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2016 Player Profiles, #20: Boyd Okwuonu

From sophomore professional to U.S. Olympic Qualifying veteran, Boyd Okwuonu is the subject of today’s 2016 Player Profiles.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Boyd Okwuonu is one of the most intriguing players currently in the RSL camp. Drafted in 2015, the Tar Heel alum came to the Wasatch Front with family ties but has struggled to find consistent starting XI appearances behind Tony Beltran, but has nevertheless showed his potential in other ways.

Okwuonu made two appearances for Real Salt Lake in 2015. Despite only one start, the rookie continued to look like one of the most level-headed players in the game. The 23 year-old did not commit one foul in the 92 minutes he played for the first team, showcasing his defensive skills. Young defenders will often get pulled out of position and then consequently draw the professional foul to recover, however, Boyd’s experience at the international youth levels have superseded this as he looks more like a veteran than a mere sophomore.

In college, Okwuonu made the center-back position his own, but as a 5-foot-9 professional he has transitioned to a full-back position. This transition has benefited the young player as it has opened up opportunities on the Claret-and-Cobalt’s USL affiliate, the Real Monarchs, and on the US U23s.

Like many of the younger players on the RSL roster, Okwuonu spent a large majority of this year with the Monarchs. He made 15 appearances and played 1299 minutes. He has earned a reputation for being a threat moving up the wing that resulted in his first professional goal.

More impressive still is Boyd’s continued contribution to the US U-23 squad. The young defended helped the Yanks through CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying that ultimately fell short to Colombia.

Boyd has most definitely found a home in the Claret-and-Cobalt organization. The sophomore professional looks years beyond his age on the pitch and has continued his development with the team. Providing depth at the back, Boyd has already made it known that he is more than capable of filling in at the full-back position for his squad and will likely be relied on more in the future.

If RSL manages to keep Okwuonu despite possible interest from the MLS expansion sides, Okwuonu could move into a larger role with Chris Wingert, like other long tenured club players, most likely moving on. He will need to continue to improve and develop so he will not be too far from the Monarchs’ 2017 plan. With his tenacity to attack, he could easily become more instrumental for a changing RSL as the move towards favoring promising young players. In short, expect Boyd Okwuonu to continue to be an instrumental piece in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s future.