Tag Archive | "Amobi Okugo"

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Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Player Ratings

Posted on 02 May 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- With even the defenders pressing up early on, Mondragon served as a glorified sweeper, easily collecting a quantity of balls that got through the stretched out Califf and Valdes.  Faryd didn’t face his first challenged until the 21st minute, when he was called into a flurry of action including two corner kicks and an attempted ball over the top from Anthony Ampaipitakwong that required the keeper to parry it aside.  Then, in the 30th minute, as the Union threatened to give up yet another goal off a set piece rebound, Faryd went feet-first to stonewall the sliding attempt of Chris Wondowlowski, a brilliant save that set off fireworks between Mondragon and Earthquakes midfielder Ben McDonald.  This, of course, quickly ignited a full-squad confrontation once Danny Califf saw his goalkeeper being pushed by an opponent.  The end result was matching yellows for Faryd and McDonald and a chorus of “Mon-drag-on” chants from the River End.

For the rest of the match, with the crowd frenzied and then taken to a crescendo when the Union took the lead in the 76th minute, Mondragon assumed his role once again as the calming presence at the back.  Although he only officially recorded 1 save, that’s not counting the aforementioned rebuke of Wondolowski and a critical punch of a 50/50 ball bouncing in that Steven Lenhart had a real chance at putting away.  The 1 official save was also solid, as a San Jose corner ricocheted onto the head of Lenhart only to be calmly snatched by Faryd to preserve the shutout.

LB Jordan Harvey (5)- After a largely uneventful 1st half in which Harvey joined Sheanon Williams in pushing as far up high as they could get away with, calamity found Jordan in the form of a 50/50 ball that ended up with Chris Leitch tangled up at Harvey’s feet.  Attempting to disengage himself and go after the ball, Harvey managed what appeared to be a bit of an extracurricular jab with his spike into Leitch’s midsection.  This earned Jordan a 41st minute sending-off, compounded by the fact that referee Mark Geiger missed Leitch’s obvious retaliation, which should have resulted in discipline for him, as well.  Pursuant to Major League Soccer’s rules, the straight red earns Harvey a 2-game suspension. The decision will most likely be appealed.

CB Danny Califf (7)- As we said about Valdes a few games ago, while Mondragon has rightly been rapidly gaining notoriety around the league for his immense ability, the defense directly in front of him should also be receiving a large amount of credit for Philadelphia’s quick turnaround from porous last season to impenetrable so far this season.  Further, the imposing presence of both Califf and Valdes has allowed Piotr Nowak and the technical staff to develop more offensive-minded tactics without having to worry that they will be left vulnerable at the back.  As we saw against San Jose, the Union can be successful defensively with just Califf and Valdes hanging back.  Even down a man, the side did not have to abandon the attack, which allowed them to secure the home win they were seeking.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5)- Another stellar defensive outing from Valdes, especially so as he and Califf were given even more responsibility than usual with both wingbacks pushing up high early on.  Then, after Harvey’s ejection, as the Union continued to attack, it was the steady hand of Valdes that insured that no quick counterattack or long ball challenged the Philadelphia goal.  So solid has Carlos’ play been that it seems fruitless to try and point out the myriad positive plays he makes in this space.  Instead, one must try and identify any mistakes.  As has been the case more often than not this season, there were none against San Jose.

RB Sheanon Williams (6.5)- Along with Harvey, Williams spent the first half-hour of the match joining a relentless Union attack as the center backs alone held the fort in front of Mondragon.  Made an impact early, earning a corner in the 13th minute, and remained a part of the action even after Philadelphia went down a man.  Along with his long throws, which have become an integral part of the attack, especially on the occasions against San Jose when the defense was not ready for a quick restart, Sheanon was again a positive influence on the opposition’s side of the pitch.  When the time came for Williams to defend, the results were not as strong, but neither were they highly disappointing.  Sheanon’s weakness remains judgment of long balls in the air and understanding when to step up and gamble.  However, his speed has so far allowed him to recover on mistakes, an attribute that will make him all the more valuable as his technique continues to improve.

