With each passing match, Amobi Okugo gains confidence.
Originally known as a midfielder, Okugo has been a steadying influence all season at centerback.
There are nuances with the position switch, but Okugo has handled the transition with relative ease.
In the end, he has been simply ecstatic to be starting and playing 90 minutes on a consistent basis.
“There were some things that were different with the change, but I had played on the backline a good bit, so it wasn’t too difficult,” Okugo was saying recently. “I’m happy to be in the lineup and contributing like I am. It feels great to be out there whether I’m in the midfield or anchoring the backline. The coaches have shown a lot of trust in me and I’m very thankful they have that confidence in me.”
The players certainly have that confidence in him.
“Amobi has been so consistent all season,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “He’s been there every day in training and in every game. He has all the skills defensively and he’s been great on set pieces. He’s a great all-around player and we’re lucky to have him on our side.”
Okugo’s performance has been a huge reason the Union (10-7-7, 37 points) sit in third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
He has been with the Union since the expansion season of 2010 and the idea of reaching the playoffs for the second time is quite enticing.
“Yeah, we follow the standings,” Okugo said. “Last week, after the loss, we were all looking around the league for the results to go our way. Luckily, they happened for us. It was good to get the win (against D.C. United), and to get the points back.”
There are still plenty of points up for grabs.
“We can’t ever get complacent,” said Okugo, the Union’s No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. “We have to keep fighting every day. We have a main goal of reaching the playoffs. There is so much work to be done. We can still improve and get better. We have things to work on. I feel very good, but I also know I can get better. I think as a club, we’re excited because we’re in a good place and we feel like our best soccer is still in front of us.”
It starts with a trip to Red Bull Arena Saturday night followed by a tough battle at New England Aug. 25. The Union will close out August with a visit to PPL Park from the Montreal Impact (7:30 p.m., purchase tickets).
“The schedule is difficult, which is why we take each challenge as it comes,” Okugo said. “I’m excited to be playing at centerback and helping our club as much as I can. I think we have a lot of room to improve and I’m excited to see how we accomplish that the final 10 games. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at email@example.com