At only 21 years of age Gale Agbossoumonde has made his way around the soccer world and gone from one of the top American prospects to being in danger of falling right off the radar. Now with Toronto FC he feels he has the chance to turn things around.
He had just barely celebrated his 21st birthday when Gale Agbossoumonde got the news that he would be heading to Toronto FC. It is the seventh different club in his playing career since turning professional in 2009 as an 18 year old. Since signing that first deal with Traffic Sports and Miami FC he has spent time in Portugal, Sweden, the United States, and now finally in Canada. It has been a long journey filled with very limited playing time but now the young centre back is just looking to put all of that behind him.
He arrived in Toronto via a weighted lottery that was conducted by MLS. Toronto had the best odds of winning thanks to having the league's worst record last season but for Agbossoumonde it might just prove to be the perfect fit. His days of Traffic Sports Marketing moving him around from club to club in hopes of finally getting him some playing time are hopefully behind him and he can focus on actually developing and making his stay in Toronto more productive. He is a long way from the 19 year old prospect that earned his first USMNT cap back in 2010 but he feels he is still capable of being that player.
If he is going to get back on track he is coming to Toronto with the right attitude about things. "I just came to work hard, win a position, and play," said Agbossoumonde. "Whatever my roles are, whatever the coach gives, whatever the team needs I will do it to the best of my abilities. I just want to work hard for the team and my teammates."
His role is yet to be seen but it is clear that with Danny Califf and Darren O'Dea on the roster he is not just going to be handed a spot in the lineup. Add in Logan Emory and Doneil Henry and there will be plenty of competition for playing time in the middle of defense. He may not end up with a lot of playing time in 2013 but if he works hard in training he will have the chance to learn from guys who have had careers that he is hoping to emulate.
"I can definitely gain from their experiences," said Boss when talking about Califf and O'Dea. "Even in training, when I am off to the side playing I am watching Darren right now and I am trying to just basically mimic what he is doing. Those guys have been there and done that so that is where I want to be and even beyond that if I could."
Going above and beyond what Califf and O'Dea has done would be a lofty achievement for any player but for Agbossoumonde it would just mean that he has lived up to the expectations that were put on him as a teenager. Califf, a US international, collected 23 caps over his international playing career while playing over 200 MLS games and becoming one of the league's top defenders. O'Dea, a current Irish international, already has 18 caps for his country at 25 years of age and has featured in the UEFA Champions League, Euro 2012, and World Cup qualifying. Two impressive resumes which Gale would do well just to emulate let alone succeed.
He is also looking forward to the chance to work with the club's new head coach, Ryan Nelsen. "I can't have a better coach than a guy like Ryan Nelsen who is at my position and playing at the highest level," remarked Agbossoumonde. "He is one of the best players at that position in the EPL. I can't have a better mentor than that, you can't ask for better than that. Hopefully I can learn a lot from him and just work hard every day and get better."
It sounds like he realizes that he has all the resources in place to become a better player while at TFC. He has a pair of defensive partners to watch and learn from and he has a coach who used a successful MLS career to develop into a top Premier League player and the captain of a World Cup squad. Those are some very valuable resources to have and he would be wise to make the most of them every single day.
He also noted the fact that the team has a lot of young players who he feels will help push him to be a better player and work harder in training sessions. For Agbossoumonde having guys like Henry, Morgan, Emory, and Eckersley around is "good competition. That is what makes you better, if you are content in training because you have a spot you won't work as hard. Here I have competition and experience to learn from."
There should be no excuses then if this proves to be another failed stop for the young defender. He knows that at 21 years old he needs to make the most of his opportunities before they run out. He has seen enough other young American players go from top prospects to having their careers derailed to know that is not a path he wants to go down. Watching guys like Freddy Adu and Fuad Ibrahim go from the youngest players to ever sign for MLS to bouncing from club to club and never finding a home, he knows that is not a path that he wants to follow.
If Toronto FC really is the perfect situation for him then he needs to prove that on the field. There are a lot of questions about his ability having failed to latch on at so many clubs and then having such a poor season in the NASL last year but the best way to answer those questions it to put his head down and work hard to ensure that TFC is not just another depressing entry on his ever growing wikipedia page.
The club will certainly be hoping that the player they got turns out to still be the same player that was supposed to be the incumbent in the middle of the USA's defense by now. It was not that long ago that many were expecting him to be the replacement for Oguchi Onyewu and a regular in the National team but now only a few years later he is miles away from that and he knows it. He knows there is a lot of work to do if he wants to reach the kinds of heights he talks about so all that is left to do is put the work in and see where he ends up.