Sebastien Ibeagha is home.
Sure, he's back in the US, the country he represented on the youth international level, but he's also back in his hometown of Houston, having signed a contract with the Houston Dynamo this week.
His new club is thrilled to welcome the Dynamo academy product back into the fold.
“We’re absolutely delighted to have him on board at the club," Dynamo head coach Owen Coyle told reporters on Tuesday after Ibeagha's first training session. "He’s a product of the academy, to be able to get our young boys who went through the system is fantastic. He’s had experience playing in Europe at a young age so he seems to come in with an opportunity to push and get involved with the team.
"...He’s been through the academy so he knows the club very well. It means a lot to him so we are very, very pleased.”
Ibeagha, who played collegiately at Duke after leaving the Dynamo academy in 2010, then went abroad, playing for clubs in Denmark and Iceland the past two years.
“I was ready to come back, be back home," the defender said. "Family has a lot to do with it. My family wanted me back here. They haven’t seen me play in like six years. That had a big impact on my decision as well. Owen and the staff, Matt [Jordan, Houston's general manager] have an idea that I believe in. I believe it will take this club very far. That’s something I want to be a part of.”
The signing of Ibeagha also represents a chance for the Dynamo to build defensive depth and competition for prospective starters. Although 2015 starters Raul Rodriguez and David Horst return, the hope is that the newcomers at the position, including Ibeagha, will get their chance and push the rest of the center back corps.
“[The depth] is always a good problem to have at center back. I think depth is a big thing in a lot of leagues and having depth also brings out the best in me. Hopefully it will bring out the best in the other center backs as well,” Ibeagha noted.
His coach agreed.
“Yeah, we want competition for places. I said that last year, because we play very well at times. Sometimes with injuries or internationals we were probably hurt by players missing. We want to make sure that if there are players missing it is not a huge drop-off.
"...Sebastien is one of those players I want to push to get into the starting 11. Ultimately that will be up to him, the opportunity will be there.”
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While he left the nest to play in Europe, Ibeagha says the homecoming is a reflection of recent changes, on and off the field, at the club since he went to college.
“Everything is great. It is moving in the right direction, having your own field, not practicing at the University of Houston. You have your own stadium and all that kind of stuff are signs that the organization is going back to where it was when they won two MLS championships.
“The environment is a big part for a soccer player. The environment here seems great for the guys as well as for the staff.”