photo by John Dorton/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Gale Agbossoumonde has accomplished quite a bit in his young career. At 20 years of age, Agbossoumonde has already received his first senior national team cap, played in Europe and won a U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year award.
Even with all that on his growing resume, there's still something he desperately yearns for: Consistent playing time.
The search for minutes at the club level has been a constant theme in Agbossoumonde's career, with the centerback having spent time at five clubs prior to 2012. The time with those teams has not produced much in the way of minutes for Agbossoumonde, and it is for that reason that he finds himself back in the United States, where he will play for the Carolina RailHawks of NASL this season.
"I talked to my agents and they talked with Traffic. I wanted to play in the States, play close to home for a little bit," Agbossoumonde told SBI in an exclusive interview. "It will help me so I get playing time and be close to the family; just to get a good vibe back and help me build my confidence."
One could not blame Agbossoumonde for his loss of confidence. Since beginning his professional career in 2009, the U.S. Under-23 national team defender has lived a nomadic life, moving from club to club while never spending more than seven months with any one team.
Agbossoumonde's most recent loan saw him at Eintracht Frankfurt of the 2. Bundesliga from August 2011 until early this year. During his stay there, Agbossoumonde split time training with the first and second teams, though he never managed to get into a league match for the former.
"I did not get playing time because there were five centerbacks on the first team and all the games they always sent two down and I wasn't one of the ones that played," said Agbossoumonde. "It really was an unfortunate situation and I saw what was happening, so later on when it was getting towards January, I was like 'I need to get out of here to get playing time.' That's when they released me."
The loan with Frankfurt ended this past January, a move that left Agbossoumonde in an all too familiar situation. Facing an uncertain future again, Agbossoumonde decided he had had enough of Europe and wanted to go back to the United States.
Upon his return, he held talks with MLS over a potential deal that would see him join the league he rejected at the start of his career. Ultimately, though, he bypassed that route and elected to sign with the RailHawks on a season-long loan.
When the move was formally announced last week, fans and pundits alike questioned it. How could a talented centerback hoping to make the Olympics ply his trade in the United States' second division? Why would he choose that over MLS?
"I would go in a lottery and I wouldn't be sure where I would end up," said Agbossoumonde of the process he would have gone through in MLS. "I could end up on a team where I wouldn't play again, and I didn't want to put myself in that situation again. I just wanted to get somewhere where I would play. Carolina was the best option."
For Agbossoumonde, the RailHawks offered him an ideal place to develop. He is projected to be a starter for the club and will play under new head coach Colin Clark, who is no stranger to the centerback's combination of skill and size (the two played against one another while Agbossoumonde was with Miami FC in 2009).
"We are very happy to have Gale be a part of our 2012 campaign," Clark told the RailHawks' website. "We are looking forward to see him perform on the field and earn his spot for the Olympic team. He is a talented young player and he will play a big role for us in defense."
Agbossoumonde's contract with the club also requires him to be released should U.S. U-23 head coach Caleb Porter call him up for future camps, including the one in March for Olympic qualifying.
That's a big part of the reason Agbossoumonde was so adamant and active in searching for playing time. With 2012 being an Olympic year and with the United States being favored to advance to the Summer Games in London, Agbossoumonde wants to give himself every chance at making the team whose weakness is largely considered to be in defense.
In order to do that, coach Porter has stressed to Agbossoumonde that he needs to be playing in order to stay fit and sharp, even if the centerback has already noticed.
"I want to get gamefit because you can train hard every day and run fitness, but it is not the same as being matchfit," said Agbossoumonde. "The camp I went to with the U-23s back in December, I was fit going into it. The training was good, I felt fine.
"But then we played in the scrimmages and towards the end of the games, I didn't feel matchfit," said Agbossoumonde, who is still battling the injury that forced him to miss the U-23 team's January camp. "I could feel myself not being as focused and making stupid mistakes that I normally wouldn't make in the beginning of the game. My passes weren't as sharp as I wanted to be and I know it's because I'm not matchfit."
