Oguchi Onyewu says he's ready to face England
Oguchi Onyewu feels ready to face England.
The big American defender hasn't played a full 90 minutes since Oct. 10, four days before he tore his left patellar tendon during the final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.
He returned May 25 and played 65 minutes against the Czech Republic and entered at the start of the second half four days later versus Turkey. Coach Bob Bradley used him as a 61st-minute substitute Saturday against Australia, the last warmup ahead of the U.S. World Cup opener on Saturday.
"Obviously, yeah, I would love to be able to see if I could have played a full 90," he said Tuesday.
Jay DeMerit seems certain to start in central defence against England. Because Onyewu hasn't played a match from start to finish in eight months, it's unclear whether he or Clarence Goodson will be paired with DeMerit.
"You can see him starting to come along," DeMerit said. "I don't think he or anyone was under any illusions that he would come in and be perfect to where he was last summer. You know, when you have horrific injuries like that, you need to relearn a lot of the key things that make you a player."
Goodson started the last three exhibition games for the Americans. With 54 international appearances, the 28-year-old Onyewu has far more international experience than Goodson, who is four days younger yet has played just 13 games for the national team. Bradley won't give any hints as to his thinking on Saturday's lineup.
"I've seen a good Gooch in training and the games," right back Steve Cherundolo said. "I hope he's gotten a little more fitness in. He's definitely got some games in since he's been here."
Defence figures to a key against the English, led by forward Wayne Rooney. In addition, Three Lions coach Fabio Capello could start six-foot-six Peter Crouch.
A six-foot-four, Onyewu is a tower of strength for his teammates. But if his reaction time and sharpness aren't fully back, Bradley may opt to go with Goodson, who while just as tall appears to be less physical.
Onyewu, who failed to get back on the field for AC Milan following the injury, hardly got airborne when he was beaten to a header by the Czech Republic's Tomas Sivok for a goal. He looked steadier in the last two games.
"I'm physically fit," he said. "It was a progression. The Czech game was my first game back after seven months and, you know, I could have anticipated that not being the greatest outing, but you get better as it goes and right now I feel fine and ready to start this tournament."
Onyewu-and the entire U.S. squad-is convinced it will need a team effort to defeat England, a nation still searching for its first World Cup title since 1966. American fans have focused on the game, the first World Cup match between the countries since the 1-0 U.S. upset at the 1950 World Cup.
"I'm up to facing England," Onyewu said. "I don't think Wayne Rooney is the only player on the English squad. They have a number of world-class players from the defence, to the midfield, to the attackers. Although he is a world-class and great player, you shouldn't just focus on one player in a team sport."