Adelabu ’15 sparks men’s soccer’s high hopes

by Alexander Agadjanian | 9/23/14 4:41pm

Once the fall soccer season ends, Alex Adelabu ’15 is looking to devote himself to acting and yoga, learn how to swim and continue to focus on his Christian faith. Until then, the Big Green striker hopes to wreak havoc on the pitch and lead the Big Green (2-2) to an Ivy title and the NCAA Tournament.

The centerpiece of the men’s soccer team’s offense and a proven prolific goal-scorer who has notched 19 career tallies, Adelabu has begun his final season forcefully with 2 goals and 2 assists in five games.

Adelabu, who was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and lived there for more than a decade, said his childhood was central to his skill development and desire to play soccer. He played with his brothers on a field near their house, he said.

When he was 11, Adelabu moved to live with an aunt in Houston where he attended Alief Taylor High School. The senior recalled one specific facet of his assimilation: learning to eat American food.

“Eating pizza and burgers — I actually struggled to do that for the first few years,” Adelabu said, noting that he began eating pizza five years after his arrival in the U.S.

Adelabu said moving widened his perspective and helped him learn to appreciate diversity.

As for the effect on his soccer career, Adelabu noted that experiencing the game in the U.S. has made him more tactically aware. While in Nigeria, he said he played a game rooted in spontaneity, playground-style.

His Dartmouth coach, Chad Riley, said that Adelabu’s technical training has complemented his natural talent.

“That’s kind of what you always want, a little bit of the natural with some of the coached stuff, and he’s got a good mixture of both,” Riley said.

Adelabu said that playing at Dartmouth has helped him develop a “team mentality.”

Originally recruited to join the Pennsylvania State University soccer team, Adelabu said he changed paths after a shift in the program’s coaching staff. Adelabu instead opted to attend Kimball Union Academy, located about a half an hour away from Hanover, after high school. There, Adelabu was first contacted by Dartmouth.

Through three seasons and five additional games in the early stages of his senior year, Adelabu has appeared in 53 of 56 possible games, with 31 starts. Adelabu has averaged almost a goal for every two games played, and nearly an assist for every five, discounting his freshman campaign.

“Alex is one of those guys who just has a tremendous amount of natural ability and talent,” Big Green co-captain Hugh Danilack ’15 said. “He is incredibly tenacious. He has a drive to win and a drive to score.”

Riley noted that Adelabu, in addition to being a threat in the final third, has an uncanny ability to change pace during the course of a game, which can challenge the opposing defense.

Calling him a striker “in the true sense of the word,” Riley said Adelabu is a dynamic attacker who is able to change the pace of a game and imbalance the opposing defense.

Danilack said that this ability has provided advantages for the Big Green as a team.

“He draws a lot of attention,” Danilack said. “Other teams plan for him, they put their best defender and multiple guys on him and it frees up space for the rest of us.”

Adelabu may not be the most vocal member on the team, but still leads through example and demeanor, Danilack said.

“Everyone sees his energy and passion — that he’s working hard and he wants it that much, and it spreads through the team,” he said.

After a sophomore year breakout season, Adelabu stalled a bit in his third season — hindered to some extent by injuries — for the Big Green, reflected in the team’s 6-7-4 performance.

Adelabu said he believes that team chemistry was forged in this period, which also paved the way for the squad’s current success.

“We went through a tough stretch, and it was at that time where we had to be there for each other, in games where we weren’t playing for anything, but we had to go out and show why we love playing the game,” he said. “I think that brought us together. We knew we had the talent so it was only a matter of coming back into a fresh season and start, and bringing what we’ve learned from last year.”