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Oguchi Onyewu – Still The Right Man For The Job?

Onyewu - Does He Still Deserve To Start?

Going into this summer’s World Cup in South Africa, Bob Bradley has had some big choices to make, and some obvious problems to resolve. Finding a solution in attack has not been an easy task, after the disastrous injury to Charlie Davies and the loss of form in Jozy Altidore, but Bob Bradley solved it in the form of LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle and Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley. Finding a good combination between defense and attack in the midfield has been a hotly-debated topic, but Bob Bradley seems to have that sorted as well, using a combination of Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, and Ricardo Clark to plug any gaps in the middle of the pitch.

The real problem Bob Bradley still faces just days away from the start of the tournament, is at the back. Bradley’s USMNT has played quite a few friendlies just before the World Cup, and stalwart defender Oguchi Onyewu, who was so reliable during the Confederations Cup last summer, has looked completely out of sorts.

The big man at the back, who currently holds a contract with Italian giants AC Milan, has only made one league appearance for the Italian side since signing last summer. While his lack of first-team opportunities is most likely down to his injury problems, which kept him out of play for the majority of the 09/10 season, he would still have been training with Milan legends like Alessandro Nesta and Gennaro Gattuso, but seems to have made little or no progress.

Taking a player who has had so little playing time in a whole year to a tournament like the World Cup, and pitting him against some of the world’s best strikers just signals disaster. In USA’s first game, if Onyewu starts, he will have to mark Wayne Rooney. He will have Aaron Lennon flying down the right side. He will have the technical ability of Steven Gerrard to deal with. A man who has had almost no competitive minutes on the pitch, and he has to deal with all of that.

Surely, then, maybe Onyewu’s physicality, although valuable, is replacable. In steps Clarence Goodson, who plies his trade in Norway for IK Start. While it may not sound as glamorous as Onyewu’s club career, Goodson is a first-team regular for the Norwegian club, and is even almost the same size as Onyewu. Playing Goodson just means that much more match sharpness, that much more comfortability right from the get-go.

Onyewu may still play a vital role in the USMNT’s World Cup tournament, but I don’t believe he should be first choice ahead of Jay DeMerit and Clarence Goodson at center-half. Onyewu’s lack of playing time, and his errors in friendlies most notably against the Czech Republic, a match the USMNT went on to lose by a score of 2-4.

While a backline of Cherundulo, DeMerit, Goodson, and Bocanegra may not be as recognizable or as flashy as one including Oguchi Onyewu, it would certainly be a lot safer.

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  1. Jack

    June 13, 2010 at 12:33 am

    What did I say. All of you were “hate’in”. Gooch was awesome today. He will hunt all of you down and beat you silly. In the future, don’t hate on the Gooch…

  2. JM

    June 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Dolo and Boca are definitely the fullbacks, but the center half pairing is very troublesome.

    As much as people tout Rooney (and rightfully so), his goal today against a South African Premier League side was the first goal he’d scored in any competition since March. It is Steven Gerrard who really makes England go. When he is allowed space to run and create, England look terrific; when he is stagnant, England look terrible. Our central midfield pairing is going to be the key to the England match.

    Let’s pray Gerrard and Lampard are England’s central midfield pairing, and the positional confusion the pair have suffered through for years shows up again on Saturday. More often than not, Gerrard ends up playing too deep, and England struggle to create.

    I think the USA is going to game plan for counter attacking football against Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. Both England fullbacks have a tendency to get caught out of position, so Landon and Clint are going to need to run their asses off in order for the USA to play solid defense, and create chances going forward.

  3. Dylan Thomas

    June 7, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I really don’t think any combo of US center-halves will be able to handle Rooney, but I also think playing anyone who isn’t completely fit is also a mistake. don’t get me wrong, gooch, when fit and on form, is a dominating defender. but if he isn’t totally rest, I don’t think he should start.

  4. Jack

    June 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    @ Charles. Gooch was a starter for Liege for 4 years, so he got plenty of playing time. We all know now that he made a mistake by going to Milan and would have had consistent playing time at a team like Olympique Marseille or Leverkusen, which are teams that are on the up, not on the down like AC Milan. For Jozy, Hull had no midfield and Jimmy Brand was the biggest ball hog I’ve ever seen. He got playing time and really matured as a player. BTW, he’s 20 years old, how old are you?

    @DCLee. I don’t think that Goodson looks very comfortable either. Sure, he’s in game shape, but I think that his international showings in previous years have been discouraging. Sure, he has size, but doesn’t have the closing speed that Gooch has. In my opinion, the worst case is to start Gooch and bring in Goodson for the second have if he is sucking it up/getting tired.

    • james

      June 7, 2010 at 5:48 pm

      Goodson was responsible for 1 of the goals in the Czech game and complicit in at least one other (a better defender wouldn’t have stood looking while a ball was crossed right in front of him). A Goodson/DeMerit CB combo would really make me worry if they’re facing a Rooney/Crouch combo. If Kennedy was on form, the US would’ve had a much closer game against Australia. Both Rooney and Crouch are in good form.