MID Amobi Okugo (8 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- Left as the sole defensive midfielder to help anchor the defense, it was trial by fire for the rapidly developing Okugo.   From early on, it was clear that Amobi was up to the task, as he not only stood tall in defense, but was happy to keep the ball and move forward to initiate the attack.   Then, at halftime, when Stefani Miglioranzi came on to take on the lion’s share of the defensive responsibility, Okugo shifted to a hybrid role and found himself pushing forward as the Union’s attack continued to gain momentum, even with the man disadvantage.   First, he trailed the attack in the 70th minute when a failed clearance came to him and he took a strong shot from 25 yards that forced Jon Busch into action.  Then, the payoff came in the 76th minute, when a strong run into the box ended with an attempted cross that struck the hand of Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez and resulted in the ultimately game-winning penalty kick, converted by Le Toux.  Okugo’s versatility is fast making him invaluable to the Philadelphia side.  It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep him out of the starting XI from this point forward.

MID Sebastien Le Toux (7)- Le Toux still struggled with his first touch in traffic, but the attacking formation at the outset gave him a little more room to work with, and Seba took advantage from the kickoff on.  Sebastien made threatening runs, combined with Torres, Ruiz and Mwanga on several legitimate scoring opportunities and used his speed to get behind the San Jose defense with regularity.  There was also the nifty move that took him into the penalty area only to be derailed by a hard challenge from Sam Cronin just before he took his shot.  A bit of a breakout game for Seba, even without the results in the run of play.  Of course, all of this took a backseat to Le Toux’s 1st goal of the season off of the 76th minute penalty kick, the only goal of the match, driven down the center and toward the top of the goal.  Seba remains the team’s designated penalty taker and has yet to be denied in that role as a member of the Union.

MID Roger Torres (6)– A somewhat surprising start, as Piotr Nowak and his staff unveiled a much-welcomed attacking lineup at home.  Tasked with manning the middle of the front three midfielders, Torres would need to prove that he could be the engine of the attack, opting for the simple pass more often than the homerun ball.   He definitely showed a bit more discretion than we’ve seen from Roger, although the only serious chance involving him was a shot attempted on Jon Busch’s near side in the 16th minute after receiving a deft pass from Carlos Ruiz that Busch parried relatively easily.  With his first start of the season, Torres showed a continued improvement in poise and presence.  Unfortunately, before anything tangible could materialize, he was taken off at the half for defensive purposes in place of Michael Farfan.

MID Keon Daniel (7.5)- Daniel is beginning to really put his imprint on the Philadelphia side, taking more initiative and gaining more trust from his teammates and the coaching staff with each passing game.  Keon took control of the buildup from the left flank, allowing Le Toux and Torres the room to operate and move forward.  Daniel’s play became even more vital when Jordan Harvey was sent off in the 41st minute, first moving back to cover the vacated left back position to close the 1st half and then taking on even more responsibility as the team continued to push for a goal in the 2nd half.  In particular, his combinations with Michael Farfan and Le Toux down the wing were invariably productive.

FWD Danny Mwanga (6)- A capable, not spectacular effort from Mwanga against San Jose, as he was able to use his possessions well, either turning upfield or linking with his teammates.  Where Danny still needs to improve is his off-the-ball presence.  We’ve all by now seen him turn on that extra gear, the one that most people, even professional athletes, do not possess.  However, this seems only to occur when Mwanga already has the ball and can smell the goal.  Rare is the occasion when he will turn on the jets to make a center run or make a challenge that could change the game in the final third.  When he shows that level of stamina and work ethic, though, he will be among the league’s elite.  Mwanga was brought off for extra midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi at halftime after the Union went a man down.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (7)- For possibly the first time since joining the Union, it can be said that Ruiz truly worked with and for his teammates against San Jose.   Taking more of the distributor role in this match, he first combined with Roger Torres and Seba Le Toux for an early chance, then found Torres in the 16th minute with a ball that sprang Torres for shot on goal.  He also made himself available with runs into the area, notably receiving a ground cross from Le Toux that resulted in a shot that was blocked.  In the 2nd half, Ruiz continued his good work, highlighted by an exchange in the 70th minute in which he received a ball in from Michael Farfan, turned and found Le Toux, and laid it off for what was the best opportunity the Union had all day during the run of play.  Came off for Kyle Nakazawa in the 83rd minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Came on for defensive purposes at halftime after Harvey was sent off, replacing Danny Mwanga.  In a shorter burst than his usual role up until now as a starter, Migs was far more effective than he had been in recent matches.  He consistently battled for every ball, made several key tackles and kept his wits about him when he found himself in possession in a hotly contested midfield.  Obviously, it is not likely that a defensive midfielder can be considered a super-sub, but we must remember that it is a long season and Stefani will still be needed even if he is not to return to the starting XI on a consistent basis.  It was reassuring to see that he will be ready when called upon, regardless of the role he is asked to play.

