Considering a raft of young MLS players were called up to the US national team for the first time, it might seem surprising that no players from the youthful Philadelphia Union were invited to this month’s USMNT camp.
But for one of those players omitted – Union center back Amobi Okugo – it wasn’t surprising at all. In fact, the 22-year-old has a pretty good idea why he’s still never spoken to USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann despite enjoying a breakout season in 2013.
“Looking at the roster, all of the guys that got called in made the playoffs and did well with their teams,” Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “Klinsmann seems like he wants players that come from winning teams and have winning mentalities. Unfortunately our team didn’t do that, so I wasn’t really expecting a call.”
Of the Union players, Okugo and 21-year-old striker Jack McInerney – who scored 12 goals and made the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster last year – seemed most likely to join a roster made up almost entirely of MLS players.
“We know we’re right on the tip of the iceberg,” Okugo said. “We just know we have to take that next step – all four of us.”
And that next step is clear: make the playoffs. Despite being in contention for most of the season, the Union stumbled down the stretch to miss out on the postseason last year.
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Meanwhile of the nine uncapped players called up to this USMNT camp – Chicago’s Mike Magee, Seattle’s DeAndre Yedlin, Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil, Houston’s Tally Hall, Portland’s Michael Harrington, Colorado’s Chris Klute and Shane O’Neill and Sporting Kansas City’s Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic – only Magee didn’t play in the 2013 MLS Cup playoffs. And he was the league MVP that was traded from a playoff team.
That’s something Okugo noticed immediately when he scanned the roster.
“Personally I feel like I played well,” the Union center back said. “A number of guys on our team played well. But when it came down to it, every coach wants a winner. The guys that were called in, they’re all deserving and they were all key components to their teams making the playoffs.
“At the end of the day, everyone’s watching the playoffs,” Okugo added. “And no one’s watching the team at home.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.