Okugo doles out Combine advice, eyes Union starting job
In recent days, Philadelphia Union midfielder Amobi Okugo has talked to a few of his friends participating in the MLS Player Combine.
And he typically relays the same message: Just relax.
“They don’t use it as a full barometer to see your skills,” Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “They’ve already seen you play throughout the season, so don’t be too scared about the combine.”
Based on the time he spent at UCLA, Okugo knows a handful of players from his alma mater vying to be picked in next week’s SuperDraft, including Generation adidas class members Kelyn Rowe and Chandler Hoffman as well as Combine invitees Brian Rowe, Shawn Singh, Andy Rose and Eder Arreola.
Okugo is also friends with Aubrey Perry of South Florida and Mykell Bates of Santa Clara.
It would be wise for all of them to pay attention to Okugo, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft and has become a valuable component to the Union’s future as well as a fixture in the US youth national team circuit.
So far this offseason, on top of a training stint with the German club SC Freiburg and the Generation adidas tour in the Netherlands, Okugo participated in both US U-23 camps, where he served as captain in select games.
“Luckily, the last two camps, I’ve done fairly well,” Okugo said. “I’m just trying to stay consistent, so I can hopefully make the [Olympic] squad. One bad game can drop you down in the pecking order.”
While Okugo has been extremely busy during the past two offseasons, the former first-round pick is still finding his way in MLS. During his rookie season in 2010, the holding midfielder played just 437 minutes, and he followed that up by playing 811 minutes – including 10 starts – this past season.
Unsurprisingly, he hopes for a lot more in the upcoming 2012 campaign.
“Everyone is striving to be a consistent starter and that’s my goal,” Okugo said. “Hopefully I can accomplish that in my third season. I feel like I’m ready. I feel like I’ve been ready.”
And to all of his college buddies preparing to enter the league, he would tell them to try to do what he has – stay sharp in the offseason and stay hungry year-round.
“Everyone has their frustrations and tribulations, but that’s part of being a professional athlete,” Okugo said. “Not everything is going to go your way. You’ve just got to stay focused, not lose concentration and keep yourself motivated.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.