LB Michael Farfan (7)- Came in for Roger Torres as the new left back in a suddenly defensive formation following halftime, the Union apparently shifting their goal from win to scoreless draw a man down.  However, this clearly was not the case, as Farfan, in his professional debut, showed an adroit capacity for pressing up and not only joining, but engineering, the attack.  Several combinations with Keon Daniel and Sebastien Le Toux led to real chances for the Union as they seized control right at the outset of the 2nd half.  In addition, Farfan showed true competency at the back, a role he had not taken on at lower levels but has been groomed for since the beginning of the season in training.  Another in what is becoming a long string of pleasant surprises for the Union early on in this campaign.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (N/A) Came on for Carlos Ruiz to help salt away the game in the 83rd minute.

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Victory over New York stirs Frenzy and Foreboding

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

A second post from new ASN Philly contributor Matt Acciani. Let him know what you think in the Comments section below.

The Celebration, Contributed by ASN Philly's Lee Pease

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am no chicken little. I have no wish to create a perception of watching a clear sky then screaming that the heavens are crashing down. Saturday night was phenomenal and there is little to match the rush of beating a favored New York team, but once the high subsided the crash was a bit harder for me than I would like. I would like to classify myself a pragmatist. Staying honest with myself, I feel as though this match was not won by the Union so much as it was lost by Tim Ream (thanks, by the way!). A dearth of true scoring chances left the coach in me wrestling with the fan. One part of me is ready to charge through the streets, while another is preaching caution. The season is young, and Philly fans know heartbreak too well.

If I’m Piotr Nowak, here are my positive takeaways:

  • Mwanga and Torres are super-subs.*
    • *Mwanga seems, on this team, at this point in time, to be best suited coming off the bench. He thrived in a similar role at the beginning of last season. Coming in against a tired defense that has been tormented by Ruiz and Seba should bring a number of opportunities. The operative word is SHOULD. Torres also seems best suited to his current role. I would love to see his spark on the field over the course of a full game, but I think there are two things holding him back – his physical strength and that he avoids his right foot like many American kids avoid vegetables. He actually might like his right foot even less than that. If he can improve I think he will be one of the top midfielders in the league.
  • Okugo showed he is more than capable in the center of the park.
  • Four games in, the team has more shutouts than through the entire inaugural season.

Here are my concerns: 

  • There is still no connection between the defense and the attack, which means there is little to no possession over the course of a game.*
    • *The asterisk here is that the last ten minutes of the game, in which the Union actually held the ball well, are not indicative of the game’s efforts. It’s far more difficult to maintain possession against a team at 0-0 or down a goal than it is against a team that is desperately chasing a game they had controlled.
  • The commitment to defend is great from the players, but the concern for defense may be preventing the offense from developing.
  • The strikers are not operating as a unit, and typically find themselves isolated when possession is finally created.

When Adrian Healey compares the Union to Stoke City, Philly fans should grimace. Stoke is a solid mid-table team that is capable of competing with any team in the Premiership on any given day, mainly through a grinding physical defense and attacking through long balls, but is not a team that is capable of maintaining excellence over the course of a full campaign. For the Union, three wins in four games is phenomenal, but four games do not a season make.

The 4-4-2 obviously worked better Saturday than it has been, largely due to the fact that Mapp and Daniel actually manned the flanks. I still stand by my assertion last week that the 4-5-1 is the best lineup for this team.

