Amobi Okugo didn't have the rookie campaign he wanted. The 19-year-old had spent most of his soccer life as a sure bet to get time on the field, but only featured in 11 matches for the expansion Philadelphia Union in 2010.
Now a year older and a year wiser, the product of the Bradenton, Fla., residency program expects to find more time in his sophomore season. MLSsoccer.com caught up with the rising star while he was in Madrid helping the Generation adidas squad go undefeated in three matches.
1) Most memorable United States national team moment?
The first time I played with the US U-20 team. I was at an U-18 camp and [U-20 coach Thomas] Rongen needed a couple players because his guys had some injuries. I played with Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley and the rest of the [1987 cycle] right before they went to the 2007 World Cup. I was on the field for a whole half. Then, during the last cycle, we beat Trinidad and Tobago on my birthday to qualify for the finals.
2) What would you tell yourself of five years ago?
I don't know. I would probably tell myself to work on my long-distance shooting.
3) Favorite teammate to play with? Why?
I get along with all my teammates. As long as they're not screwing me over I'll play with anyone. [Laughs.] In Philly, I play well with Kyle Nakazawa because we had a year together [in college at UCLA]. We know each other's games well. I also like playing with Andrew Jacobson. Stephani Miglioranzi is a leader. He directs you.
4) One skill you could improve?
I'm working to be able to understand the game quicker and be consistent over 90 minutes. Sometimes I try to do too much. As a holding midfielder, my job is to stay in front of back four and connect them with the offense. I just want to keep it simple.
5) A lot of players talk about hitting a rookie wall. Did you feel that way?
Nope. I didn't notice it during the season, but I guess some other people did. I wasn't tired or anything, but sometimes, [Philadelphia manager Peter] Nowak said I was slacking off a little bit during practice. He knows his stuff. He doesn't give a lot of one-on-one instruction, but he's played there and he's coached there. I just try to pay attention when I'm on the field.