Anatole Abang's pro soccer career took yet another abrupt detour on May 10, when his loan to Finnish top-flight club SJK was terminated.
Abang had appeared in all six of SJK's league games up to that point, and had played his first full 90 minutes for the club on May 6. That game - which SJK lost, 1-0 - was also his second consecutive start. There was the perception he was settling in at the club. Clearly, that perception was wrong.
The termination of a loan that only started in late March took the New York Red Bulls by surprise too. "I don't know very much about it," Jesse Marsch told reporters the same day SJK revealed it was cutting ties with Abang.
Abang was supposed to be on loan to SJK until July, with an option to stay with the team until the end of 2018 - which is when it is assumed his contract with RBNY ends. The Red Bulls have shown little interest in Abang since the early stages of the 2016 season. He made eight appearances - and just two starts - for a total of 221 minutes for RBNY in 2016; in August, he was loaned out to Hobro in Denmark's First Division (second tier) for the duration of the 2016-17 season.
But that loan only lasted until the end of January. Hobro had changed coaches mid-season, and Abang was released during the club's winter break. It was a surprise, but there was no particular hint of any acrimony between player and team. Abang had been on trial with top-flight Danish club Silkeborg in the winter break, and Hobro's official reason for letting him go was to let him "chase fast playing in another club where he has a better position to fight back in the national team".
Almost as soon as he was released by Hobro, rival second-tier team Naestved tried to sign him - and sparked a minor controversy in Denmark as it traded accusations with Hobro over who was responsible for flubbing the transfer.
In February, Abang made his way to Tunisia to trial with Etoile du Sahel, one of the heavyweight clubs in Tunisian soccer. That also didn't work out. Meanwhile, all RBNY and MLS would say was that the player wasn't coming back to them.
No surprise then that Jesse Marsch described Abang's situation as a "soap opera", and also indicated he wasn't entirely sure what RBNY's next move would be:
The whole point in sending him on loan was trying to see if he could establish himself in a certain area. Obviously, that hasn't happened and we'll have to figure out what's next.
Asked whether options included bringing the player back to RBNY, Marsch - who had noted sporting director Denis Hamlett was on a trip to RB Brasil and hard to reach - couldn't offer any substantive comment;
I have no idea. We'll have to address that in the next couple of days.
Abang has had a stop-start career to date, with increasing emphasis on the "stop". He landed at RBNY in 2015, and showed promise - delivering six goals and one assist in just 569 minutes in all competitions for the first team. For NYRB II in USL, he scored four goals in six appearances in 2015, and added another four in eight games in 2016.
By March of 2016, he had worked his way on to the radar of the Cameroon Men's National Team, winning his first cap in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa. He stayed in the Cameroon squad throughout 2016, but was one of the last players cut from the roster before AFCON 2017.
By that time, of course, Abang had already fallen out of favor at RBNY and had been loaned out to Hobro. In hindsight, his career so far is a series of promising starts and disappointing ends: one of the more exciting prospects in MLS in 2015, his RBNY minutes dried up in 2016 and he was in Denmark by the summer; his senior national team career started in March, 2016, but he hasn't featured in a Cameroon squad since being cut before AFCON 2017; he scored three goals in 10 appearances for Hobro between September and November, 2016, and was released before the end of the winter break; he made his debut for SJK in April, 2017, and was gone by May.
And now the head coach of the club that holds his contract can't even say whether he'll be allowed back to train with the team that controls his playing rights.
Abang is clearly a talented player. He doesn't turn 21 until July of this year. He has performed well enough in MLS and at the international level to suggest he has a bright future in the game. But he's now looking for a fourth club to play for in less than 12 months. SJK released him with complaints about his attitude.
If he does't have one already, Abang is in danger of developing a reputation for being more trouble than he's worth.
There are too many clubs in the world for a player of his talent and youth not to get another shot somewhere. Hopefully, it's a chance that works out for him when it comes.