Over the course of the game there was very little movement off the ball. As the ball moved up the field and past players, the Union men were generally content to watch and hold defensively. This typically left Ruiz and Seba to try and work through the Red Bull defense with support from only one to two midfielders. Hence the inability to maintain any real possession. A standard 4-4-2 requires the outside mids to shuttle forward and back throughout the game, thereby leaving the flanks open to counters. A 4-5-1 provides added midfield cover by encouraging the attack to build gradually by playing up to a forward, having them release the ball to a midfielder, then playing an overlapping runner, allowing the team to drive forward together in numbers. Ideally (see Spain’s national team, or Barcelona) a 4-5-1 turns into seven or eight men attacking. The width comes from the outside backs and the extra holding midfielder provides additional cover for the defense.

Compliments of Roger Torres, Contributed by ASN Philly's Lee Pease

Since the Union are so committed to defending as a unit, I see this as the only true option to play with any type of sustained attack while still, if implemented correctly, providing the necessary defensive strength to maintain what the Union have developed so well so far. This also addresses the issue that the defense is unable to connect well with the attackers. I am unwilling to believe the lack of control in the midfield is due to a lack of talent. Instead, too much responsibility is being placed on the center mids. While Okugo acquitted himself well, in my eyes he is a step up from Miglioranzi but not the attacking answer needed. Coupling him with Carroll behind Le Toux would, in my mind, create a devastatingly effective midfield adept at winning AND maintaining possession.

At the very least, the latest version of the 4-4-2 used Saturday could be re-shaped slightly to provide a similar effect. Le Toux and Ruiz spent a great deal of the early part of the game playing side by side with very little success. Without changing the lineup, if Le Toux drops underneath Ruiz slightly you essentially get a 4-5-1 lite. Le Toux will see more of the ball, and Ruiz should have more support when he receives the ball. This would have the added benefit of opening the corners more to release Mapp and Daniel into runs I would love to see more of. If Nowak is not in favor of these types of changes, let’s hope we can carry the fortune we saw Saturday (where the woodwork was given save of the game . . . twice). My heart wants to surrender to the Union, but I can’t quite shake the warning bells from my head.

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A night to forget, Union fans endure defeat on two fronts

Posted on 07 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Courtesy PhiladelphiaUnion.com

It’s a double “DOOP” week but for all Union fans, last night was a double dose of defeat. The Union, after a dramatic Brian Carroll equalizer in extra time, fell 4-2 in penalty kicks to DC United to bow out early in Open Cup qualification. To make matters worse, less than an hour or so later, Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath – on international duty with the US U-20s, fell to a resilient Guatemala. Arguably one of the most talented youth national teams in American history will be missing this summer’s World Cup in Colombia.

The silver lining? Okugo and MacMath return to club action as the Union gear up for the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at PPL Park. Piotr Nowak will be working with some tired players all around, however, as they went in to win this game.

The Union started (anyone that was there, please feel free to correct the opening tactical set-up):

——————————–Mondragon————————————

Williams————-Califf——————Valdes——————Harvey

———————–Carroll—————-M. Farfan———————–

Le Toux————————-Nakazawa—————————-Daniel

————————————–Ruiz—————————————-

Bench: Holder, McInerney, Pfeffer, Richter, Agorsor, Torres, Mwanga

The only starters rested were Stefani Miglioranzi and Danny Mwanga. It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the first half with each side having chances. It wasn’t until a dangerous Sheanon Williams long throw-in fell to Carlos Ruiz on the back post in that the fun started. It was a 18th minute put back that started the Union off on the right foot. It wasn’t to be, however. Josh Wolff equalized right before halftime and then Valdes, right before the end of regulation, snapped up his second yellow card leaving the Union a man down and with 30 minutes of extra time. A defensive lapse in the 111th minute gifted a goal to Daniel Woolard of United, seemingly sealing the Union’s defeat and keeping them winless in USOC qualification. Brian Carroll made sure that wasn’t the case, at least extending the action a little longer with a last gasp strike that mirrored Danny Mwanga’s equalizer vs. FC Dallas last season. Highlights all here.

Into penalties it went and it didn’t take the Union long to concede defeat. Both Jack McInerney and Roger Torres failed

Courtesy MLSSoccer.com

to convert their penalty kicks, United went four for four, and the Union now had another season to concentrate solely on the regular season. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath were fighting for a World Cup berth. A win over hosts Guatemala in the quarterfinals would seal the deal. Unfortunately, the hosts weren’t fazed by the American favorites taking the early lead. Okugo showed some real impressive stuff, delivering a picture perfect throughball to Conor Doyle to equalize midway through the second half. Guatemala responded almost immediately and in spite of an American edge in scoring chances and close calls, they bowed out – becoming the first U-20 squad to miss World Cup qualification since 1995.

