photo by Max Becherer/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
SUNRISE, Fla.- Gale Agbossoumonde is in a unique situation.
Fresh off of making his senior national team debut and going through a second U-20 cycle with the U.S. youth national team, Agbossoumounde is being looked at by U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen to provide leadership to the group despite having an unsettled and somewhat troubling club situation.
Agbossoumonde feels prepared to tackle that challenge head on, however, as his club woes look to end in the form of a loan to Swedish club Djurgardens IF, which finished in 10th place in the Allsvenskan this season.
"I'm supposed to be going to Sweden on the 15th," said Agbossoumonde. "It's supposed to be a loan until the rest of the season.
"It's not a finalized deal. I'm not 100 percent sure if I'm going, but it's like a 90 percent."
Leading the Stockholm-based club will be new manager Magnus Pehrsson, who is no stranger to Agbossoumonde's skillset.
Pehrsson was originally intrigued by Agbossoumonde following the centerback's performances at the 2009 U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Then the manager of Aalborg BK, Pehrsson tried to acquire Agbossoumonde following the tournament, but lost out to Sporting Braga.
"He was trying to get me to go over there before I went to Braga from (my performances in) the U-20 World Cup," said Agbossoumonde. "He just went to the Swedish team and then he's getting me over there."
Should things go according to plan, Agbossoumonde would leave the U.S. U-20 national team's January camp a day or two before it ends to travel to Sweden, where he believes he'll be able to establish himself and get games every week.
The 19-year-old's confidence shouldn't come as a surprise. In November, despite not having played at the club level since 2009, Agbossoumonde received a call-up from U.S. men's national team head coach Bob Bradley. The timing was a bit unfortunate for Agbossoumonde, but he accepted the call nonetheless.
"I was supposed to go on a trial, and the day I was leaving was the day I got the call so I didn't go on the trial," said Agbossoumonde. "I was going to go to SK Sigma Olomouc in Czech Republic."
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound player made a late cameo in the U.S. national team's friendly against South Africa on Nov. 17 (his 19th birthday), helping preserve a 1-0 lead in his first cap.
"I was really, really nervous before the game and during the warmups, but once I was going in, it was like another game," said Agbossoumonde.
That he felt that way might be seen as refreshing, especially since the 19-year-old centerback has had anything but a stellar start to his professional career. Having signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Traffic Sport in August 2009, Agbossoumonde has made just six professional appearances, all for USSF D2 Pro League club Miami FC. None of those came in 2010.
That's not to say that Agbossoumonde's lack of minutes and uncertainty in regards to his future had no negative impact on him.
"It takes a toll on you, knowing that you have to be with a different team pretty soon and sort of like tryout," said Agbossoumonde. "But it is all a learning experience because once I find the team where I'm going to stay, I should be okay from all the past experiences."
Agbossoumonde has turned that negative past experiences into newfound confidence. Openly frustrated at Traffic a few months ago, the Togolese-born defender now feels differently about the company that owns his rights.
"I don't really feel that angry towards Traffic," said Agbossoumonde. "At the time when I did, I was just frustrated. It was just like a heat of the moment kind of thing.
"Traffic owns me, but I'm the player. If I'm doing all the right things – if I was Ronaldo or something – I wouldn't be in that situation. I've got to look at it that way too because it's not their fault."
Agbossoumonde believes Traffic will likely sell him to a club within the next year, but for now he is focusing on the U-20 national team and its quest to reach the 2011 U-20 World Cup.
"We have to qualify, but I don't think we should have any problem with that because this team is better than the last one," said Agbossoumonde. "There's a lot more talent in this group, so I think we'll do better than we did last time."
An in-form and confident Agbossoumonde anchoring the U.S. backline would be a major asset to the U-20 team's hopes of qualifying for and getting passed the group stages in the U-20 World Cup in 2011. Whether he'll be in form remains to be seen, but the confidence is already there, and only as a result of the struggles he's already endured.
"The last cycle helped me out a lot," said Agbossoumonde. "That's how I got to Braga in the first place, and even though things didn't work out, I come into this cycle a little more confident."