Fans' View

Fans’ View: Why we love Ayuk

Photo: Paul Rudderow

With the exception of NYCFC week, it’s been a forgettable season for Union fans.

  • We’ve had a series of key players dealing with injuries.
  • A World Cup veteran banished to France after an ineffective and irritable run to start the year.
  • We’ve suffered through reckless, ill-advised red cards from both young and old.
  • Shoddy officiating costing the Union points early.
  • Shoddy man marking costing the Union points later.
  • Key offensive players struggling to meet expectations, and an unsurprising lack of real depth to spell key players having issues with health or form.

Whatever could go wrong has gone wrong at this point.

“SackSak” has become a thing, and we now have the Union Bible and the Cliff of Union Despair to document the long strange ride with this team and commiserate together.

Shouldn’t soccer be fun? While tailgating has been more fun than ever this year, shouldn’t Union games be entertaining?

Enter Eric Ayuk Mbu.

An inauspicious beginning

I took the day off earlier this year to head up to YSC and check out the Union’s open practice session. Ayuk had arrived in the States just a couple days earlier, completed a physical, and was thrown into the fire. As an 18 year old player from Cameroon just arriving in the United States and MLS, by way of Thailand’s second and third divisions, I’m sure that first day was overwhelming.

From the deck overlooking the field at YSC, we watched Coach Curtin set up a fairly intricate passing drill that involved multiple players, a series of short passes and plenty of movement. Ayuk, likely due a mix of the language barrier and nerves, had trouble figuring out the pattern of movement and passing. Just below where we stood, Curtin asked several players in the group (I believe it was Hoppenot, Wenger, and Fred) if they could help explain the drill to Ayuk. I remember the players having a good laugh as Hoppenot pointed out that they already tried explaining the drill to Eric in three different languages! Following this drill, Ayuk was also the last of the newcomers to hit the crossbar during a spirited cross bar challenge.

The rise of Ayuk

That nervous debut has long been erased by a young, hungry player who doesn’t seem the least bit short on confidence now. He not only has locked in a spot on the gameday 18, he also seems to have gained the confidence of Curtin to the point where he is now looked at as a regular contributor on game day. To his credit, he has created a goal off of Zach Pfeffer, contributed a spectacular header for a goal against Columbus, and added some much needed creative flair to the team.

While still a work in progress (a little turnover prone, perhaps a little too exuberant celebrating while down 3-1), has anyone captured the attention of Union fans this quickly? Maybe Roger Torres, but the list ends there.

What’s the draw?

We don’t like our athletes lazy, cynical, aloof, or too disruptive. As much as MBolhi seemed to be an uncomfortable fit with his teammates, the opposite seems true to Ayuk. By all accounts, and from watching him in action, he seems to be admired and respected by the more senior players on the roster. He’s that lovable little brother that will frustrate you at times, but blow your mind and make you proud much more often. His heart seems in the right place. Ayuk oozes confidence and a youthful exuberance that is just flat out fun to watch. In a season low on highlights, Eric Ayuk brings a flair and entertainment value that is sorely needed.

As a youth coach, I always stress to my players that it’s okay to try stuff out on the field. Experiment. Take a player on when you have the chance. With the Union, Ayuk does just that.

For those of us who coach youth soccer, play in rec leagues, or eagerly turn on NBC Sports to watch an 8:30 am Premier League game, soccer is something to be enjoyed. Soccer is a beautiful game. It’s creative, it flows, and most importantly, it’s flat out fun.

As an 18-year-old at the start of his career, I suspect that Ayuk isn’t to the point where playing professionally is a business. He’s likely only a couple years removed from playing pick-up games with friends, and it shows.

Give me youthful exuberance. Give me that fearlessness heading down the flank. Attack that slower left back and force him to the bench at halftime. Do as many cartwheels and back flips as you’re able to, as long as you don’t pop a hamstring. I’ll even overlook the Columbus goal celebration – it was his first in MLS, and one bad ass goal for a small winger to finish up in the air like that. It’s his fearlessness and youthful confidence that make him such a dynamic player to watch.

We can rein in the celebrations later. For now, give me more Eric Ayuks out there in blue and gold.



  1. el pachyderm says:

    He checks back. He understands width and tucking in. He attempts to maintain possession – though sometimes a bit too much himself. He has pause to his game as evidenced in the preseason. La Pausa- that rarest of qualities in Homo Sapien North Americus.
    Too bad we are relying on a kid to solve the riddle.

