After seeing his playing time diminish following his transfer from IUPUI to American University, some may have wondered if Devon Orben made the right decision to head to the nation’s capital.
But for Orben, it was easy.
The former National Soccer Coaches All-American at Columbus North persevered through two seasons of sporadic action at American and is now a starter for the Eagles, who are off to a 5-1 start and ranked No. 21 in the country.
“One of the reasons I left IUPUI and came out here was to play for a team that would compete on a national stage,” Orben said. “It was a program that wanted to get to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s what I want to do.”
Although he started all 18 games as a freshman, Orben didn’t get that feeling at IUPUI. The Jaguars went 6-10-2 that season and have gone 7-24-9 since. Only two players from Orben’s recruiting class are still with the IUPUI program.
On the other hand, American went 11-4-4 last year, upsetting then-No. 1 UCLA in a tournament, and is off to a strong start this season.
“It was a little concern for me, but even after my sophomore year, I knew I made the right decision,” said Orben, who played in eight games as a sophomore and 10 last season. “It’s nice to see things come to fruition and work out for the most part.”
After coming off the bench in the Eagles’ first three games, Orben has started the past three as a defensive midfielder.
“We had a group of veterans last year that were very good,” American coach Todd West said. “Through graduation and a couple injuries this year, he got the opportunity, and he’s the made the most of his opportunity.”
“He’s been a positive guy the whole time he’s been here, a very good leader,” he said. “Guys like that earn their opportunity. He’ll certainly stay in that rotation as we try to keep guys fresh. Even if he’s not starting, he’s a guy that we’re looking to play quite a few minutes for us.”
West likes the 5-foot-4, 145-pound Orben’s tenacity on the defensive end.
“So far, he’s been great,” West said. “He brings a lot of energy to the team. He has a good work rate. I’m very pleased with how Devon has progressed.
“He’s a very strong kid,” he said. “He’s short in stature, but he’s strong in the way he plays. He breaks up a lot of plays. He’s a very good defensive midfielder for us.”
A finance major, Orben has made the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll the past two years and has been on the Dean’s List every semester. He wants to stay in the Washington, D.C., area after graduation.
“It’s a lot different,” Orben said. “I make sure everybody knows I’m from Indiana. I have relatives out here, and my dad (Chip) is from New Jersey. It was definitely a culture shock when I got out here, but it’s a cool place to go to college.”
For now, the main goal for Orben and American is to win the Patriot League championship and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.
“One of the things I noticed when I first got out here, is the level of competition is a lot greater,” Orben said. “I’m happy with where we are in the season right now. Our goal is to compete with teams like IU right now. I grew up watching them and would like to be at that level.”
Name: Devon Orben
High school: Columbus North