In 2009, the future couldn’t have looked brighter for Gale Agbossoumonde. His promotion to the U-20 United States Men’s National Team was a big step for the then 17 year old Syracuse native. Comparisons to Senior National team stand out Oguchi Onyewu were being floated around the press and only picked up steam when Agbossoumonde shined on an unspectacular U-20 World Cup squad.
The kid’s path to stardom was a foregone conclusion. However, like many other American “Next Big Things,” his story hit a few bumps in the road.
Agbossoumonde’s play on the field has never been an issue in the 3 years since his U-20 debut. However, he has been the victim of his own bad decisions and consequently the people those decisions led him to be associated with. In 2009 when his star was soaring, Agbossoumonde spurned three La Liga teams and MLS in order to sign with Traffic Sports; a marketing company that, in effect, owns its players while trying to sell them for a profit. Over the years, Traffic funneled him to a number of company owned teams such as the now defunct, Miami FC and Portuguese 2nd division side, Estoril Praia.
Agbossoumonde never landed a gig in a top European league, like he seemingly would have before signing with Traffic. Fortunately for him, his contract with the company runs out soon and perhaps with this in mind, and wary of the need to recoup some of its investment, Traffic steered him towards MLS. Agbossoumonde turned the league down for the Carolina Railhawks of the NASL (U.S. second division); another Traffic owned team, following in line with a string of bad decisions by the young defender.
His goal is to eventually play European soccer, as it should be for a player of his caliber. The best path for him to achieve that goal is through MLS. He needs to be playing regularly against the best possible competition, and MLS has shown a willingness to loan or transfer its best players to Europe. Look no further than Tim Ream’s two year stint in New York leading to the Premier League. Not to mention Europe hasn’t exactly raided the NASL for talent.
Agbossoumonde rejected MLS because it wanted to distribute him to a team based on a weighted lottery. Recently he tweeted that he’d rather just play for the Red Bulls. The thing is, so what? Many players recently have had to swallow their pride and return to MLS after failed or unsettled stints in Europe and have been subject to the allocation process, including Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber. The means of how American players arrive on teams maybe unfair, but it’s the system in place and it’s better than further stagnating one’s career (for evidence of said stagnation, look no further than Agbossoumonde’s exclusion from the U-23’s matchup against Mexico on February 29th). In the MLS, he gains attention, including that of the increasingly curious European scouts. In NASL, he spends another year in obscurity.
Agbossoumonde’s career is far from over. Look no further than Adu to see how a former teen phenom can resuscitate a career that was once on life support. However, Agbossounmonde needs to start making better decisions to jumpstart that career. He can accomplish this by swallowing his pride, and signing with MLS.