s good work. And Okugo—who leads the league for minutes played by field players—was everywhere, making headers, clearances, and tackles. He blocked shots, cleaned up midfield mistakes, and started what little possession the Union managed with his own neat passing.

More than that, he simply refused to be beaten, and his partners in the back line and in goal followed his example, sturdily repelling all Red Bull attacks.

Union fans will always find a lot to gripe about when it comes to the personnel on the field, and the decisions made by the coaching staff. Many still feel that Okugo, for all his effectiveness at center back, is playing out of position, and should play in midfield. Whether that’s true or not, Union fans should take heart in the knowledge that no matter where he plays, Amobi Okugo makes the Union better. A lot better. And when he can take the field with legends like Thierry Henry and say, “Today is not your day,” the Union become very difficult to beat.

And that’s why he’s PSP’s Player of the Week.

Honorable Mention: All the defenders did themselves proud on Saturday, but Zac MacMath, in particular, looked very good. His play has been on the upswing for weeks now and, bar one flap at a corner that Tim Cahill might have punished him for, MacMath played one of his best games for the Union to date.

5 Comments

  1. I’d like to add honorable mention for Fabinho. He was right there with Amobi for my “Man of the Match” vote. He had a number of key defensive stops. Much better positioning and communication. Ray has his work cut out for him…

  2. Totally agree with everything above. Amobi was the man of the match, clearly. But Zac was also strong, and Fabinho was quite strong too. Parke and Williams started off a bit shaky but then came around to have strong games too. And Brian Carroll also played an important role in the shutout.

  3. At the end of the match when NBCSports decided to award man of the match to MacMath, I said to my wife that while he had a good game, Okugo had a better game.

  4. Okugo has been great to watch all season. He made steady improvement and rarely repeated mistakes. Congratulations to him and well deserved!

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