Since John Hackworth took over as Philadelphia Union manager more than a year ago, Amobi Okugo has started every game. That’s about to change.
After being shown two yellow cards by head referee Allen Chapman in Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the New England Revolution, Okugo will be suspended for Philly’s next two contests – one for yellow card accumulation and one because of the red card and ejection that followed his second caution.
And he’s not happy about it.
“The second one, I don’t really know what happened,” Okugo told MLSsoccer.com by phone following Tuesday’s training session. “Before I even got there, he called a foul and gave me the second yellow.”
Okugo admitted the first caution he received – for using his body to impede a Diego Fagundez run in the 75th minute – was fair but noted that he’s “done that defensive move plenty of times and I haven’t gotten a yellow for it.”
“I think Imbongo was trying to waste time and Sheanon had him covered, so I came over to help him,” Okugo recalled. “As he turned, I was there, then he fell and the next thing you know the ref wanted to make a name for himself and gave me a yellow card. In stoppage time. When the game’s already over."
Yet, at the same time, Okugo acknowledged his own culpability in the moment.
“In those situations, you can’t give the ref a chance to make a name for himself," he said. "Unfortunately, I did that.”
The Union will now have to suit up without Okugo during a critical stretch as they take on the first-place Montreal Impact at PPL Park on Saturday (7:30 pm ET) before heading west to take on the San Jose Earthquakes in a nationally televised game on Sept. 8.
Missing the San Jose game is especially upsetting for Okugo, who hails from nearby Sacramento and expected many family and friends to be in attendance at Buck Shaw Stadium for the matchup.
“Once I got the first yellow, I already knew I was going to miss the Montreal game,” Okugo said. “It’s not like I’m going to purposefully get a second yellow because the next game is San Jose, where my family would have been able to see me. I was actually trying to stay away from any scuffles or anything.”
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Okugo, who had played every minute this season before Sunday’s ejection, said he feels bad about the two-game suspension but knows that his teammates understand the situation.
“There’s no reason to apologize because they know I didn’t do anything wrong on that second foul,” he said. “They all have my back. After the game they were joking like, ‘Well, you’re not going to use those tickets for San Jose now.’ We have a great locker room. They’re my teammates and my brothers.
“I know my teammates are going to get my back and do well without me helping.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.