At the beginning of the summer of 2009, Oguchi Onyewu was enjoying a wildly successful soccer career. He was a mainstay in the U.S. Men’s National Team starting defense, and he completed a transfer to Italian giants AC Milan.
Things haven’t gone smoothly since then.
He has made only two appearances with Milan—a friendly against Club America in the World Football Challenge and a Champions League game against Zurich, both of which were losses—injured his patella tendon in a World Cup qualifier, and made the World Cup roster but was benched after the first two games.
He still hasn’t been able to find the field for Milan.
However, a spark of life has been injected into Onyewu.
He was named captain for the U.S. in an October friendly against Colombia, a testament to his hard work and perseverance during rehab. More recently, the physicality of Gooch’s game returned.
Onyewu was involved in a scuffle on Milan’s training ground with top striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. According to reports, Onyewu was upset by a reckless tackle from the Swede and responded by choking him. Punches were exchanges soon there after.
Club vice president Adriano Galliani told reporters, “I'm happy when I see players pumped up. I'm happier seeing fiery training sessions than boring ones.”
While the violence is not something that should be taken lightly, Onyewu was a force in the U.S. lineup because of his size—at 6’4” he is the tallest field player to play for the National Team—strength, and physicality. He is famous for his takedown and ensuing stare of Mexican striker Jared Borghetti.
Frustrations may have taken Onyewu to the edge, but he needs that edge. He needed to remind the soccer world that he is a physical force to be reckoned with. Onyewu needs to establish his presence on the pitch, and if this fight makes Onyewu more aggressive on the field then it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
He is the best center back in the U.S.’ player pool. However, he hasn’t played like it. It’s time to get that mean streak back in him. Hopefully, the fight means that he isn’t putting up with being a bench warmer anymore and moving into action.
A determined, angry, and physical Gooch means a strong centerpiece to the United States defense.