Gooch: The Great American Hope
Oguchi Onyewu like many young American players of this generation has never played in Major League Soccer. Unlike many young American players, “Gooch” has drawn the interest of the biggest, most visible clubs in Europe. Onyewu who has only a handful of US caps has seemingly made an impact in every national team game he has played. Whether it was his game winning goal against Honduras in the Gold Cup of 2005 which kept an eventual championship run going or his outstanding shut down performance of Mexico’s Jared Borgetti in Columbus a few months later or his solid play at the back during the World Cup, Onyewu unlike most American players has been memorable whenever he puts on the USA shirt, and Onyewu unlike his National Team mates was not viewed with skepticism because he was American when clubs thought about purchasing him.
Because of Gooch’s lack of indifferent International efforts, and his solid play with Standard Liege of the Belgian League, large clubs as Real Madrid, Chelsea and Lyon expressed interest in his services. In the end, he settled on Newcastle which contrary to the belief of some Americans who just table watch is a very big club. In fact besides Sunderland, they are the only major club in the Northeast and thus have a rabid following. The madness around the Magpies was immortalized for American viewers in the recent movie “Goal, The Dream Begins.”
While many Americans have been successful in Europe, none have become memorable icons of the club they play with. In fact as Claudio Reyna, the best American player of his generation leaves England, some of my fellow Manchester City fans were asking if they could drive him to the airport to get him out of town even faster. Landon Donovan cannot even make it to Europe, and Freddy Adu is miles off. Some Americans who play in Europe have been very successful: Bobby Convey for instance. But playing for Reading or for Watford like Jay DeMerit or even a London based club Fulham like a trio of Americans limits exposure. Joe Max Moore played several years for Everton but it was at the tail end of his career. Future US World Cup players Roy Wegerle and Preki both played for big English clubs but it was before they were American citizens. (Wegerle was living in the US already though. He had attended the University of South Florida and was playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies when the NASL folded. He then went to Chelsea a while.)
Newcastle is the first huge club to have spent money on a American field player young enough to make a lasting impression since the US rose to International soccer prominence. (Excepting of course players such as Jovan Kirovski and Jonathan Spector who came up Man United’s youth system before being loaned out or sold ) Despite all the hype surrounding Freddy Adu and Landon Donovan stateside, Onyewu is the player which could create a new breakthrough for Americans in Europe. Newcastle United seems to under perform the expectations of their rabid supporters almost every season. Now that Alan Shearer is gone, the Toon is looking for a new poster child, a new superstar. I firmly believe Gooch can be that guy, and become the first American anchor to a major club in Europe. Glen Roeder seemed almost giddy the other day that he had gotten his hands on a player that both Real Madrid and Chelsea expressed interest in. For a star struck manager who was forced to sell his very best players when at West Ham and has had to deal with numerous injuries at Newcastle the satisfaction must have been very ironic.