With the Olympics on the horizon and on a club that rates him highly, 2012 could be a big year for Agbossoumonde. His contract with Traffic Sports runs out at the end of the year, and strong performances with both Carolina and the U.S. U-23 team could lead to new interest from clubs around the globe.
Set to become a free agent at the start of 2013, Agbossoumonde has not ruled out a return to Europe should teams come calling. In fact, he welcomes it.
"I definitely want to go back, because it was my dream growing up as a kid," said Agbossoumonde. "I know I could say I was there but I didn't fulfill my dreams. It's like I have unfinished business."
Before he can worry about that, Agbossoumonde needs to finally prove he can put it all together on the field. Carolina has given him the opportunity, and now he must produce in a league that many see as inferior to him.
Fail to do that and more questions will be asked of him. Accomplish it and Agbossoumonde should have no trouble next year finding clubs willing to give him what he has longed for since beginning his career.
Bad situation because of the level of play. The other U-23 players are either getting European or MLS trainings and facing top players in practice. Not MLS castoffs that are all over the crappy NASL. I’ve seen some of their games last year. It makes MLS circa 1996 look like La Liga.
He will not get better facing inferior players. The good news is he might only play 10-15 games since he will be away most of the summer and could be gone by the fall. Sucks for him though.
Traffic really ruins careers. And they control the NASL. Give a year or two before it goes under.
What about the RailHawks are a minor league team and play in a crap league no one cares about? Boss should be challenging himself. And now he will regress. And he is crazy that anyone in Europe will want him based on D2. And he won’t get the prep he needs for the Olympics. So he is screwed thanks to Traffic.
Basically he will be begging for trials at the end of the year from low level Danish Swedish teams. While players like former MLS players Ream and John are making 50 times what he will get and playing on good clubs.
he did have suitors but that was when we was playing good. I don’t think he had a nibble for purchase for at least the last 6 months.
Don’t quote me, I’m just going by memory.
Wouldn’t he be on an allocation list? He did get 1 cap in November of 2010 14 Months ago….
If that were the case Montreal, Vancouver, Revs, etc would follow…
I would think in a lottery some would pass like the teams with starters among the best in the league, except for LA who actually need a CB and only the ones in need of a CB would go into the lottery. New England might not be that bad of a choice since they NEED one more CB to pair up with last year’s draft pick of AJ Soares who’d be a bit older and seasoned then him to help along with the other 2 seasoned guys on the flanks of Alston & Barnes….
Oh well, lets hope he plays, helps them do well in US Open Cup and maybe beats an MLS team in the 3rd round, 4th if they get lucky and then in the Olympics he gets a chance to really stand out vs teams with players older than him more developed and much more established since at 22 or 23 players in Europe & South America they are already playing for their 1st team not to mention the 3 overage players…
This guy would be a replacement for Gooch in the future, although I hope Ike Opara stays healthy and fulfills his potential which could quickly jump Gale in the depth chart of best young CBs…
But the problem is that it was his Right’s owning agency of Traffic Sports who did the overrating.
If he had more control over his career and who he might of transferred to, hell he might be at Braga. He’s 20 so is not like he’s done developing but the problem is he went for the money sort of like a quick buck move and the Traffic wanted to cash in pretty bad in a very exaggerated way and every time the teams were willing to buy him outright, they jacked up the price to try and make a bang off of him.
MLS was ready to sign him, but he doesn’t want to end up in a situation where:
A He doesn’t play every game and it would be difficult or doubtful he would start most games, especially with the need to leave for camp then qualifying and eventually the Olympics.
and B) He can get out of easily since he’ll be a free agent next year. He has garnered enough interest before from European clubs in Sweeden, Portugal and even Germany. I remember him playing in a crucial match for Braga when they were battling for CL position. He can easily go on trials, he’ll land somewhere and with the exposure of both the NASL with their US Open Cup play and the Olympics, he might not need to…
If he can’t latch on to Europe, there’s always MLS next year when he’ll be a free agent AND in time after he goes on a month or 2 of trials for the start of the 2013 season…Worst case he can move to Europe after he turns 23 after playing in MLS for a few years..
