Position: Center Defender
Current Club: IF Elfsborg (Sweden)
DOB: 26 May 1997
Birthplace: Kisumu, Kenya
Height: 193 cm (6’4)
Weight: 75 kg (165 lbs)
|Chemelil Sugar (-2016)
|Kenyan Premier League
|Free State Stars (2016-2017)
|South Africa Premier Division
|AFC Ann Arbor (2018)
|NPSL (USA 4th Tier)
|Real Monarchs (2018-2019)
|USL Championship (USA 2nd Tier)
|IF Elfsborg (2019-)
|Kenya U-23 (2019)
|Africa U-23 Cup of Nations
|Senior National Team
Joseph Okumu is a towering central defender with the ability to mark physical forwards out of the match. Confident distributor out of the back with either foot. Is at his most comfortable when fulfilling covering duties rather than acting as a stopper. Collects a large amount of loose ball recoveries and interceptions.
Okumu’s weaknesses are mainly due to his rapid rise from lower-division football. His physical attributes are impressive, but he has yet to fully impose himself and master when to be aggressive. Can be error prone on shorter passes where he tries to do too much.
General Pros and Cons
+ Excellent physical traits. Tall, strong frame and long legs allow him to defend height, power, and pace.
+ Good at finding targets with long range passes. Capable of distributing long with either foot.
+ Remains calm and reacts very well to defending under duress and when possession changes quickly. Accumulates a high amount of recoveries and interceptions.
– Needs to improve decision-making on shorter passes. Prone to giveaways because he tries to fit passes into tight windows.
– Hasn’t mastered imposing himself physically yet. Struggles at times to pick the right moments to defend assertively.
+ Excellent size with above-average strength and vertical. Wins a high percentage of aerial duels.
+ Long legs help him achieve good speed over middle to longer distances.
– A bit slow on quick turns. Average agility.
+ Plays long balls confidently with either foot.
+ Calm with the ball at his feet and capable at moving forward on the dribble.
– Prone to giveaways on shorter passes when he tries to play the ball quick or attempts to do too much.
– Still a bit unpolished when defending 1v1. Not as quick in short bursts, resulting in him occasionally getting turned by dribblers who can stay out of his long reach.
+ Developing as a leader at both club and international level. Has proven to adapt very quickly to changes of environment and level.
+ Unafraid to take on important defensive responsibilities like distributing out of the back.
– Still has yet to fully assert himself in matches. Needs to find that next level and dominate matches consistently to graduate from the Allsvenskan.
+ Very good man-marker with the potential to neutralize his matchup. Relishes battles against taller and stronger players.
+ Positions himself well to close in on lose balls and intercept passes. Is at his most comfortable when fulfilling covering duties.
Rankings are from the 2020 Allsvenskan season and includes 39 central defenders with 1000 or more minutes played:
|Defensive Duels Success %
|Aerial Duel Success %
The defensive numbers show that Okumu rates highly, but that he does not assert himself enough. He uses his long legs and athleticism to amass recoveries and interceptions at a high rate and is the leader of one of the Allsvenskan’s better defensive sides. However, his relatively low rankings in aerial duels and defensive duels show that he isn’t imposing himself at a dominant level as a defender yet. The defensive duel success rate exposes some of his shortfalls in ball-winning and 1v1 situations.
Okumu’s passing numbers stand out for his role in Elfsborg’s direct style of play:
|Avg. Pass Length (m)
|Long Passes/90 Minutes
|Long Pass Accuracy
As the chief distributor out of the back, Okumu’s ability to play accurate long balls is utilized heavily. He leads eligible center-backs in long passes (passes >25 meters) by over four passes per 90 minutes. While Okumu’s general pass accuracy should be weighed against his ambitions, that does not mask the fact that he could be more efficient with his forward passing. The numbers do show that he can be wasteful at times and make dangerous giveaways.
Evaluation: Ready for a top level league
Okumu’s journey has seen him go from playing semi-pro football in the United States to competing for continental competition in Sweden in the span of two years. His tremendous physical tools and marking skill has helped Elfsborg improve substantially from last season. Furthermore, Okumu’s confidence continues to grow in his ability to distribute out of the back with either foot.
There are a couple of minor issues that require further development to succeed at the top level, the most important being Joseph’s success rate when he tries to be more aggressive. However, his recent history of rapid improvement suggests these can be ironed out quickly. Perhaps another season at Elfsborg may be best, but Okumu’s age and development track make a league such as La Liga or Ligue 1 the proper next step.