[THIRTEEN FOR '13] Capped to the U.S. national team at the age of 19, Gale Agbossoumonde has not had his career go the
way he probably hoped. He spurned a Generation adidas contract from MLS, so hoping to get a better off in Europe, he sold his transfer rights to Traffic, the South American player firm. But after
stints at six clubs in the last four years and little playing time to speak of, the Togolese-born defender is back at square one. He finally signed with MLS and was assigned to Toronto FC through a
weighted lottery conducted Thursday at MLS headquarters. At 21, he is still considered one of the top U.S. defensive prospects, but he is still just that: a prospect.
Agbossoumonde (pronounced gah-LAY ag-BOSS-ooh-mon-day) had spent 2012 in the NASL with the Carolina RailHawks but injuries limited him to 17 appearances.
That is still more than he got in Europe, where he spent time at Sporting Braga, Estoril, Djurgarden and Eintracht Frankfurt II, but the most he played was eight games in Sweden with Djurgarden in 2011.
Boss was born in Togo and raised in a refugee camp in Benin, where his family fled after it was targeted following a military coup in which his father, Koku, was involved. The conditions at the refugee camp were harsh, but Gale learned to play soccer with his brothers, who made balls out of socks and newspapers.
A boxer in his youth, Koku did not approve of his sons playing soccer -- he worried that they would stand out for their soccer talents and be pulled into the military like he had been -- and he never got to see them play. Shortly before the family moved in 2000 to Syracuse, N.Y., through the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program, Koku died of cancer.
The youngest of six brothers, Gale was 8 years old when he arrived in Syracuse and he quickly made a name for himself in soccer. He enrolled at Christian Brothers Academy, which he helped lead to the state semifinals -- as an 8th grader. By the next year, he was off to the U-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla.
Agbossoumonde was too young to make in the U.S. Under-17 World Cup team in 2007, but he started on the 2009 U-20 World Cup team at the age of 17. He was on the 2011 U-20 team that failed to qualify for the world championship and missed Olympic qualifying with the under-23s in 2012 with a foot injury.
Few U.S. central defenders have come along with his combination of size -- he's 6-foot-2 -- and skill on the ball.
This what Thomas Rongen, Agbossoumonde's coach on the U-20 national team, had to say about him in an interview with ESPN.com:
That was 2010, right before Agbossoumonde debuted for the senior national team in a friendly against South Africa.
Rongen is now the Toronto FC academy director, so it was natural that the Canadian club, desperate for help on his backline, would want Agbossoumonde. It won Thursday's lottery in which it held a 57.3 percent chance of acquiring Agbossoumonde.
Thursday's signing of Agbossoumonde only adds to the intrigue surrounding Toronto's plans for the 2013 MLS SuperDraft in which holds the No. 1 pick and No. 3 pick -- acquired from Portland in the deal that sent Ryan Johnson to the Timbers.
Defenders Andrew Farrell (Louisville) and Walker Zimmerman (Furman) are considered the top prospects in the draft and both have reportedly agreed to Generation adidas contracts. Toronto would unlikely want to sign a second defender but surely wouldn't want to sign a second and third defender to go along with Agbossoumonde.
TFC might deal the No. 1 pick and then take one of the three Jamaicans (Ashton Bennett, J.J. Johnson or Deshorn Brown) considered the top forwards in the draft with the No. 3 pick. (Chivas USA is expected to take Mikey Lopez with the No. 2 -- if he signs with MLS and if Chivas USA, now under new management, doesn't punt on the draft.)