U.S. teen Owen Otasowie makes impression in Premier League debut

Wolves manager Nuno describes Owen Otasowie as a "project" and someone "we have to work on and try to develop.”

After the 19-year-old U.S. international came off the bench and helped Wolves rally to beat Chelsea, 2-1, in his Premier League debut, it looks Otasowie will be a project Wolves will be giving more attention to.

Otasowie, who debuted for the USA in its 0-0 tie with Wales in November, played in central midfield and was credited with an assist on the tying goal scored by Portuguese midfielder Daniel Podence in the 69th minute.

The 6-foot-2 Otasowie played because Wolves was missing Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho, who was suspended, and Belgian Leander Dendoncker was injured, forcing Nuno to turn to Otasowie.

Otasowie was born in New York, where he lived with his mother and did child modeling. He still does modeling in London, where he lived until he moved to Wolverhampton when he was 16. He is something of a late bloomer, joining Wolves when he was 16 after its scouts spotted him playing for a program -- Mass Elite Academy -- that gives chances to young players who have played on small weekend teams.

Otasowie has been involved in the U.S. national team program almost as long as he has been at Wolves, debuting with the U-18s in November 2017 at a camp that also featured Julian Araujo and Uly Llanez, who also made their senior debuts in 2020, goalkeeper David Ochoa, who was called into the national team's December camp, and Aidan Morris, who started for the Columbus Crew in its MLS Cup 2020 victory. They are all eligible for the 2021 Under-20 World Cup.

Otasowie, who is also eligible to play for England and Nigeria, made his debut for the Wolves first team a year ago, coming on as a late sub in a Europa League game against Turkey's Besiktas. He appeared on the bench five times this fall before making his Premier League debut on Tuesday.

Injuries set Otasowie back after he entered the Wolves' academy, but his talent drew interest from clubs across Europe before he signed a contract at the beginning of the year that will keep him at Wolves through the 2021-22 season.

“He’s been a player who has always shown potential,” said Scott Sellars, who runs the Wolves' academy, after Otasowie signed. “But I believe the injuries that he has gone through have helped him grow up a lot, and over the last few months he has really knuckled down and worked hard at his football."

Otasowie is one of several young Americans who are benefiting from the congested European league schedules dictated by the late starts to the 2020-21 season after leagues were forced to play into the summer to complete their 2019-20 seasons.

One of four teenagers in the first team, Otasowie is fortunate to be at a club like Wolves that has worked on developing its young players since its promotion to the Premier League in 2018. His play against Chelsea left an impression on Wolves captain Conor Coady.

“The confidence he showed is fantastic, stepping out with the ball, showing how powerful he is,” Coady told the . “He’s a great lad, you see him improving every day in training, which he does all the time now. He gets on with his business, gets on with trying to get better. It’s fantastic to see him out there."
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