Eduvie Ikoba is having a breakout season for his Hungarian club, Zalaegerszegi TE FC, however, his second spell at the club didn’t start with smiles as the older brother of Portland Timbers’ Tega Ikoba had to prove to his manager why he should be starting.
“It was really difficult in the beginning [of the season]” the Iowa native said, continuing “we had at the time three other strikers and I came really late into the preseason. The coach at the time was telling me to be patient, so I just waited and it paid off eventually.”
After being given more minutes by his coach, they both seemed to never look back, “I scored 10 goals in the league and two in the cup.”
Ikoba played four years of college soccer at Dartmouth College from 2015 until 2018, making 62 appearances while tallying 17 goals and eight assists. While in college, Ikoba played for USL PDL team Black Rock FC in 2018, making one appearance.
“We still have a few games left,” he elaborated, “one per weekend until the end of May. So not too many left.”
After an initial spell with Zalaegerszegi in the 2019-20 season, the former college star rejoined the Hungarian club last summer after departing from the club for Slovakians AS Trenčín in 2020, picking up 20 appearances and netting four times.
“I think we should be in seventh or eighth place,” the 25 year-old explained. “With a few games left we’re not completely safe but if we can get a result this weekend it would definitely help us – might probably secure our position to make sure that we’ll stay in the first division. But I think everyone is confident now that it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do.”
“There are 12 teams in the league,” he continued. “The bottom two are relegated at the end of the season. The last relegation team has 28 points and we have 34. It should still be difficult for the bottom team to catch us but it is a possibility which is why its important to get points.”
The Iowa native is in pole position to finish sixth with his Hungarian side, which would be their highest league position finish since the 2010-11 season where Zalaegerszeg finished in fourth.
Thanks to an extra-time victory over lower-tier Budafoki in the championship game in early-May, Zalaegerszeg has won the Hungarian Cup, or the Magyar Kupa, for the first time in their 103-year history. After the Hungarian league championship in 2001–2002, it is the only significant trophy they have ever won.
“Don’t let the cup go to your heads!” is the obvious warning cry for the team as they look to close out the season strongly.
“Exactly,” he agrees. “We had a celebration as a team so now we just have to focus again and try to continue.”
“If I recall, the cup was five or six games,” he explained. “The way they do it in Hungary is that every team in the federation is eligible to play so I think our first games were against second-division opponents, while some of the first-division teams played against third-division [teams].”
“But its really just one leg knock out each round, so we won all of our games and made it to the finals,” he beamed. “I’m just thankful that we won.”
This Hungarian Cup is the first silverware Ikoba has won in his career thus far. He is sharing this experience with the rest of the club because this is also part of history for them.
“For most of the guys its been one of the best experiences we’ve had as professionals,” he reflected. “I think there are only two or three of us who have ever won any type of trophy in our careers [so] for a lot of us it was a new experience.”
“I could see after the game how close everyone felt, how happy we felt. Not just the players actually, [but also] the whole staff and organization. It felt like a really big accomplishment because its not something you get the opportunity to participate in everyday.”
“I will definitely cherish the whole night and being able to keep my medal and having photos with the trophy, to lift up the trophy in front of my friends as well, and my family as well watching at home, its something special.”
According to reports, due to his now 11 goals this season thus far, Celtic in Scotland and Stuttgart in the Bundesliga are both interested in the tall forward.
“This part is still a little bit uncertain because I have a contract for two more years from this summer. Its good of course because the team is going to compete in Europa Conference qualifying which is a really big opportunity for any club.”
The former FC Dallas draftee is hoping to continue his bright start in Europe next season whether it’s at Zala or elsewhere.
“I’m not sure what my future will hold yet, whether I’ll stay or whether I’ll go,” he evaluated, “but I’m just going to assume that I’ll be here at Zala…until I hear something different or a contract comes where maybe I can take another step in my career but who knows.”
“I would definitely consider that option, but its not beneficial for a professional athlete to think too far ahead, so now I’m just taking it one game at a time. I’d like to finish the season in a good way, then in the summer I’m sure I’ll talk with the club and my agent about everything else.”