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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  1. Interview with Amobi Okugo on the ASN Union « C. Horridus Says:

    […] 19, 2010 K.M. Morris Leave a comment Go to comments My Union-reporting colleagues at ASN landed a great interview with 18-year-old Amobi Okugo. My favorite quotes after the […]

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    […] in Greensboro, NC for the start of preseason. He will also be joined in preseason by other Bruins, #6 pick Amobi Okugo as well as league veteran Jordan Harvey. To add to the three new Bruins, however, there are three […]

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    […] Check out our article on Amobi Okugo, post-Superdraft […]

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