Position: Central Defender
2022 MLS NEXT Pro and MLS Season: 1800 in MLS NEXT Pro, 11 in MLS
Key Stat: 84.4% completion on almost 1500 passes
What went right in 2022:
Samuel Owusu, a Homegrown center-back New York City FC signed at the beginning of 2022, was a consistent starter for NYCFC II in the inaugural season of MLS NEXT Pro. He played in 20 of the 24 regular season games, completing the full 90 in every match and contributing one goal and two assists along with five clean sheets over the course of the season.
More importantly, he often trained with the Senior Team. In one preseason clip, Alexander Callens pointed to Owusu and said, “Look at Kwaku, the new center back for NYC. The future.” Callens made the statement in jest, however, those words appear to be reflected in the beliefs of the front office. While Owusu hasn’t fully broken into the Senior Team, he was one of the strongest members of the NYCFC II squad and was rewarded with a senior debut in the 3-0 loss to New England Revolution back in September 2022. He was an unused substitute in multiple other matches, including the three playoff games, adding depth to NYCFC’s center-back department.
What to improve:
Out of the regular starters for NYCFC II, Owusu was clearly one of, if not the most, Senior Team-ready. He’s a well-rounded defender and passer who’s comfortable on the ball more along the lines of a Maxime Chanot or a Thiago Martins than a Callens as he rarely takes risks and relies on his positioning rather than his pace. Still, if he continues to play with confidence and maturity he might be able to break into the Senior Team and figure regularly in MLS.
What to expect in 2023:
Owusu will likely continue playing with NYCFC II as the club will continue to allow him to develop in MLS NEXT Pro. He’s talented enough to be a backup for the first team, but if Callens leaves then expect NYCFC to sign a starting-caliber replacement, which would mean that the central defender department for the Senior Team would consist of three starters plus Tony Alfaro, a 29-year-old who started occasionally for DC United last year.
The number of available minutes will depend on whether head coach Nick Cushing deploys a three-back or a four-back. But even if Cushing plays three center backs, it’s unlikely that Owusu will see much more than occasional game time. He’s clearly on the radar of the front office, which inked him to a new deal for 2023 with options for further years, but Owusu will remain “the future” for now.