Season Reviews

Season review: Amobi Okugo

Photo: Earl Gardner

Amobi Okugo did all that was asked of him and more in 2013. With competition (seemingly) at center back from Bakary Soumare in the preseason, Okugo played himself into the starting lineup and then cemented his place with his consistency.

In only his second season playing in the back line, Okugo easily positioned himself amongst the best young center backs in the league. With sound positional play and impressive aerial prowess for a guy who won’t count himself among the taller defenders in the league, Okugo kept opposing strikers frustrated all season.

But it’s the additional positives that make Okugo a complete player. Not only can he play defense, he can pass too. His passing range exceeds many members of the squad, and he is one of the only players who was able to consistently ping 60-yard balls to the feet of teammates.

I’d be shocked to find many who disagree that Okugo is a potential future team captain as well. His honest, gritty, effort week in and week out is a model for teammates. His vocal disapproval of simulation is refreshing. And he almost always says the right thing. Even as a fairly young member of the squad, Okugo is intelligent and mature both in talking with the media and with his teammates.

There is the elephant in the room with Okugo though. He’s been fantastic as a center back for the last one and a half seasons. But could he be more as the box-to-box midfielder he was drafted in 2010 to be? Could he command games from the center of the park for a Philadelphia team that so badly needs someone to do so? Whatever the position is for the future for Okugo, Union fans should be happy to have him in the squad.

Okugo 2013 statsHigh Point

In a huge win in Kansas City in September, Zac MacMath stood on his head in the first half. But Okugo was immense in the second as KC pushed numbers forward, launching the ball into the box repeatedly. Okugo was perfectly positioned and won every ball that came within five yards of him. The performance was fantastic, but the timing — being away in Kansas City, with the Union pushing for a playoff spot — was immense.

Low Point

The 5-1 shellacking at the hands of New England in August was not pretty for anyone. But after deflecting a shot straight past Zac MacMath in the first half, Okugo was dismissed in stoppage time for a second yellow card offense.

Strengths

Aerial prowess. Passing range. Strength. Leadership. Okugo is one of the most complete players on the Union roster. One part of his game that was especially enjoyable this season was his personal crusade against diving. You’d be hard pressed to find an opposing player who went down easily against the Union that Okugo didn’t then confront with a few choice words.

Weaknesses

It’s hard to find part of his game that is lacking right now. As a young player, sure, there is still a level of naivety and inexperience. But that will come with time. Is Okugo’s versatility a liability? As one of the most reliable center backs in the league, is he missing his chance to develop into the powerful box-to-box midfielder he was drafted to be?

6 Comments

  1. Okugo needs to move to DM. Hackworth is wasting his talents at CB all because he loves BC. This team cannot afford one more year of BC at DM. Next year will be my 5th and final season as a STH if Carroll is starting next year. I also think Okugo has a better shot at the USMNT as a DM. To me he is too small to play CB at the NT level.

    • I would like to see him move into the midfield as well but I disagree with calling it wasting his talents and CB. His talents are being put to great use there and it isn’t insane to ask him to keep playing there

  2. Agree with TC. The team would have been better this year with Soumare in the back and Okugo in midfield (and Carroll out to pasture). There’s a further problem: Okugo *wants* to play midfield. He is under contract for the next season but I’d be very surprised if he stays beyond that in any case. If he’s still playing CB, he’ll be gone in the summer.

  3. Another high point for Okugo had to be scoring his first 3 MLS goals.

  4. I felt revitalized after the article on the interview with Hackworth. Maybe the guy was dealt a bum hand and did his best with it. BUT IF I SEE OKUGO AT CB AND BC WITH THE ARMBAND IN THE OPENING DAY LINEUP IM GOING TO PULL ALL OF MY HAIR OUT!

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