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Oguchi Onyewu aims for World Cup

Seven months ago Friday, Oguchi Onyewu underwent surgery for a ruptured patella tendon, an injury as gruesome and serious as it sounds. The left kneecap was thrust into his quadriceps muscle and doctors needed to drill holes into the bone to reconnect it to the tendon with fibers.

Onyewu, the 6-foot-4, muscle-packed central defender for the U.S. national team, realized from the moment the injury occurred, in the final moments of the last World Cup qualifier last October against Costa Rica at Washington's RFK Stadium, he would not get back onto the field anytime soon.

After months of rehabilitation and questions about whether he would return in time for the World Cup, Onyewu is now participating in full workouts at training camp at Princeton University. In a friendly next Tuesday in East Hartford, Conn., against the Czech Republic, he is likely to appear in a competitive match for the first time since suffering the injury.

"It's been a long time since I have been in a game situation," he said after workouts Thursday. "I'm sure there are going to be some nerves for me the first minute or two. After that, you are going to see the same Gooch you saw seven months ago."

Actually, Onyewu said he is a better player than he was before the setback.

"I want to show to everybody because I am sure you read blogs and you read magazine or newspaper articles and a lot of people are saying I won't come back like I was," he said. "I am going to go out there and agree with them: I won't come back like I was. I am going to come back stronger. I don't think right now I am the same player I was seven months ago, regardless of what anyone thinks, and I am going to use this year 2010 to prove that. ...

"Mentally I am a stronger player. It's not easy at all to come through it. It's painful, day in and day out. I have had time to work a lot on elements of my game that perhaps weren't up to par."

In recent weeks, Onyewu, who is from Olney, Md., made steady progress with his Italian club, AC Milan, and was considered for action in the final two Serie A matches. Although he didn't play, it was a clear indication that he was close to full strength.

Observers at training Thursday noticed a slight hitch in his stride.

But Onyewu said: "I don't think there is any element of the game that I haven't taken part in -- the sprinting, the cutting, the fitness, the jumping, the heading. It is where it should be, where it needs to be to compete at the highest level. I am ready to go at it and to put to rest all of these concerns."

The biggest question facing Onyewu is game fitness. Training camp is not the same as the upcoming friendlies, and the friendlies pale in comparison to the intensity and speed seen in the World Cup. For the United States, it will begin with a match against Group C favorite England on June 12 in Rustenburg, South Africa.

So he essentially has three weeks to prepare himself.

"He looks like he is ready to go," said central defender Jay DeMerit, who is close to completing his recovery from a lower abdominal strain. "Now all he needs is games. It will take a couple games, especially if you have had a lot of fitness training under your belt with your club. It's normally just a couple games to get that game sharpness."

Onyewu has also had to overcome the mental obstacle of jumping, because it was that act that led to the injury.

"Regardless of whether my knee was fine or not, it was always in the back of my mind: 'Do I want to do it?' " he said. "The doctors kept on saying, 'You are not going to hurt it again. It's reinforced.' You always have that mind-thought that maybe it might."

Onyewu's imposing presence and experience -- he started in the 2006 World Cup -- are vital to the U.S. backline. If he is ready to play, he will join DeMerit or captain Carlos Bocanegra in central defense.

"I feel really good," he said. "Thankfully, I am at the point right now that I can compete and I am training regularly and getting fit."

U.S. Notes: Commenting on his own injury, DeMerit said that "every day is a new positive, so we are well on track." He participated in portions of training Thursday. ... Defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring) and Carlos Bocanegra (abdominal) were involved throughout the session while forward Eddie Johnson (hamstring) did everything except late running drills.

By Steve Goff  |  May 20, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Americans Abroad , U.S. men's national team  | Tags: AC MIlan, Oguchi Onyewu, U.S. national team, World Cup  
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Comments

Mental Floss for the Globe Yo!
Come on Gooch!

Posted by: DadRyan | May 20, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Reading how hard they are working on fitness that is the one thing we all can rest easy about, they should be in damn good shape for the tournament. Hopefully some nations are not as in form as we are and we run circles on them!

Posted by: elfelixg | May 20, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"I want to show to everybody because I am sure you read blogs..."

What is this blogs he speaks of?

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | May 20, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

my last submission went to the black hole known as "held for approval by the blog owner."

so, check out this site, which equates each WC participant with its counterpart from American sports. some of the entries are hilarious.

http://theunlikelyfan.blogspot.com/2010/05/disclaimer-im-new-to-this-site-and-im.html

Posted by: troy6 | May 20, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Go Gooch! Keep a positive mental mind-thought!

Posted by: dccal | May 20, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

"Observers at training Thursday noticed a slight hitch in his stride."

I am not a doctor, trainer, or physical therapist. But that sounds very bad. Having a "hitch" in your stride while jockeying Wayne Rooney sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: TwinCity | May 20, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm seeing a lot of teams train in the Alps. Why are we not training at altitude? I know their top guys on the subject say it doesn't matter, but it does make you wonder. Maybe the other teams just like the scenery?

Posted by: nairbsod | May 20, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Troy -

Awesome link! Very entertaining.

Posted by: CYork1 | May 20, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I think the plan is to head over there about 10 days before the tournament to train at altitude, no?

Posted by: fedssocr | May 20, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"Observers at training Thursday noticed a slight hitch in his stride."

I am not a doctor, trainer, or physical therapist. But that sounds very bad. Having a "hitch" in your stride while jockeying Wayne Rooney sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: TwinCity

---------------------------

Well, at least Rooney might have a hitch in his stride, too.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | May 20, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least Rooney might have a hitch in his stride, too.

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | May 20, 2010 4:21 PM

Touche. Same with Aaron Lennon, right?

Posted by: TwinCity | May 20, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The Alps?

Is this the blog where folks were talking about finding strangers in the Alps? As John Goodman showed, it can be a pretty risky idea.

Good to see Gooch is fired up, hope he keeps his cool and plays calmly from the opening whistle at the World Cup.

Someone recently was discussing which leagues and club teams are most represented at the World Cup. I don't know if anyone posted the link to this site but here is a list:

http://www.football-rankings.info/2010/05/world-cup-provisional-squads-statistics.html

The usual countries are represented at the top: England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France but it gets interesting as you go down the list. Brazil ranks poorly because so many of its players are in Europe. New Zealand ranks higher because so many Kiwis probably aren't quite pro-level players.

Chelsea's the #1 club team with 17 players, followed by Barcelona with 14.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | May 20, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"Observers at training Thursday noticed a slight hitch in his stride."
Posted by: TwinCity

Maybe Gooch is a pimp.

Posted by: barrett2301 | May 20, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Is this the blog where folks were talking about finding strangers in the Alps?

They peed on your valued rug?

Seriously though, I don't know why everyone is freaking out about this altitude thing. They're leaving the morning after the Turkey friendly, so they'll have 11 full days to acclimate to the 4,000 foot altitude. This is plenty.

Posted by: BooThisMan | May 20, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

And the warmup friendlies are on the East Coast. There isn't a lot of altitude within 2,000 miles of Philly and Hartford. So why train at altitude for a week, only to come back down (and fly further?)

Posted by: joshuaostevens | May 20, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

President Barak Obama has brought lots of good omen to USA and this could make the US soccer team win the World Cup 2010 in South Africa if those in charge of soccer in USA realizes the urgent need to seek for divine nuclear consultations with the powers controlling the universe at this most sweetiful period in the history of man and this will further help to accelerate better our quest for meaning to life, our isolated existence and knowledge of life here n beyond

Posted by: sgmj47 | May 21, 2010 5:12 AM | Report abuse

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