The roller coaster that was Amobi Okugo's career in Philadelphia has ultimately ended on quite a sour note for the fans. I can't speak for Amobi or the Front Office, but I can't imagine that these sides would have wanted this relationship to end in this fashion. Okugo was the last Union original to leave the confines of PPL Park and he will be missed by many here.
As a rookie in 2010, and after playing just one season at UCLA, not much was expected of Okugo. But the future was certainly bright for the youth international. The Union had a successful year in 2011, but it couldn't have been much to cheer about personally for Okugo, who struggled to find the field in place of veterans Brian Carroll and Stefani Migiloranzi. His time would come, but it grew increasingly worrisome that it might not come in a Philadelphia uniform. Leading up to 2012 The Union hosted a bizarre fire sale of talent and futures for young players such as Okugo seemed very much in doubt.
However, Amobi burst onto the scene in 2012 along with Jack McInerney and became the leader of a youth revolution under John Hackworth. The only issue? Okugo was not playing his natural position, instead he'd play center back and he'd play it damn well for Philadelphia. Okugo emerged as one of the fan favorites after another solid year in 2013, anchoring the backline with Jeff Parke, despite the team failing to make the playoffs.
As 2014 approached, the excitement in the air was kicked up a notch with the additions of Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, and Vincent Nogueira. Okugo was in firm command of the backline, but issues developed as finding a suitable partner for him proved difficult.
After John Hackworth was fired, Okugo's place in the Union starting XI started to waver, and it seemed inevitable that Amobi would be heading for the door this off-season. The moment of realization that Okugo's departure was definitely imminent was Jim Curtin's choice to leave him off the starting XI for the US Open Cup Final.
Today, it was made official that Amobi will be heading to Orlando City and we all wish him the best of luck. He was always a true professional, and he never raised doubts that he belonged on the field in blue and gold, whether it was at center back or in the midfield. His departure will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the fan base and rightfully so. They will have to watch Okugo realize his potential at a club they will see three times a year.
Good luck Amobi, you'll always be in our hearts and you always have friends in Philly.
Declined Options and Out of Contract Players
I'll give a brief In Memoriam to all the players let go by the Union today, as they prepare for the offseason.
I am truly the most sad to see you go. A real bruiser on the field, you won me over during your time in Philadelphia. At certain points over the last two seasons you put this team on your back and dragged it through the mud. You will always be remembered for that. We wish you the best of luck and we are sorry you didn't have more help up top this past season.
Even though your career was winding down, you have been a wonderful member of the Philadelphia Union during the past 4 seasons. You captained this team through tough times and most importantly did your talking on the field. Your worth might never be appreciated, and I can't say you have many style points, but we will miss the work you put in holding down the middle of the pitch defensively.
Farewell again, old friend! We'll expect you back in another 3 seasons? Everyone needs a grandpa, right? We hope your mentoring of our young players will prove to be very valuable in seasons to come. Always a special place in Philadelphia for a Union original.
I will join the many in line to tell you how misused you were in Philadelphia. We can't know for sure, but we have a bet that you would have done very well in the blue and gold had you been given the chance along with other Home Grown Players. Best of luck in your career and I hope it's a long one.
Maybe your chance in Philadelphia wasn't long enough, but as long as we play Kansas City, I will always wish we kept you around.
Breaking hearts and breaking bones in a Union uniform will be missed. Fastest red card in MLS? Almost, but we all know when "Bone-saw" comes to play, you better prepare for pain.