Amobi Okugo has been with the Philadelphia Union from the beginning. Actually, he is only player left on the team that was here from the beginning. He was selected 6th overall in the 2010 MLS Superdraft.
This year is the last year on Okugo’s contract, and there has been a lot of speculation about what comes next for the versatile player. Will he resign with Union? Or will he chase a dream of his and take his talents to Europe?
Throughout his time with Philadelphia, he has been deployed as a central defender and his more preferred position, a defensive midfielder. More recently under Jim Curtin he has played as a defensive midfielder.
As the season has inched closer and closer to the end, the talks of Okugo and his contract situation have grown louder. He still remains unsigned to a contract extension and there is a divide between fans as to should he come back.
That divide is not really based on Okugo and his merits though. It is based on his teammate, Maurice Edu, also a defensive midfielder. With Edu brought in on loan, he immediately was above Okugo on the depth chart.
Now this did not really manifest itself throughout the year because with injuries to various parts of the team, both Edu and Okugo were needed in the starting lineup. That was until the 2014 US Open Cup Final. Against the Seattle Sounders at PPL Park, Okugo was left out of a fully healthy starting lineup and did not make it into the game at all.
This was the first time we really saw where Okugo stood in terms of the lineup with everyone healthy. Vincent Nogueira and Edu played the two holding midfield roles with Cristhian Maidana as the attacking midfielder. Ethan White and Carlos Valdes were the ones to anchor the center of the defense as well. That left Okugo as the odd man out.
As we head into the second to last game of the season and the last one at home, the Philadelphia Union look to be going with a pretty healthy lineup as well, minus Sebastian Le Toux which is a role Danny Cruz which most likely fill. If the past is any indicator, that would seem like Okugo will most likely be the odd man out again. Whether he would be subbed in or not would obviously depend on the game situation.
As for next year and beyond, Okugo has made it known that his goal is to play in Europe one day. Not only does he want to, but he has garnered interest from European clubs, having even trained with Bundesliga side, SC Freiburg. That will definitely be a factor in these negotiations.
Also a factor from the Philadelphia Union side of things is Maurice Edu, who has surely been a mentor to Okugo throughout the season. Edu is on loan to the Union. The Union will have to decide whether to buy Edu fully or not. If Philadelphia do buy Edu, that may make Okugo more expendable for the Union.
If he does indeed leave the Philadelphia Union after this season, he will have two more games left. I hope that he is resigned first, but I do understand the business side of things like this as well as his goals a player. If he gets the chance to play in Europe, he may never get that chance again. It could also help his chances at playing for the USMNT one day.
If these are Okugo’s last two games with the Union, I hope we get to see him start them. He is our last original after all. If the past is any indicator though and the injury bug does not come by the roster, Okugo may have started, or even played, his last game as a member of the Union this past weekend. A game that he, like so many of us, would like to forget.
I guess we will have to wait and see on Saturday, but this is a real possibility. I hope, though, that we have not seen the last of Okugo, preferably for a long time to come.