MLS Transfers had a talk with star Union midfielder, Amobi Okugo about the past season, where his future lies and his MLS MVP.
(This interview has been slightly edited for longevity purposes)
MLS Transfers: This Union team brought in some talented new players in 2014, so why didn't you guys make the playoffs this year?
Okugo: I think we just fell short. If we look at the games throughout the season I think we competed in all of them except maybe the LA Galaxy blowout. For the most part I feel like we competed hard except for little lapses whether it was a 5 minute span here, or a 12 minute span against Columbus. Throughout 90 minutes we'd fall asleep and we'd get punished for it. We had a lot of good players, a deep squad, the talent to do well, but the focus in crucial moments in various games punished us.
MLS Transfers: How would you rate your individual performance this season?
Okugo: I thought it was pretty good, I played both centerback and center midfield. I was consistent in the beginning of the season with Austin Berry but unfortunately, Austin got a little knock and then we had to shuffle the back line. I think that affected our backline as a whole and affected my partnership (with other players). But we did well to manage. Curtin came in and we had a little talk and he told me he wanted me to hold down the center midfield position. It took a couple games to get adjusted but once I got my groove down I think I played pretty well and as the season went on, I think I improved as a player.
MLS Transfers: Where have you seen yourself grow since your rookie year in the league?
Okugo: Just being able to take care of your body, what to eat, doing yoga, recovery, massages, all the little things that help you as a player - I think I've grown tremendously in that area. I've been working on weaknesses as well, whether its working on the left foot for 15 minutes after practice or working on head balls. When I was at centerback I was working on my aerial duels a lot. As a center-mid, I'm looking to switch the field more often. But you always have to be your biggest critic to get better, I've learned that as I've gotten older.
MLS Transfers: Let's get down to the gist of it. Have you had any talks with anyone in the Front Office yet about what's happening next year?
Okugo: Yeah, we had our end of the year meetings, they went well and we talked about what they have in mind for next year. There's all these reports coming out about a bona fide offer but I haven't gotten any offer, maybe they are talking to my agent who is actually dealing with that kind of stuff.
MLS Transfers: So you haven't officially gotten an offer from Philly yet for next season?
Okugo: No. I have not received any offer directly from the Union.
MLS Transfers: Have you heard about any interest abroad?
Okugo: Yeah, there's interest but it's all about me at the age of 23 taking the right steps and doing what's best for you. There's options within MLS and Europe, I'm just trying to take my time in the offseason training hard still, and letting my agent handle that situation.
MLS Transfers: Where do you think you'll end up? What does your gut say?
Okugo: Personally, God willing, I think I'll end up in the best situation for me. I don't want to be too revealing but if Philly makes an offer, I've always stated that I want to win something for the club and fans and I regret not having won a trophy for them and wanted so bad to win the Open Cup, but I've also said that my dream is to play in Europe to improve my chance of making the national team. We'll see what happens, I'm enjoying my options right now.
MLS Transfers: When will a decision be made on your future?
Okugo: I don't want to put a timetable on it but I don't want to be lollygagging around, I want to have an idea of what's happening. My goal is sometime before Christmas but we'll see how everything plays out because MLS teams have a lot going on with the expansion draft and all the other drafts.
MLS Transfers: An article written this week (by Dave Zeitlin*) said that Jim Curtin had a good idea that you wouldn't be back next year. Any comment on that?
Okugo: A lot of people are saying things about me but nothing's coming from me or from my agent, I don't know. I haven't gotten an offer so if they think I'm not going to come back, it's because of that. Again, you never really know what's going to happen.
MLS Transfers: Lee Nugyen. Oba Martins or Robbie Keane. Who are you taking for MVP?
Okugo: I'll give it to Obafemi. They (Seattle) won two trophy's already but I want to give it to Lee because I want an American MVP and he's helped turn around New England.
MLS Transfers: Last question, have you heard anything about a call up to the US National team camp in January or anything from Klinnsman?
Okugo: No, I've haven't anything. It'd be an honor to play with the national team if I ever get the opportunity so we'll just have to see what happens. But I am getting a Nigerian passport just to keep the options open.
*: Article can be found here: http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/11/18/philadelphia-union-want-maurice-edu-back-expect-amobi-okugo-leave-2015