Philly Sports Live

The Union’s Amobi Okugo’s Future for the US National Team

Okugo Goal Celebration

Amobi Okugo is the future of the United States, Men’s National Soccer Team.  He should be right in the middle of the defensive midfield, that is, if his current management will help him reach that level.

Throughout his Union career and before, Okugo has been a staple of the US Residency Program that develops talent for the Senior Men’s team. He’s already logged more international appearances at his age then Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi or Stuart Holden. All three of those players are consistently featured in Jurgen Klinnsmann’s (US Men’s Soccer Coach) World Cup Qualifying and Gold Cup teams this spring and summer.

However, if things don’t change soon for Okugo, he may never get the chance to represent his country on the largest sporting stage on this planet- The World Cup.

If you’ve been to PPL Park in the last year, you’ve undoubtedly been impressed by the ability of the 22-year old. Okugo is dominant in the air.  He already has 3 goals this season on headers.  Okugo’s  distribution from the back is sound and he has shown to be a more-than-solid passer. Most encouraging  though is Okugo’s vocal leadership style that has helped transform the Unions’ defense into one of the team’s biggest stregnths.

Philadelphia Union Head Coach John Hackworth made the decision to utilize Okugo as a center back and not at his natural position in central midfield. Hackworth has loaned/sold two other quality central defenders in what seems to be a definitive statement that Okugo will be staying in this position.

Okugo has played all 90 minutes of the last 45+ league matches and while the constant starts are important for any soccer player, it would be unfair to ignore the issues with this change in positioning for the young star. Okugo seems to be an absolute natural box-to-box midfielder. For those unfamiliar with this term, it means that Amobi looks to be just as skilled in attacking as he is in defending. A player of this caliber and trait should be utilizing as much of the field as possible, not the simply the last line of defense.

To be fair, there may have been assurances from Hackworth to Okugo that this is only a temporary fix. That eventually when Brian Carroll leaves, he will transition forward into the central defensive midfield role. Yet from an outside point of view, that doesn’t seem likely. There is no depth whatsoever at Okugo’s position. If he or Jeff Parke were to sustain any type of injury, the replacement would be anyone’s guess.

The fear of every Union fan should be that Okugo realizes that he is jeopardizing his chance of playing for the national team because of remaining on the Union. If that day does come, Union fans should have some serious questions about the leadership of their team.

The Philadelphia Union declined my request to make Amobi Okugo available for this article.