    • el pachyderm says:

      BTW. Good read Scott and I agree- give us some more youthful ignorance- if its going to be bad, may as well blame it on not knowing any better.

      • Thanks el Pachyderm! Give me a little energy and flair out there. Ayuk brings it. Will he do 8 step overs and lose the ball sometimes? Yes. But he’ll create some moments of brilliance for a team that seems tentative and on its heels this season.

      • el pachyderm says:

        btw – my guess is Ayuk wouldn’t wander into the town hall meeting and say, “I play, coach stays.”

      • I told you he’d come back when they got rid of him! I now have a new goal to watch Hoosiers with Eric Ayuk this season. Make that a loyalty point redemption option and I’m all over it.

      • he’s fearless too, runs right through people. The kids got a great upside…..technical, athletic, and tactically savvy…….how many players on this club can you say have all three of those elements? Nando, Nogs, Mo…….and, and, and, and…….hmmm…I’m running out of options here……..

      • Agree on Ayuk totally. However Mo is another question entirely. Mo has lost his touch and as far as being tactically savvy I would question that, loves to play out of position at inopportune times. Could he be better with better players around him sure, but certainly is no superstar there is a definite reason he got cut from the national team and couldn’t make it at Stoke.

      • The Black Hand says:

        It’s just nice to see you two in harmony…in a Art and Paul kinda way…cheers!

      • I almost didn’t add him, Dr. U……..I agree with most of what you said actually,…….I still tend to think of the Mo of 5 years ago……..that’s why I added him. And TBH……..different Doc!

      • The Black Hand says:

        Blasted Hell!!!!

  2. Good Read Scott. Maybe the older players will find the energy they are missing with this young kid around.

  3. Got to love the guy! Why not! He is fun to watch and is beginning to be a difference maker. His first sample on PPL pitch wasbshor but there was a little something there that demanded another look! Good to see the staff haven’t gone completely blind to talent.

  4. The kid wants the ball all the time. He says give it to me and let’s go. And even though he wants the ball all the time, he doesn’t hog it. He makes good passes. He’ll try for a cross. He hasn’t shied away from challenges, taking a man on, or getting up in the box. What is there not to like?

  5. He, and Aristegueita, have been the only good things that have happened to the Union this season. Literally. I am hard pressed to think of another. (Well, OK, maybe CJ Sapong, though his Union tenure has been injury-shortened, and we expected him to be pretty good. Debatable whether a solid player living up to his expectations is worth counting.)

    • I also like to think that Edu to CB full time is a good development, but that still doesn’t change your overall point. Things haven’t played out very well overall.

      • Has Mo really solidified a back 4 that gives up goals at will? They have given up quite a few goals with Mo anchoring the back line……hasn’t helped much at all………proof is in the numbers….can’t hide from them. We really don’t have options….but to make it sound that Edu solidified our back line is just wrong…….nothing has improved….we still give up WAY too many goals. Also taking Mo out of CDM has left a huge hole there…..not being filled by anyone……we have gotten housed in the middle of the park. My point is… seems Mo is not the answer for the back 4…….and moving him there has created a problem in the middle of the park…..that the staff is still trying to figure out. Think about it…….your central midfield is usually where your best players reside……particularly in the MLS….we have had a revolving door in there since day 1….partly due to injuries, but partly due to incompetence. If your going to keep Mo at CB……..I suggest trying a possession oriented midfield of Madaina at OCM, and Nogs and Pfeffer as the CDMs…….see what they can do in there……..they are your most technical three to put in there. Jim also moved Mo out of the back last match against Columbus…..I think that was telling. I don’t think Jim likes Mo there either….but feels he has too until White gets his $hit together. Watch, over the next few matches….don’t be surprised to see Mo back at CDM. Just an observation…….

      • el pachyderm says:

        pretty sound observation- you have argued for Pfeffer in a holding/supporting type role for awhile.

  6. Love this guy and love the contextually strange celebrations. That is exactly the kind of attitude we have never had in our uniform with a player that is also team minded.

    • The Black Hand says:

      He is intriguing. Shows real quality, at times. The celebration needs to go…but the kid is 18. (If I were 18 and had just scored my first professional goal, I would take a sharpie and sign everyone in attendance…while doing flips…ok, somersaults…)

  7. He is great; watching him play (and celebrate) is one of the few enjoyable moments this season. Great read!

  8. Yes. Soccer is fun, and it should be fun to watch as well!

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