So, all in all, not a great day for Union fans but the prospect of redemption awaits. Saturday will be a marquee showdown between – as it stands now – two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Will tired legs play a part on Saturday or will a supercharged PPL Park rally the boys to three points? Preview of that match-up to come.

Sidenote: Both a local product (Stephen King, Shawnee HS, Medford, NJ) and a former Union player Fred started for United. Fred played after welcoming his second child into the world earlier that day. Also, for those that were there, please feel free to comment on individual player performances. We particularly would like to hear about Keon Daniel’s second appearance for the club and Michael Farfan, who operated in several positions throughout the game.

SCORING SUMMARY

Philadelphia Union – Carlos Ruiz 18′ (Williams)

D.C. United – Josh Wolff 45′ (Ngwenya)

D.C. United – Daniel Woolard 111′

Philadelphia Union – Brian Carroll 118′

Penalty Kicks:

  • Philadelphia Union – Le Toux – made
  • D.C. United – Pontius – made
  • Philadelphia Union – McInerney – miss
  • D.C. United – Barklage – made
  • Philadelphia Union – Torres – saved
  • D.C. United – Najar – made
  • Philadelphia Union – Nakazawa – made
  • D.C. Uniited – Boskovic – made

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Calm before the storm for the Union as 2011 closes in

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Breton Bonnette

The news continues  to roll in – though light in nature – as we approach 2011. We’re here to recap it for you…

The Union have bolstered their front office lineup with some pretty impressive hirings. Former Piotr Nowak teammate and USMNT international Diego Gutierrez joins as head of scouting and player development and longtime NJ high school soccer coaching legend Rick Jacobs was plucked from St. Benedict’s Prep where he enjoyed 6 national titles and a hand in the development of former players like Claudio Reyna and Greg Berhalter. Jacobs will operate as Vice President of Operations. Gutierrez joining the front office was something that was relatively imminent throughout the 2010 season. Two ambitious additions. It will be great to see what comes of it. The hiring of Jacobs is already paying dividends. A former St. Benedict’s player, Greg Ramos, who runs the Lehigh Valley Soccer Club just “teamed up” with the Union as one of six youth affiliates. You’ll notice a little tidbit in that link provided by Ramos himself. “We have eight players being looked at as possibly being in the Philadelphia Union system”.

December also saw the departure of goalkeeper Chris Seitz and midfielder Fred to FC Dallas (through Seattle) and New England respectively. There must be moves lined up to sit back and watch Shea Salinas, Alejandro Moreno, Fred, and Seitz leave but one thing is for sure, the Union have some cap-room. The allowance of Seitz to move to FC Dallas seemingly makes way for 39-year old Bundesliga and Turkish league vet Faryd Mondragon to join shortly. His current squad, FC Koln, is already lining up possible replacements in Markus Proll and Michael Rensing. Rumors have placed the announcement of Mondragon at tomorrow. Returning to the departures, the loss of Fred to us is a big one. He certainly didn’t justify his contract in his first season but there were glimpses of former DC United Fred and another year in Nowak’s system possibly could have done the trick or at least upped his production a bit.

Both Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney continue to endure a very limited offseason, starring for the US Under-20 side throughout November and December. Okugo has been rock solid in the middle and there’s even a little chatter about what it would be like to test him in central defense. McInerney is scoring – and that’s always a good sign. Jack Mac tallied for the Generation Adidas side on their trip to Spain and struck vs. Canada in the first leg of a two-game series vs. the Canadian Under-20s. Undoubtedly, the usage of Okugo and McInerney will increase exponentially in 2011 as they continue to mature.

And last but not least, your First Kick schedule was released yesterday – on time, I might add. The Union will travel to Houston on March 19th before returning to Philadelphia a week later for an afternoon game vs. the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps (and Shea Salinas…) in an afternoon game on the Delaware River. See below for the full fixture list:

Tuesday, March 15

Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, March 19

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Toronto FC, time TBD

D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

New York Red Bulls vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m.

FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire, 8:30 p.m.

Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union, 8:30pm

Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m.

Chivas USA vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 20

LA Galaxy vs. New England Revolution, 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 26

Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m.

Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 4 p.m.

Toronto FC vs. Portland Timbers, time TBD

New England Revolution vs. D.C. United, time TBD

Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy, 9 p.m.

Thursday, April 14

Portland Timbers vs. Chicago Fire, 11 p.m.

Thursday, June 9

Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire, time TBD

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Trio of Union GAs head off to Spain

Posted on 30 November 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, and Amobi Okugo left for Spain yesterday with the Generation Adidas squad to spend the next 10 days or so going toe to toe with some of the best youth talent in Spain. Okugo, specifically, will be working double duty after having played apart in the US Under-20s matches with Colombia and Mexico, two losses decided by penalty kicks.

FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman will head up the team of Generation Adidas players after a season that saw the Hoops land in the MLS Cup finals, a relatively shocking development for Dallas fans. The fixture list will consist of Real Madrid on Thursday (Dec 2), Rayo Vallecano next Tuesday (Dec 7), and Atletico Madrid next Thursday (Dec 8).

Goalkeepers – Stefan Frei (Toronto FC), Sean Johnson (Chicago)

Defenders – Jeremy Hall (Portland), Ike Opara (San Jose)

Midfielders – Corben Bone (Chicago), Danny Cruz (Houston), Dilly Duka (Columbus), Luis Gil (RSL), Baggio Husidic (Chicago), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Tony Tchani (New York)

Forwards – Juan Agudelo (New York), Tristan Bowen (Los Angeles), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Peri Marosevic (FCD), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia), Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia), Andrew Wiedeman (FC Dallas)

Some are recent graduates of the Generation Adidas program but 13 of the 15 currently under a GA contract will be making the trip. It should be nice to see Jack Mac, Okugo, and Mwanga back in action. Check out MLSSoccer.com occasionally as there should be video of the trip.

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Player Profile: Amobi Okugo

Posted on 17 March 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Position: Midfielder

Born: March 13, 1991

Hometown: Hayward, California

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 175

Previous Club: UCLA

College: UCLA

Salary: $75,000 (2010)

Status: Generation Adidas, first year

How acquired (Union): Drafted in the 1st Round (6th Pick) of the 2010 MLS Superdraft

Stats

2010 with Philadelphia: 11 games, 4 starts, 437 minutes

2009 with UCLA: 20 games, 0 goals, 2 assists

International: Veteran with the US Youth National Teams (US U-17s, U-18s, and U-20s)

Media Scouting Report

“Okugo is a first-rate central midfield prospect who looked mature beyond his years in the NCAA Tournament” – Ives Galarcep, Soccer by Ives

“Regardless, Okugo is a steady defensive midfielder with solid passing and ball-possession skills. Ultimately, that’s what got him drafted so high” – Blair Angulo, ESPN Soccernet

““Amobi is a different breed of player. He’s self-motivated and determined and always doing what is needed as a player to stay sharp and keep developing,” Mora said. “Without anybody asking him, he’s ready to train 2-3 times a day. He goes to the running track on his own. He does uphill sprints. He likes to work on striking the ball before or after practice. There’s not much coaching to be done with him, just an adjustment here or an adjustment there. He’s just a joy to work with and a very smart kid” – Ruben Mora, San Juan Lightning head coach

Did  you know?

In his only season of college soccer at UCLA, Okugo was named the Pac-10 freshman of the year as well as a freshman All-American.

Okugo’s goal is to play overseas at some point in the future. He had the chance to head abroad after declaring for the draft but opted to forgo advances from Sweden, Portugal, and Germany.

Okugo’s favorite player – and the best player in the world right now at his position – is Chelsea and Ghana’s Michael Essien.

In 2009, before his only season of college soccer, Okugo was ranked the nation’s number one college recruit.

Amobi is part of four former UCLA Bruins on the Union’s inaugural squad – Brian Perk, Kyle Nakazawa, Okugo, and Jordan Harvey.

