Ekpo signs three-year deal and scores in pre-season for European Champions League 2011 group competitors Molde FK.
2/28/2012: Ekpo Signs With Norwegian Champs Molde FK & Scores, Vukovic Info/Video, More Updates
By Ryan Kozlowski
The former Columbus Crew winger, Emmanuel Ekpo, let his contract expire this offseason and decided to look for work in Europe instead.
The 24-year-old, after months of trials and searching, signed with a pretty good club (but not too good where he might be confined only to reserve matchups) in Norwegian champions Molde FK.
The deal was for three years, as Ekpo hopes to gain experience and then possibly make the leap to a middle La Liga or Bundesliga side at 27.
The Nigerian has already set out to make an impression for former Manchester United star, now Molde skipper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in pre-season matches for the Norwegian defending champions.
Last week, Ekpo scored in a 3-1 spanking of 3rd division, Spanish side Union Estepona in Molde's preseason camp in Spain.
Ekpo rounded four Estepona players and then the Estepona keeper to score a delightful indivdual goal in the 69th minute during a 3-1 pre-season victory (Picture by Erik Birkeland, Rbnett.no/fotball)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was even more impressed with Ekpo in his second appearance against Russian side Alania, a day after the Estepona goal, in a 1-0 victory (video here, as Ekpo was involved around the goal at the end of this video). Gunnar said the following about the game, and singled out Ekpo, with others for praise:
Magnus does things at a level that very few can match in the Premier League. Jo Inge looks good and deserved the goal. In addition, it was nice to see Mattias Moström succeed. He was very good. And Emmanuel Ekpo showed even more qualities today. He reads the game and break frequently. And he has a splitter with the ball similar to Petter Rudi, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Crewture.com wishes Emmanuel Ekpo luck at Molde FK. Although a player that was inconsistent at times, he was a player that was liked for his creativity for the Crew.
Good to see former Crew players that may have not been seen as crucial to the Crew's puzzle such as Mendoza, Rogers, and Ekpo, land with teams such as Atlante, Leeds United, and now Champions League sides such as Molde FK.
Ekpo also joins a young American whos making a name for himself at Molde in Josh Gatt, video here. Gatt made 22 appearances for Norwegian champs Molde in 2011 and may be a true American that Klinnsmann should take a closer look at.
**Here's a little more on Nemanja Vukovic, the 27-year-old has his most professional appearances with Greek top division strugglers F.C. Panetolikos in 2011 with 15 appearances, 29 total over his three seasons there from 2009 to 2011; and Montenegron top side FK Buchanost from 2007-2009 where he was a major starter for all three years.
Most recently, with some coaching changes and the like at struggling Panetolikos, the Montenegron went back to local Montenegron side OFK Grbalj to get more playing time.
To hopefully jumpstart his career again, Vukovic is now on trial with the Columbus Crew.
Here's a few videos of Vukovic, oddly the second one uses, for it's intro, a background of the Colorado Rapids Dicks Sporting Goods Park, where the Crew will play there first MLS game of the 2012 season. Good omen for Nemanja, perhaps?
In this first video, Nemanja shows ability to get up in the attack with Panetolikos and good footskills in tight spaces:
**In a change of pace from players, here's an interesting take from a few days back by Columbus's Business First website on how the Crew can make the most out of their FOX Sports regional deal.
Ohio University sport management professor Michael Pfahl, who specializes in media convergence, believes the deal with FOX Sports will give the Crew a broader appeal around the state, as well as bordering states.
But, it's up to the Crew to use that appeal by using Fox Sports Ohio to drive fans to their website after the games air.
“TV is really just brand awareness. I think what you can do is cut out people who don’t care about soccer. You can cut out hooligans. You’re left with a lot of different communities in the middle. This allows the Crew to speak on a big platform to a lot of people.”
What Pfahl means by this is that the Crew are never going to attract diehard American football fans or need to worry about attracting diehard soccer hooligans that are already hooked to the Crew in Ohio. But, the Fox Sports Ohio deal needs to put an attractive brand of soccer in front of bypassing viewers and then attract those viewers to want to know more by looking up the Crew online, and eventually buying a ticket or two in the 2012 season or merchandise, here or there.