MEGHAN BRENNAN - Thursday, September 23, 2010
Norway's newest yank, Graham Dugoni, says his transition from Portland, Oregon to 1. Division club Mjøndalen is going smoothly.
It's roughly 4700 miles from Oregon–Dugoni's home state–to Norway. A venture the former Duke defender made this September when word came out that Mjondalen needed someone to bolster their back line.
"I was first put in touch with the club through an agent who has close affiliations with Mjøndalen and [who] had seen me play," Dugoni recently told YA. "He knew the club was looking for a center-back and asked if I would be interested in coming over for a trial. The PDL season had just ended so the timing worked out really well."
The timing was perfect; Dugoni's U-23 Portland Timber's squad had just claimed the 2010 National PDL title and for the first time the former Blue Devil had professional opportunities awaiting abroad.
The move, however, was bit bittersweet as the Timbers will become an MLS franchise next season.
"Leaving Portland was a tough choice because I respect the organization and there is a lot of excitement surrounding next season," Dugoni explained. "That said, the Timbers were very understanding about my desire to gain experience abroad and we have stayed in touch regarding possible arrangements for the future."
Mjøndalen's immediate future relies on the presence of Dugoni at center-back–he was instantly inserted into the starting line up upon arrival and named Man of the Match in last weekend's victory over Ranheim–to stave off relegation with six games remaining.
Dugoni attributes his instant success to his organizational skills and presence among the defenders.
"My greatest strength has always been as a ball-winner and organizer at the back," he divulged. "I like to think I bring a physical presence and composure to the back line that will help us get some important results throughout the rest of the season. Something I'm enjoying and improving at is playing out of the back more often."
Another factor in Dugoni's successful shift from PDL to the 1. Division may lie on the shoulders of the Mjøndalen's players and coaching staff who were enthusiastic to ensure the change came effortlessly.
"My first impression of the club is that they were very eager to make the transition to Norwegian soccer as smooth as possible for me," added the 23 year old. "Everyone has been accommodating and helped me catch on quickly to the differences in this league as compared to playing back home."
The biggest difference Dugoni saw was the tempo of play and amount of possesion on defense.
"The style here allows for more touches and buildup from the back and that's an element of the game that [I] was not used too much in a lot of fast-paced ACC games in college," stated Dugoni.
In addition to making changes to his personal style of play, Dugoni had to learn the tendencies of a new team and league.
"Players on the squad are technically sound and their ability to play in tight spaces is very good," he elaborated. "The main difference in style of play that I have seen in the league is how open games become, especially in the second half. Teams are not afraid to push players forward into attack and the result is free flowing, exciting soccer."
While Dugoni is uncertain what he and Mjøndalen have planned for the future–he expects to discuss this topic post-season–for now, he is happy where he is.
"I'm definitely enjoying playing here now and get along well with the squad and coaches," concluded Dugoni.
Mjøndalen currently sits at 13th in Norway's 1. Division with six games remaining. They face fourth placed Strømmen Sunday at Strømmen Stadion.