Ocean City Nor'easters alum Tunde Ogunbiyi seeking new club after four seasons in Europe
All-time saves leader helped two clubs in Denmark earn promotion
Tunde Ogunbiyi is Ocean City's all-time leader in PDL saves and minutes played, as well as the single-season record holder for goals against average (0.82) and clean sheets (8) in all competitions.
Tunde Ogunbiyi knows first-hand the fierce competition for the precious few starting goalkeeping spots at clubs around the world.
Recently arriving back in the Philadelphia area after playing with four different clubs in Europe, he is looking for a new opportunity and is keeping his options open for a return stateside, or crossing the ocean again to continue his career in Europe.
The last time Ogunbiyi was in an Ocean City Nor’easters uniform, it was 2011 and he was in his fourth and final season with the Premier Development League club, and, after holding down the No. 1 position on the depth chart the previous two seasons, he found himself competing with two talented netminders for playing time.
One of them, Patrick Hannigan, was a professional-level goalkeeper spending time with the club as he was transitioning into the coaching world. The other was John McCarthy, who would go on to sign with the Rochester Rhinos, be named USL Goalkeeper of the Year and now with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.
Ogunbiyi, who graduated from Boston College, remains the Nor’easters all-time leader in goalkeeper saves (178) and minutes played (2,745), and ranks second in shutouts (7). He also kept a pair of clean sheets against professional opponents in the 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. He shut out the Real Maryland Monarchs (5 saves) and Crystal Palace Baltimore (7 saves), and made 10 saves in a narrow 2-0 losing effort to D.C. United of Major League Soccer.
He played just five games (leading the team in goals against average) in his debut season at the Beach House in 2008, but it was cut short because, due to his father being from Nigeria, he was called up to the Nigerian Olympic team’s camp as it prepared for the Beijing Games. He was among the team’s final roster cuts just before the tournament began as Nigeria moved on to earn the silver medal that year.
“Playing for Ocean City, I got an opportunity to play and show the world what I could do,” Ogunbiyi said “It led to my going to (go on trial with) Reading Football Club which has led me to where I am now. Playing under [former general manager/head coach] Neil Holloway was perfect because he treated us as professionals, and was hard on me which is what I needed to prepare me for the next level.”
Tunde Ogunbiyi makes a save against D.C. United in the 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
“During my time at Reading, the advice they gave me was to always be a good guy first, no matter what,” Ogunbiyi said. “It's something I've always remembered and something I make sure to remember when traveling to a new team or country. If you're a good person sometimes people forget that you don't understand the language or the specific style of play and give you more of a chance.”
The following season, he signed with Aars FC in the third division of Denmark. He earned the starting job and played in 15 games. He had a 0.76 goals against average with seven clean sheets.
“Moving to a new country is always a little scary,” Ogunbiyi said. “You don't understand anything from something as simple as which word means male on the toilet to something as complicated as the social structure.”
Tunde Ogunbiyi on trial with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer in 2013. Photo: Earl Gardner/Philly Soccer Page
The next season, he signed with Aarhus Fremad in the second division, but found himself as a backup behind Viktor Krøyer and only played in one game (although he didn’t allow a goal in that game).
His talent was enough to continue his climb up the Danish ladder as he signed with Skive IK in the second division where he was the backup, but saw more playing time where he earned clean sheets in four of the six games he started. That season, he helped the club earn promotion into the Danish First Division.
His contract was up with Skive IK, so Ogunbiyi signed with another second division side, Naestved BK. While still a backup, he managed to start 10 games, including two DBU Pokalen games (Denmark’s version of the US Open Cup) against a pair of Superliga teams. He earned a 1-0 shutout against one of them, FC Nordsjaelland, in a match where his team played the majority of the match with nine players due to a pair of first half red cards.
For the second year in a row, he helped a team earn promotion, but with his contract up at the end of the season, leaving him looking for a new club.
As far as what he’s looking for in a new experience, as long as he gets playing time, he is open to any team.
“At this point in my career, I just want experience,” Ogunbiyi said. “I’m open to any club who is willing to give me a chance to start and get a good run of games in the first team, regardless of country.”
As a goalkeeper, many have compared him to former Chicago Fire great Zach Thornton, mostly due to his frame (he stands at 6-feet-3, 210 lbs.), but he has been inspired by a number of different top-notch goalkeepers.
“I’ve always been a big Tim Howard fan,” Ogunbiyi said. “I’ve always loved the rawness of his game, pure athleticism and bravery. But as I've experienced playing the game myself, I've started to watch more and more keepers as often as possible and picked up bits and pieces of everyone's game.
“For example, Petr Cech's positioning, or Buffon's ability to parry the ball away from danger, or Joe Hart’s footwork, or Adam Federici's distribution. Tim Howard was definitely the keeper who helped me to really fall in love with the position but nowadays, I can learn something from just about any keeper, from the youth academy boys to the seasoned veterans.”
Check out Tunde's highlight reel from last season below: