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Onyewu primed for England in World Cup

While the U.S. lineup for Saturday night's opener against England takes shape, one massive question lingers: Will Oguchi Onyewu start?

The towering center back from the Washington area was at the center of attention during the media session at Irene Farm (moooo!) on Tuesday morning, with American and English reporters analyzing and interpreting every word. (Well, at least until he started joking about Xbox competition among teammates.)

Onyewu has not played a full match since recovering from a ruptured patella tendon, accumulating 139 minutes in the three recent tuneups. He started once but didn't enter Saturday's friendly with Australia until the 61st minute. Meantime, Clarence Goodson, who matches Onyewu's height if not his muscle and international experience, was in the lineup all three games.

"Obviously, I would have loved to be able to see if I could play a full 90, but as it is, not a lot of [U.S.] defenders played a full 90" in the friendlies, Onyewu said. "I am sure Bob [Bradley] was trying to disperse the time as evenly as possible amongst the players. In that case, I don't have an issue with it.

"There are no issues with me playing a full 90."

More.....

On his general health, he said: "I feel fine. There have been no complications, nothing that has restricted me from any kind of training activities or game activities. ... The Czech game was my first game in seven months, and I could have anticipated it not being the greatest outing, but it gets better as it goes, and right now I feel fine and ready to start this tournament."

Onyewu is eager to show what he can do.

"I'm ready to begin this; it's been a long road," he said. "The last seven months seem as though they've flown by in two days. It seems like yesterday I got injured, and seven months later, we are here in South Africa."

Onyewu said he has been in regular contact with David Beckham, his AC Milan teammate who is working for England's coaching staff.

"I communicate with David all the time, texting back and forth, see how he's doing," Onyewu said. "He was at the last friendly and he sent his regards and said he was happy to see me playing again after the long injury. It's good to have your friends behind you."

What exactly did the text messages say?

"They're are private texts but they are light-hearted. The last one I got with him was just seeing how he was doing with his injury and him telling me that he is happy to see me back on the field."

And English reporter asked: Did he and Beckham bet on this Saturday's game?

"Oh, you're not getting me on that one!"

Onyewu as also asked about the significance of playing England and what a victory, 60 years after the historic World Cup triumph over the English, would mean to American soccer.

"It is definitely an opportunity for us in terms of setting a tone for the rest of the tournament. Obviously, 1950 was a great story, but now it is 2010. We have to focus on leaving the past behind us and focusing on the present and the future, and trying to make our own history and leaving the other one behind. Everyone is making a big deal about England being the first game, but after England, we have two other difficult games to focus on. So we shouldn't put too much weight on the first."

And finally, for the record:

"I am going to put this out there right now. At night, I kill time by thrashing Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu in FIFA's 2010. You can put that in the headlines. They can't compete with me."

By Steve Goff  |  June 8, 2010; 9:04 AM ET
Categories:  2010 World Cup , Beckham , England , U.S. men's national team  | Tags: Bob Bradley, David Beckham, Oguchi Onyewu, U.S. team, World Cup  
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Comments

Hopefully Gooch "timed his injury" just right and will be fully fit for 90 minutes of hard running, have a quick first step, be able to jump high, have good ball skills, proper anticipation, and be able to make smart decisions with and without the ball in exactly 4 days.

Other well-known players continue to drop like flies. Portugal has apparently just ruled that Nani cannot play in the Cup due to a collarbone injury:

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/world-cup/story/_/id/793730/ce/uk/?cc=5901&ver=us

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | June 8, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

BECKHAM!

Posted by: biga116 | June 8, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Starting Gooch would be a mistake.

Posted by: Reignking | June 8, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

if there are no issues with him going the full 90 I just wonder why Bradley didn't go with him last Saturday, unless it had to do with just trying to not have him get hurt (especially on that horrid field).

Posted by: nairbsod | June 8, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Plaudits for Gooch's attitude, but if he isn't completely ready for 90 minutes, he should sit. Starting him with an eye to subbing him later in the match is foolish. A manager shouldn't waste a sub on a defender unless it is necessary because of injury, ejection or the need to score late in a match. Keep the subs for midfield and the front. A most-recent example of "wasting" subs on defense was DCU Saturday night. Onalfo had no choice, but it greatly restricted his attacking options. Bradley has a choice. Don't start Gooch unless he can be expected to play the full 90 -- and play to his capability.

Posted by: runningcloud | June 8, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

"There are no issues with me playing a full 90."

I like the optimism but the issue is that Gooch hasn't played in a competitive match of any kind since last fall and played 139 minutes in the three warm-up friendlies.

BB's easiest decision on defense appears to be at right back where Cherundolo seems set to start. After that, things get tougher. I guess Bocanegra gets the start at left back but I could see the temptation to use him to bolster the center of defense.

In the center, there's Onyewu's rustiness, Demerit's persistent fouling in bad locations, and Goodson's relative inexperience.

That's a tough one. I don't know what I would do.

Posted by: diego_r | June 8, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm not going to be surprised if he starts.

We've got the three subs. We know one forward is playing ninety, we know that Clark is the only midfielder we will sub, and we know that Boca, Demerit, and Cherundolo can't truly be replaced at the moment. We could see Gooch starting with a potential Goodson sub late if he's gassed.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | June 8, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

It looks like Nani Nani has a boo boo and won't play in the WC for Portugal.

Posted by: Reignking | June 8, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree with UnitedDemon. In addition, I would start Gooch because he looked more composed on the ball than Goodson and is a bigger physical presence. Plus, we need Dolo and Boca as our wing backs. Spector lacks confidence/form and Bornstein should be battling for the Chivas USA left back spot.

I didn't include Gooch in my FIFA '10 thoughts but I should have.

Thanks for the input about weddings and Pittsburgh. Don't worry, I am fully prepared to miss any part of the wedding and have informed my cousin. It clearly is not my fault if I arrive late. This game is too important to miss. Also, we all know I need to spend time at the bar because I have yet to completely go pear shape.

Posted by: grubbsbl | June 8, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Dangit Reingking, I didn't see that one coming.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 8, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

i think about 80% of the tweets coming from the players in south africa have been about who's beating who at fifa, and now we've got onyewu formally addressing the matter at a news conference. i suddenly feel like buying the game.... is this all some sort of ingenius stealth marketing campaign?

Posted by: stairs | June 8, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

It looks like Nani Nani has a boo boo and won't play in the WC for Portugal.

Posted by: Reignking | June 8, 2010 9:47 AM

That is just awful.

I love it! :-)

Posted by: Kev29 | June 8, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Gooch is hungry and mentally ready to play. That's great for our team. I would start him in at least one first-round game, but not Saturday--give that nod to Goodson.

Posted by: hungrypug | June 8, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

...as we sing, "Hey, Nani Nani"...

Posted by: Reignking | June 8, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

@stairs,

There was a great article in Wired recently about how NFL players playing Madden has changed the way they strategically approach the game on field. http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_gamechanger/ I'm sure playing FIFA works the same way for these guys.

Plus, it's probably a lot more fun than watching the goats walk around the farm for the 16th time.

Posted by: Kenobi | June 8, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Nani Nani. Nani Nani.
Hey Hey. Goodbye.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | June 8, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

It's really too bad that Bocanegra's probably going to slide out wide. I'd like to see him and DeMerit paired in the middle.

Goodson may just get a baptism by fire.

Or Edu/Bradley will play as a fifth central defender.

Posted by: delantero | June 8, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

If I may introduce another tacky British saying into the Insider mix, our defense is looking like a dog's dinner.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 8, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Sad to hear about Nani. I think he would have had a better tournament than Ronaldo.

Posted by: RedDevil1 | June 8, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I go on vacation...-9 in MFLS. Nice.

Posted by: Reignking | June 8, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Starting Gooch puts us at a disadvantage in terms of substitutions and doesn't leave us with as many options for late game changes to go more defensive or more attacking. Not to mention potential subs due to injury.

Posted by: FrancoNiell | June 8, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

As long as Gooch isn't icing his knee down whenever he comes off the field, he should be fine. If he STILL needs to ice it down, then I'm worried.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | June 8, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

""JOHANNESBURG -- Portugal winger Nani has been ruled out of the World Cup because of a bruised left collarbone.""

A bruised collarbone? I really have no idea why this would keep anyone out of the World Cup. Shoot some marcaine/ triamcinolone into it.

Portugal is now out of the group, in my opinion. Brasil, Ivory Coast will advance.

Posted by: delantero | June 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

from a classic Special1 TV episode (to the tune of smooth criminal):

"Nani are you okay? Nani are you okay? Are you okay Nani"

I miss Special1 TV. How great would it have been this year with Inter winning the Triple, Potato not qualifying with Russia, Rafa getting sacked by Liverpool, and Arsenal still not winning anything.

Plus, Ameobi is going back to the Premier League!

Posted by: diego_r | June 8, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

not too mention Sven taking over as coach of Ivory Coast and the Boy having most fantastic season ever. Here's a link to the Nani episode:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSc67khSryU&feature=related

Posted by: diego_r | June 8, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

cool - just found out through the network of tubes that is the internet that Special 1 TV is returning for the World Cup! It'll be on BBC3. Here's a link: http://www.epltalk.com/special-1-tv-returns-bbc3-trailer/20474

Posted by: diego_r | June 8, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

We should only use Gooch as a late sub and only if we are protecting a lead against England.

It really doesn't matter if we win or lose against England. We still have 6 points available vs Algeria and Slovenia.

Posted by: 9Nine9 | June 8, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Psychologically, a win against England would be huge and would give us tremendous momentum going forward. A loss, while disappointing, might be tempered by our underdog status.

Posted by: fmcromwell | June 8, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Goff, please stop implying that Gooch should even be considered. He is not ready. Let it go.

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