USL strongman, Tobi Adewole, knocks on Eagles’ door
A Nigerian-born footballer, Tobi Adewole, who plies his trade with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the American Soccer League, feels he has the qualities needed to man Super Eagles defence.
Adewole was named to the USL Team of the Week after netting the game-winner against Ottawa Fury FC last weekend. He is one of only three Hounds to have played in every minute of every match this season. Unbeaten through four matches this season, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, an American professional soccer team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hits the road for a visit to FC Cincinnati this afternoon.
Adewole is only one of six familiar faces retained by the management of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC this season, after the club sacked other players due to low performances.
Speaking with The Guardian from his based in the United States during the week, Adewole, whose parents hail from Lagos State, said that it would be a dream come true for him to play for the national team of Nigeria.
“I left Nigeria when I was very young but then, I had already fallen in love with the Super Eagles due to their style of play. It is my dream to play for the team one day, and I have been working seriously to see the dream come true,” Adewole said.
While the former head coach at Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Dave Brandt, sees the Nigerian as one of the best center backs he ever worked with, the new handler, coach Bob Lilley, says Adewole has good athleticism in the air and has shown the ability to be strong in his one-on-one defending.
“Tobi is a big, rangy center back with long legs and a great tackler with good speed,” Coach Brandt said in a publication. “He reads the game well and I believe he’s one of the better center backs in the country. And I think he’s been overlooked by a lot of people.”
The 21-year-old center defender completed his collegiate soccer career with George Washington University in Washington, D.C. At George Washington University, Adewole made 64 appearances, starting 61 matches, where he scored five goals and five assists in three seasons.
In 2015, Adewole received the All-Conference honors and was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-Midwest Region. On the same day that the USL announced its re-alignment due to the combination of the USL and the NASL, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds made an announcement of their own by signing of Tobi Adewole.
The merged USL and NASL league began on March 24-26, and Adewole feels his time to prove his worth has come. “I am no longer a rookie and with some of experience in the league now, I want to leave my mark in Pittsburgh.”
“As a centerback, regardless of the formation, your first job is to defend and understand field positioning,” Adewole said in the telephone chat with The Guardian during the week. I am enjoying my time playing as a defender and that is what I want to bring into the Super Eagles. I have a clear understanding of what my job is, and how much work I have to put in.”
The 22-year-old 6.3ft defender spoke on his USL Team of the Week award saying: “It gives me the encouragement to work harder. The fans here are amazing and very supportive. There will be days when you feel great and some days when you will feel not so great. But I continue to put in my best for my club.”
Adewole has developed a leadership role within the club.
“I usually give my teammates advice and tips on what we might come across this year. We have to push harder in the league from the beginning to the end.”
Coach Bob Lilley was hired in November 2017, and one of the decisions he took was to re-work the club’s roster. He had confidence in Adewole’s abilities, and decided to bring him back for a second season in Pittsburgh.
“For Tobi, a first year player, to show the consistency he did in the back is impressive,” Lilley said after making the decision to re-sign Adewole in December 2017. “He has good athleticism in the air and has shown the ability to be strong in his one-on-one defending.”
In the Riverhounds season opener, a scoreless draw against Nashville SC, Lilley elected to start Adewole on a three-man defense.
“Right from collegiate soccer at George Washington University, I don’t mind playing either a three-man or four-man back line,” he said. “I want to become a frequent starter. The more All League honors I get, the better for me,” he told The Guardian.
In far back 2013, Adewole was selected to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie team, leading the Colonials freshmen in minutes played (1,144) en route to George Washington Athletics Male Rookie of the Year honors.
He started in all but one of his appearances for the Colonials in the ensuing three seasons, finishing in the top-two in minutes played each year. His play was highlighted by back-to-back All-Conference honors in 2015 and 2016, as well as National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Midwest Region recognition in 2015.
His senior season was particularly notable; as Adewole helped anchor the Colonials defense to a program-record nine clean sheets and league-bests in goals-against average (.062) and goals allowed overall (12).
In Hounds’3-4-3 formation, Adewole played alongside Joe Greenspan and Todd Pratzner in the center. “It wasn’t hard for us to stay focused, because we went into every game knowing it was not going to be easy. We are mentally prepared also for every match by our coach,” Adewole said.