There are certain things in the world that are just meant to be together. Shoes and socks. Milk and cereal. Pencil and paper. You get the idea.
Add U.S. international defender Oguchi Onyewu and Rubin Kazan to that list.
In early July, Italian giants AC Milan made a move and signed the towering center-back from Standard Liege. Although he was expected to move on from the Belgian champions after a world-class Confederations Cup, the final destination was unknown. But in need of some depth on the back line, Milan made it's move.
Onyewu has since made two appearances with Milan. First, during their American preseason friendlies as a substitute, then in the Champions League against Zurich.
But he has yet to make his Serie A debut, mostly thanks to a patellar tendon rupture suffered during national team service. But even in the two matches he came on in favor of Alessandro Nesta, his style of play did not seem to suit the Italians.
This isn't necessarily his fault.
Sure, you can always point to lack of chemistry with a new team. But more importantly, Onyewu is a stay-at-home defender who is much more comfortable playing in his own box, clearing away crosses and corners.
In contrast, AC Milan is a club that wants to control ball possession in the offensive zone and play as little football inside their own half as possible.
While Onyewu has shown throughout his career that he can be a threat inside the box on corners with his head, that is not where the strengths of his game lie.
However, it hardly matters. His injury will keep him off the field at least until January or February. But during the winter transfer period, if he wants the best for his career, he should seek a loan to Russian champions Rubin Kazan.
Yes, the same team that defeated mighty Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Yes, the same team that then proceeded to record a clean sheet at Kazan's Central Stadium against the Barcelona squad that averaged 2.8 goals a match in La Liga a season ago.
And yes, the same team that has now won two straight Russian Premier League titles.
"Gooch" and Rubin Kazan are a match made in heaven.
For many clubs in Europe, the focal point of the team is up front with the strikers. Or perhaps in the attacking midfield. That's not how Rubin manager Gurban Berdyev wants it to be done. With Rubin, the focus is always on their powerful center-backs.
Their pairing of Spanish back Cesar Navas (6-foot-5) and Roman Sharonov (6-foot-1) has been phenomenal in European play. But their Achilles heel is lack of depth. Plus, Sharonov will be turning 34 next season.
In Rubin's defend first, then counterattack system, Onyewu could thrive. And thrive at a Champions League level of play.
Worried about his playing time in Russia? Don't be. Berdyev has 26 men on his current roster and every one has seen the field in certain situations. Worried about the language barrier? Navas speaks English as well as anyone I know.
As for comparing Rubin with the U.S. national team, they are carbon copies of one another. Both teams feature a fleet-footed striker who is prolific at the fast break. Both teams feature a rugged midfield. And most importantly, they rely on their center-backs to clean up the box infront of the keeper and are perfectly comfortable letting teams come to them.
Practice makes perfect right?
What better way than to consistently play in the same system as your national team? While the words "AC Milan" might look a lot better on a resume and Onyewu is certainly a player that has the talent to play there, but Milan is not the best fit.
Go east and prosper, my friend!
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