    • Charles

      June 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      I am old enough to be his grandfather, but that doesn’t mean that Altidore playing at Hull didn’t kill his World Cup play. I will be in the minority, but away from money, I think he would have been better off playing in MLS. Playing for a team like Hull where he is not going to get decent chances, really negates the fact that he is playing against World Cup class defenders.

      You probably watch him more than I, so I will take your word he has matured. But playing with a ballhog and no midfield has to take its toll no ?

  5. Charles

    June 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I am a huge MLS fan, so I would rather see MLS players in there…take my comments with that in mind.

    The big problem that these players that go over and play in the Euro leagues have is lack of playing time/playing on bad teams.

    There is no doubting the talent of the players like Gooch and Altidore, but when you don’t play or in Altidore’s case play forward on the team that had a goal differential of negative 41, how great is your playing time ?

    Not very in my opinion and they are suffering for it.

    • DCLee

      June 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      I agree with Charles. It is probably because he was injured but one has to wonder how much PT he would have received at Milan and training isn’t everything. I thought it looked a lot better in he qualifiers and last summer due to his great experience at Standard Liege and leading them to the title.

      I’m not hating as I like Gooch a lot but he does not look comfortable o the field to me and confidence is a big thing at any level but especially at a tournament like the World Cup.

      BTW – Charles are ready for your Sounders to learn a lesson or two this Thursday when DC comes a calling with their young gun Andy Najar runs at that Seattle backline;) Enjoy the game.

      • Charles

        June 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

        The only way I will enjoy the game is if you don’t 😉

        We are very lucky to have such a great league. The Andy Najars and the Steve Zakuanis of the league are on every team. I don’t think the MLS haters realize how much better the MLS is getting very quickly.
        ( not implying they were that bright anyway )

        Name a team and there is someone who is making huge contribution who wasn’t there two years ago.

        • DCLee

          June 7, 2010 at 11:58 pm

          I hope for a fun game to watch on Thursday regardless of the outcome. And I agree with you again Charles that there is lots of exciting youthful talent in the MLS and with these new academy rules it appears that more is on the way.

          The trick is going to be keeping players that do develop like your Dempseys, Holdens, etc… while they are in their prime. I don’t fault them for wanting a bigger payday and going overseas but hopefully one day the quality of MLS can be good enough that they want to stay and the MLS will be able to compete financially with other big leagues around the world.

          @Jack. Goodson is not as good as Gooch and I don’t really know the answer but when defenders are off form there mistakes are magnified unlike the forward position where an off form player hurts his team by missing goal scoring opportunities. I know in DC Troy Perkins our keeper is just now starting to get his form back to where he was and we felt it early on when he was off.

  6. Jack

    June 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I still think that Gooch should start. Everyone complains about the “slight limp”, something that I don’t see, and the fact that the Czech player put his body weight on Gooch and leap frogged him. Basically, all of you are jumping to conclusions through wild speculation.

    1) There are things that go on in training that we don’t know about. I’ve seen video of Gooch running, jumping, and tackling in practice. From that evidence alone, he looks like he is back in form.

    2) Gooch has BIG GAME experience. Goodson doesn’t. England is known to push and shove and you need a tough guy in the box. Gooch, even at 95%, can shut Crouch down due to his physicality.

    3) Everyone talks about the same two things. What about the moments when he looked good (deflected a shot in the Turkey game, his tackling, positioning, and passing)

    4) Gooch’s technical skills have obviously gotten much much better. Sure, his running and jumping has been limited over the past few months, but he has been training with world class defenders at Milan and has learned some tricks of the trade.

    Stop hating on Gooch. He’s ready to go…

  7. james

    June 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It’s not like he’ll play worse than Jay DeMerit.

    I’d rather have Gooch with his size and ability coming off an injury than a DeMerit that’s made disastrous mistakes in every single warm up game he’s played in.

  8. Robert

    June 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    simple answer: No, he should not start. Imagine Derek Jeter misses the entire season due to injury and comes back in time for game 7 of the World Series. There is no way he would able to perform.

  9. jjg

    June 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Tough call.

    not completely sure how fair it is bashing Gooch for that Czech header…it was literally the FIRST GAME back from injury.

    Aside from the Czech match–and of course, yes, I see the gimpiness in his movements too, and it’s worrisome–has he gotten torched in these friendlies?

    I like Goodson, but I worry he may carry a certain ‘b-team’ quality that terrifies every USMNT fan like me, namely the capacity to collapse. In a big way.

    2009 Gold Cup final v Mexico. 5 to zip. Goodson present and accounted for in that woeful lineup. Whatever evil juju it was that permitted what happened in that match to happen, it must be kept off the South African pitch at all costs.

    Just a thought.

    • jose

      June 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

      jjg, exactly when the czechs scored on a header he couldn’t jump off that knee, im very concerned. i was surprised after that game that he was called by bradley.

  10. Dylan Thomas

    June 7, 2010 at 11:47 am

    he might still have it in him, but I don’t think he’s ready for this level after having almost no time to prepare for it.

  11. mlscornerkick

    June 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I think he still has it in him.

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