Does Traffic, Boss, and his agent know that lottery picks can be, and often are negotiated and agreed prior to the lottery. He might have known which teams were likely to pick him I believe.
Well, he decided to get playing time… at a team owned by Traffic. Is that good or bad?
It doesn’t matter much that Boss is just 20, when you lose three years of development at any age it’s a big loss. Those years never comeback in any form, not even in dreams. They’re gone for good. What one could learn at 19 may not be learned at 22, life doesn’t work like that.
I think it is a great move for him to come closer to home given his recent experience in Europe. Being closer to family will be good for him too.
Just curious- does anyone have a positive Traffic Sports story? ie has anyone heard of a Traffic Sports contract positively influencing a player’s career? At least in the US? It does not seem to have done GA much good. I know it is a Brazilian company and there is a piece on Traffic Sports on the US Soccer Team Blog.
overrated kid…only NADS would think he is all the hype…5 clubs in three-four years shows you what he is really worth
I thought that under the CBA contracts for new players had to be at least 4 years. Did they renegotiate this aspect of the CBA?
He did have suitors but Traffic always jacked up the price…
NASL does have some solid squads not near as good as say LA, RSL, Seattle or even Sporting KC….for some reason I think Houston would battle and only narrowly beat them, not sure why maybe the style of Dom Kinnear he tends to grind results too much
Plus they can make a nice run in US Open Cup with his help and play maybe 2 or 3 MLS teams if they win a couple of games and then start to have success against an MLS team or 2 the way Richmond did last year?
That would have been just as bad…He needed to sing a shorter contract with Traffic, maybe 1 or 2 years shorter so he would have been a free agent before the last U-20 WC, hell he was kind of rusty in the CONCACAF U-20 championship and he did get beaten in the 2nd goal Guatemala scored, maybe we would have seen that U-20 team considered among the best or top 2 ever in US U-20 history if he had been playing regularly…
Other thing he could of done is sign with MLS, but College would have just held him back, he was in the U-20 team 2 and a half years ago and then had a short stint with Braga..
College will only work for a few players to the best of their ability to get them ready fast and there’s only certain schools like Akron, UCLA, Maryland etc etc that really prepare guys for top level pro game…
MLS just needs to focus more on player development and stop more of their academy products from going to “play” for school and maybe offer scholarships while they are playing for them and at the same time get them ready, it’s ideal if you ask me, they might even get away with a much cheaper payroll for players vs the more traditional of signed pro contracts in other countries/leagues….
Think about it, you have them attend school locally and still groom them, the African players alone would be a good reason to do this. There’s countless guys who try to go to college because of the emphasis on education from their parents, like Nyarko or more recently Sebastian Ibeagha of Duke who won’t come out early because his parents want him to finish at Duke his 4 years before turning pro
being contract free is only good if you are a wanted commodity, right now, its a bit in question, making the olympics squad should be his priority No.1
If he gets playing time he is absolutely going. He’s the best CB in the youth pool by a long shot.
At the end of this year, he’s a free man again … contract-wise. His stint with the Railhawks allows him every chance to play with the National teams (makes for a great PR for the Railhawks, anyway). He needs playing time, and he’ll get it in Carolina. I’m sorry, what were the reasons against this move again?
5 years? I don’t think so. It’d be a 3 year contract. That’d make him 23-4 by the time it was up, at which he’d be the same age as Tim Ream is now. You know, when Tim Ream moved to the EPL.
After everything he’s been through, it absolutely makes sense that he made the decision that will give him the greatest control over his future going forward. Can’t blame the kid at all.
So if you play on the national team of any country you can go to the MLS and negotiate a deal with whatever team you might like.
If you play for the US and want to play in America….then you have to test your luck with a lottery which could send you across the country from where you grew up or wanted to live or even get sent out of the US to our neighbor to the North.
1- Do Canadian national team players have the same lottery?
2- Is it time to end this practice?