Okugo was apparently one of the stars of his high school basketball team before deciding to focus solely on developing a soccer career (and joining the US residency program).

Fan Scouting Reports

Submit your thoughts on Okugo below. Any we like, we’ll post here.

Check out our article on Amobi Okugo, post-Superdraft

Also check out our other player profiles HERE.

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Okugo and Philly area stars to feature for the US U-20 squad

Posted on 16 March 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Rookie midfielder Amobi Okugo will join the US Under-20 squad, coached by former New England Revs boss Thomas Rongen, after the Union’s first match on Thursday, March 25th. He’ll make the trip from Seattle to Frisco, Texas (home of FC Dallas) to prepare for the Dallas Cup which starts March 28th. He’ll act as a midfield mainstay, one of the few U-20s to have been in the previous cycle.

The US U-20’s schedule includes Mexico’s U-20s on March 28th, Vancouver Whitecaps Residency on March 29th, and Eintracht Frankfurt’s U-20s (the Bundesliga squad that recently signed US international Ricardo Clark) on March 31st.

Okugo is not the only player with Philly ties on the squad. Ryan Finley, the ACC’s Top Freshman this season with 11 goals and 5 assists, hails from Lumberton, NJ (went to Rancocas Valley, youth hot spot in South Jersey, high school of the recently interviewed Alec Golini). Lancaster, PA native Zarek Valentin, a huge part of Akron’s big NCAA season, is also in the mix and most likely will start Rongen’s U-20s on March 28th.

All Philadelphia talk aside, another great side story is that of Moises Orozco (no relation to Michael – that I know of). Orozco is one of over 10 Mexican-Americans in the Tigres youth system (visit this link if you want to know why). It was Orozco who scored the game-winning goal for Tigres vs. the U-20s he is now playing for at the Copa Chivas this past January (a game both Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney played in as well as three Mexican-Americans for Tigres). It will be only two months later now that he suits up for the Red, White, and Blue.

American prodigies Charles Renken and Joseph Claude Gyau will suit up for the Vancouver Whitecaps instead of the US U-20s due to the fact that they have been training up north ever since signing with 1899 Hoffenheim of the German Bundesliga. As under-18 year old athletes, they cannot train with the German team until they turn 18 (both are a decent ways off) and an agreement to train with Vancouver (one of best residency programs on the continent) was made.

As far as Okugo’s preseason is going, Nowak has showered nothing but praise on all of the rookies. Toni Stahl and Kyle Nakazawa might be both be a little more MLS-ready but I would expect to Okugo featuring in the midfield quite frequently this season.

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Meet the Class of 2010: Amobi Okugo, looking to make his mark

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Breton Bonnette

With things starting to get hectic for the Union’s inaugural SuperDraftees, ASN Philly had to settle for an introductory Q&A this time with Amobi Okugo, the #6 pick and 18-year old defensive midfielder out of UCLA. We promise a full on interview in next month or so. While #1 pick Danny Mwanga is in Portland tying up loose ends, Amobi and Jack McInerney are in Mexico with the US U-20s participating in the Copa Chivas Tournament. The jam-packed schedule doesn’t take away from his anxiety to get to Philadelphia and begin training camp on January 25th.

Okugo, in his only collegiate season, won Pac-10’s Player of the Year award while helping to lead – along with fellow Bruins Brian Perk and Kyle Nakazawa – UCLA to back to back Pac 10 Championships and a good showing at the NCAA Tournament. The other two most recent Freshman of the Year award winners in UCLA history were Sal Zizzo, now with Hannover 96, and Chad Barrett. They might ring a bell. That alone establishes huge expectations for the 18-year old heading into his first professional season. Even though he didn’t spend much time at UCLA, Okugo is most definitely not an unknown quantity on the soccer front, growing his game through the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton. Back then, only a couple years ago that is, the Program was run by none other than Coach Hackworth, the Union’s current assistant coach. Under Coach Hackworth’s tutelage, he became a mainstay in the youth national teams. Now with the 2011  US U-20s cycle in full swing, Okugo should become a everyday player in Coach Thomas Rongen’s set-up along with fellow Union teammate Jack McInerney. Extremely athletic, vocal, and tough- tackling, Okugo could translate that international success to a prosperous professional club career. At least that’s what Union fans are banking on.  

