So Amobi Okugo is having quite the week.
On Saturday, he went from being a catalyst in the Union’s success to being at the forefront after he was named captain of the team in the club’s home opener against New England. Due to an illness to customary captain Brian Carroll, the Union center back was asked to take on the responsibility. With another solid performance in the back, Okugo rewarded the coaches’ decision by leading the team to a 1-0 victory in front of a sold out crowd at PPL Park.
While rewarding for Okugo, given all the hard work he’s put in to get himself securely fastened to the Union’s starting lineup, admittedly, the honor was a bit nerve wracking.
“I didn’t know what to say, I was in shock,” Okugo said postgame. “[Laughs] I was stuttering and the guys started to make fun of me. But it was good you know, it was an honor filling in for Brian Carroll and trying to lead by example. Brian is more of a lead by example guy. He tries to keep the group positive and give everyone advice. Me being the last line of defense, I had to hold down the fort with Austin (Berry), Mo (Edu) and try to minimize the mistakes.”
It wasn’t Okugo’s first time leading one of his team’s on the field. In fact, according to Okugo, Saturday’s match completed the timeline of being a captain at every level of his career since his youth club teams.
“It’s an honor to me,” Okugo said. “Like I said, I was kind of nervous when I had to talk to the guys before the game. But once the game started, I was fine and led by example. To wear the armband for this organization was a honor and a blessing.”
On Tuesday, Okugo’s exploits in the team’s season opener were documented and created into a mini featurette on the Union’s You Tube channel. Recognition for a great player to wear the blue and gold of the Philadelphia Union; for Okugo, the work doesn’t stop here. There is a underlying belief that a U.S. national team call-up is in his future and at just 23-years-old, the chance of making that a reality looks bright.
“I don’t know what the future holds. My job is to go out and represent the Philadelphia Union in the best way and help this club win games,” Okugo said. Regardless of what I am asked to do, I’m going to play hard and do all I can to help [this club] win.”
“I think the guys are getting to know each other well and we’re building that chemistry. We’re training hard and it’s good to see us rewarded with a good result. We’re going to keep working hard, and I think all the moves in the offseason will continue to pay off for us. It’s pretty cool for guys like me and Jack (McInerney). We’ve seen all the ups and downs, and right now, it looks great. The guys all get along and we’re working toward a common goal. We’re off to a good start and we want to keep it going this week against Columbus (6 p.m., The Comcast Network).”
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org