It seems like it makes it harder for US players to come over to the league ….they can pick and control their fate ANYWHERE in the world BUT back at home.
Especially for the older guys they might want to spend their time in the Pacific North West or maybe get settled with their family in a specific town. If that team doesnt want you, then fine you can try other options, but rolling the dice with the US player lottery doesnt sound very appealing.
If all the guys wanted to come back and play for Bruce…I say let them. You would still get to see Team America when they come through town, plus with the salary cap the USMNT talent would still get spread around just fine. The only difference is MLS would be rewarding players for their commitment to the national team by helping them find a home and team that is right for them rather then penalize them for trying to play in the nation they are already representing on the international stage.
Your kidding, right? Di you ealize a bulk of the Euro based U-23’s are currently plying their trades with reserve sides? Several have not made a 1st team appearance. Gale, while mismanaged in the past, is taking steps to get back on track. Carolina is that path and he will be playing against full -fledged pros while some of our U-23’s are not. It’s not a bad situation at all and according to Colin Clarke, Gale’s in pole position to get 90 minutes. Now it’s up Gale to step up to the plate. He seems humbled by his experoences and at 20 yrs. old there’s time to get the ship righted.
I wonder if he will make the cut for the olympic qualifiers. At this point, the only way he will make it is IF others aren’t released for qualifiers.
I must admit I was one that called for his name about 18 months ago but then he didn’t look good against Guatemala and then getting little to no playing time with other euro 2nd division teams tells me the kid is not ready or good enough for a select team. I wish him the best.
Wait…where’s the pun?
He most likely hired someone as a traditional agent to contact teams, negotiate, etc. (i.e., without selling his rights a la-Traffic-style).
Yeah makes perfect sense he wants playing time so he should sign with MLS and sit on the bench. There is no difference between sitting on the bench in europe and sitting on the bench in MLS. Everybody scolds him for testing europe and getting no minutes and yet continues to complain we he goes somewhere he WILL get playing time. And please dont compare playing in NASL all season to playing in ten games in the reserve league, the reserve league is a joke
Yeah, I know all of that, but what’s this with “his” agents?
Traffic owns his rights and this is one of the main reasons why he has not been able to sign with a European team on a permanent basis. A couple of European teams wanted to sign his permanently, but the deals feel apart when Traffic jacked up the size of the transfer fee the last minute.
Actually, his refusal to sign with MLS makes a lot of sense. If he joined the MLS, he would have had to sign a 5-year contract. This would have diminished his prospects of transferring to Europe. As the things stand now, he will play out his contract with RailHawk, getting valuable playing time, and his contract with Traffic expires at the end of the season. After this, he will be able to tryout with European teams and join them without any transfer fee to MLS or to Traffic. This will make him a much more attractive signing for European teams. If he does well with U23 team, he will get enough exposure before European scouts. He is taking a step back to make two steps forward next year.
I think he’s already said his piece on Traffic — there’s a very negative ESPN article on the subject — and is content to play out one year with Carolina and then test the waters. He can say he wanted to play here without being critical about the minor league vs. MLS issue, no sense stirring the pot. I’d rather talk about his play (or lack of same) than Traffic myself. Though I will point out that Carolina owning Traffic should be a conflict of interest of sorts……
I think the potential for Olympic qualifiers plus the camps and Games themselves likely means he will be busy anyway. But Clark is probably a wise choice because he’s as close to a MLS coach as you will find down there. He’s done so well with Dallas and PR I’m surprised he’s where he is.
Though I personally think that competing for time in MLS and/or playing reserves when available would be the best route to success, that would require a commitment he doesn’t seem to want to make. Personally I think he needs to commit somewhere and actually play before he’s an Adu/ Ferrari/ etc. clone, and that he should have learned better from years of meandering than to be gazing too much at the horizon, but he seems to want his post-Games options open again (who really believes the drilling at a hollowed Carolina side — Jason Garey going to make him great — and the Olympic team will make him Barca material? it’s a pipedream, you need practice and PT with a serious team to develop). IMO, he may just recreate the Traffic dead end if he picks the wrong club for the money post-Games — and he needs to learn that most clubs with money also have other touted prospects in their pipeline –but that’s his choice.