You spent only one year in Los Angeles, how do you feel your season with UCLA went?

The UCLA season went really well. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way but UCLA plays wonderful soccer and the coaches give us the freedom to play that good soccer, so my season went really well.

You will have two other fellow Bruins in Philadelphia come pre-season, what does that do for your comfort level and confidence heading into training camp?

Knowing Kyle [Nakazawa] and [Brian] Perk will be very good going into pre-season just because of my comfort level with them. Adjusting to a new team, it’ll be good knowing them and it will be easy heading into preseason.

How surprised were you to be taken by the Union? Had you spoken to Coach Nowak before the SuperDraft?

I was more surprised when I found out they [the Union] had the #6 and #7 picks in the first round. By then, my agent told me that they had some interest so I was just crossing my fingers. I had not spoken with Coach Nowak prior to the SuperDraft.

You played under Coach Hackworth heading into the Residency Program in 2007, what do you think about Coach Hackworth and reuniting with him as a player?

I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Hack. Him bringing me into residency was one of the most integral parts into me developing as a player I’m really excited to work with him again

How do you feel about heading into an expansion atmosphere in Philadelphia?

To play for a new and upcoming team in such a fanatical sports city like Philadelphia is such a dream come true. In America, soccer isn’t that popular but in Philly, you would never know that. I am really excited for our team to make an immediate impact in Major League Soccer.

You had thoughts of testing your skills overseas. Where would you have gone for trials? Do you still see Europe in your future some day?

I had some offers in Europe especially Portugal, Sweden, and Germany, but my family and I felt it was better to start in Major League Soccer and get a feel for what the professional life was really like. A lot of people go to Europe prematurely and come back because they are homesick and I didn’t want to be one of those people. I definitely want to see myself play in Europe at one point in my career, however.

ASN: What teams had interest in Okugo are unknown at this point.

In your rookie year, what do you hope to accomplish?

As a rookie, I want to help the team in anyway I can. I am hoping to establish myself as a consistent starter and hopefully, for our team we can make the playoffs at the minimum.

Who on the Union roster are you really looking forward to playing with?

Alejandro Moreno.

ASN: Moreno seems to be the consensus pick amongst all the draftees – expansion and SuperDraft.

What do you think of the Philadelphia fans? You certainly had a great introduction on draft day.

Crazy! But in a good way. We need more fans like Philly’s in America.

Have you watched and followed Major League Soccer much?

I’ve started watching MLS more recently but before I was watching strictly European soccer.

Your favorite career moment so far?

Being drafted by Philly.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Five years? I don’t know yet, I am trying to take it one day at a time.

Patrolling the midfield for the Bruins...

Quick Hits

Who is your favorite player? Best player in the world at your position?

My favorite player is Michael Essien but right now the best player at my position [defensive midfielder] is probably Real Madrid’s Lass Diarra.

As a player, your strengths? Your weaknesses?

Strengths: keeping it simple and ball winning; weaknesses: long-distance shooting.

What do you know about the city of Philadelphia that makes you excited to get here?

I don’t know that much about Philly.

ASN: Anyone have any suggestions for Amobi?

Favorite international club?

Chelsea

Who do you think will win the World Cup this summer? How do you think the USMNT will fare?

I have no idea who will win. I think Germany might have their breakthrough, if they get a few breaks. I can see the USMNT going to the quarterfinals this time around. They have a good nucleus of players

Being of Nigerian descent, who is your favorite Nigerian player?

[Nwankwo] Kanu. He is a legend.

ASN: For those who may not be aware, Kanu is the most decorated African footballer in history. After an amazing start to a young career at Ajax Amsterdam, Inter Milan wanted Kanu. Upon arrival for a medical at Inter, a career-threatening defect was found in his heart. Only weeks later, he had an aortic valve replaced. His time at Inter was short but he soon moved on to have amazing five seasons with Arsenal scoring over 30 goals and making a statement about overcoming odds. He currently plays for Portsmouth.  

The best advice anyone ever gave you?

“All you can do is all you can do and all you can do is enough”

ASN: Amobi, thanks for taking the time while in Mexico. We wish you nothing but the best in the upcoming season and hope to catch up with you again soon!

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