It appears that the answer to the New York Red Bulls current needs at centerback won’t be found in Amobi Okugo.
The 25-year-old Okugo, on trial with the Red Bulls for nearly two weeks, “won’t be signing with the team” a source tells MSGNetworks.com. Okugo, whose contract is owned by MLS, was loaned to New York Red Bulls II, the team’s developmental side that plays in the USL. He started and went the full 90 minutes Sunday night in a 4-0 win over Bethlehem Steel FC.
The source also said that Okugo’s trial with the Red Bulls has now come to a close.
A former first round pick taken sixth overall in the 2010 MLS Super Draft, Okugo is a converted midfielder who has transitioned to central defense. The Red Bulls have had a bit of a centerback crisis in recent weeks, losing Ronald Zubar and Gideon Baah to hamstring injuries, as Damien Perrinelle continues to recover from a knee injury suffered last fall in the playoffs.
Okugo, who has four appearances with the U-23 national team, is comfortable with the ball at his feet and reads the game well. But with Zubar nearing a return to fitness and Baah likely to return to training next week, perhaps the Red Bulls simply don’t need to make a move at this time.
Last year with Sporting Kansas City, Okugo made a base salary of $275,000. He was released by the team this offseason.
In the USL game on Sunday night, Okugo did well and made no glaring mistakes or errors in what was a one-sided contest. He cleared the ball well and won his individual battles for the most part, being tidy with his distribution.
Certainly, he left the impression that he can contribute to an MLS team.
Moving forward, it appears that the Red Bulls are counting on Zubar and Baah being ready to return sooner rather than later. Zubar could be a possibility for this Wednesday night at the Colorado Rapids (10:30 PM, MSG+). So too could Kemar Lawrence, who had a right knee strain two weeks ago in a 1-0 loss at the New England Revolution.
Usually a left back, Lawrence has been called upon to play central defense twice this year with the injuries at central defense.