In terms of the lottery, all things being equal on the salary cap, the most eager teams would probably be those needing backline help immediately, ie, those who’d play him. This is an expansion year, lots of teams are looking to re-staff. The greedier he got would affect that as we saw with the recent “lottery,” some teams might not be willing to pay grandiose pricing, and Traffic might be looking for that. Which might be a more honest assessment of why he went where he did…..the more he asks the less widely available he’d be, and the more chance he’d end up somewhere random than somewhere needy. But in the end I don’t think that would be so dire because I think he’d get a decent contract and a commitment and be poised to go abroad as a more polished, CV’d player in his mid-20s rather than living in a dream world where he somehow magically takes some first division by storm without having had a steady first division job before.
yea, so that HOPEFULLY a euro team will pick him up and while he is free from contract restrictions. it is a huge gamble.
For all you haters and skeptics, this was by far the best move for GA at this particular time (based on known variables). He gets guaranteed games against competition that is better than people give it credit for. He gains stability in a culture/environment that is familiar to him with a legitimate club. He gets flexibility to play in qualifying and the Olympics, and he gets out of his current handcuffed relationship with Traffic after the summer.
This could be scene as a Rod Tidwell route, but bigger risk, bigger reward. Good luck GA.
Playing in the second division is not going to prepare him adequately for the olympics. He will not show well this summer, and his dreamed-after euro move will not happen, setting his development back even further.
Poster child for why most of these players should go to college for at least a few years. Some PDL teams are better than NASL.
He’s playing for the NASL Carolina RailHawks and just made a point to come back from Europe to get his bearings. He literally did the opposite of everything you just mentioned.
As someone who has been hoping for Boss to get his club career on track and someone who happens to be a Railhawks fan, this is incredible news!
This is only for one year, and he is only 20. A good showing at the Olympics will jump start his career and garner a ton of foreign interest in him, not that he didn’t have suitors before but instead of being shopped around like a door to door product he’d have the opportunity to be with a team that not only sought him out but truly had a vested interest in his development.
If only his play matched his ego. MLS is a proven road to Europe. If he is talented enough and works hard enough he can get time in MLS. The lottery system can be gamed in your favor (Luis Gil being allocated to Kc and forcing a trade to RSL). Euro scouts will looks down their collective noses at a player in the second division in the US. If he had signed several years ago with MLS he would likely be an all-star by now and have countless euro teams courting him. This guy is too much like Adu, skill with an ego to match
I’m confused by “I talked to my agents and they talked with Traffic.” — I thought Traffic was his agent? Or do they just own his rights? If so, this is worse than I thought.
he thinks he is too cool for school.. he will be fighting for european playing time into his late 20s.. should go to mls.. quality or not, it has a spotlight
At least this is all happening when he’s still only 20. He has plenty of time to get his career back on track (no pun intended)
He’s 20. I think a 20-year-old prospect who is STILL considered one of the best centerbacks in the COUNTRY at that age is in good shape getting starting minutes at any club.
Your making good points – but with his contract with Traffic ending at the end of the calendar year – its only one season we are talking about.
He has a good year, even in the second division and plays well with the U-23s, then his prospects will improve.
I agree with him, he needs to play period.
Yeah, but those teams would likely have passed on him in the lottery. The more we hear from this dude, the more I have to wonder if he’s got the right attitude to succeed in professional sports.
I can’t help but think how much more he might have learned this year by being coached by Robin Fraser…or by being paired up next to Jay Demerit, (a couple of likely lottery destinations).
He would not have started for numerous MLS teams. If his goal was to start than this was the right move.
The poster child for career mismanagement
I understand his concerns about not having control over what MLS team he could have played for, but I still think he would have been better off to train and compete with better talent in MLS rather than than the NASL.
There are no guarantees in life or soccer, but I think the more competetive environment of MLS would have served him well. Having said that, I hope he gets regular minutes and is able to secure a better gig in 2013.