Sole survivor: Philadelphia Union's trade of Jack McInerney hits home for old friend Amobi Okugo
Confused, Okugo asked his teammate, good friend and roommate on the road where he was going.
When McInerney told him he had just been traded, it hit Okugo hard – just as it did when another member of the franchise’s original 2010 draft class, Danny Mwanga, was dealt away in 2012.
It also dawned on Okugo that he is now the last player on the Union who’s been with the franchise continuously since the start of their expansion season in 2010.
“I was one of the first to know from him personally,” Okugo told MLSsoccer.com of the trade that sent McInerney to Montreal for Andrew Wenger. “It took me by surprise. But that’s what happened when it was me and Danny living together. I thought he was joking when he told me he got traded.
“I’ve been through two of these with very close friends of mine. Hopefully it just works out with Jack.”
Okugo and McInerney were more than just very close friends; they came up through the ranks together and both enjoyed their professional breakouts at the same time. And after McInerney scored 12 goals while Okugo cemented his place as the team’s starting center back last year, many people thought the Union would try to use those two two players as their building blocks for the future – Okugo included.
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“We came from the very beginning – from the residency to [US] U-18 to U-20 [national teams] to being roommates on road trips,” Okugo said. “Last year I feel like I didn’t do an interview if Jack wasn’t by my side. It was kind of like the original duo.”
While surprised by the trade – he's still trying to get used to Wenger wearing McInerney’s old No. 9 – Okugo said he recognizes it was “just business” and hopes it works out for both the team and McInerney.
And knowing the fleeting nature of sports, he considers it an “honor” that he’s still with the Union when no one else from the original team is (with the exception of Sebastien Le Toux, who played in Philly from 2010-11 before returning in 2013 after a one-year hiatus).
“It’s crazy to be here from the very beginning – that very first draft class,” Okugo said. “It means a lot [that] the team has valued me so far. I’m just hoping to stay and contribute and help the team out. It’s just an honor to still be here.”
And even though McInerney is now playing for another team – in another country, no less – Okugo plans on remaining good friends with him.
The friendship might just take a quick hiatus on April 26 when the Union head to Montreal to face McInerney’s new club at Stade Saputo.
“I’m gonna tell him to wear shin guards because I’m coming after him just like we did in practice,” Okugo said with a smile. “Harder ones, preferably.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.