Oguchi Onyewu Injures Knee, Will Miss Eight Weeks

Tomorrow, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann will announce his roster for the Feb 29 friendly against Italy. Sadly, we know one player who will not be on it: hulking defender Oguchi Onyewu.

The Sporting CP centerback tore ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee on Sunday and will miss eight weeks after undergoing surgery. The injury comes just as the 29-year-old was finally regaining his top form after an October 2009 injury to his left knee (ruptured patellar tendon).

It’s a big setback for the player, obviously, and it creates a void  in the center of the U.S. backline, where Gooch was almost certain to start come World Cup qualifying in June.

He was also a shoo-in for next Wednesday’s match in Italy (2:30 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN3, Galavision). It will be interesting to see who gets Klinsmann’s call tomorrow. Most observers are expecting a heavy influx of European-based talent (for centerbacks: Zak Whitbread? Tim Ream?), but don’t count out Geoff Cameron, currently in preseason camp with the Houston Dynamo.

Then Came the Longbows…

We’ll have to check the archives, but we’re pretty sure we just completed the longest publishing gap in the history of the BP. It’s been a full week since the last post. Our bad. We’ve taken on another role at the day job, and have another project cooking up (more on that later), so the Backpost got moved to the backburner.

Let’s ease it back in with this clip of Legia Warsaw fans launching a coordinated snowball offensive against Sporting CP and U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu during warmups for their Europa League match last week:

The visitors shook off the attack and left Poland with a 2-2 first-leg result that sets them up fairly well for the second leg in Lisbon.

Ecuador 1, U.S. 0: aka the End of Tim Ream’s USMNT Career (For Now)

The U.S. fell to Ecuador 1-0 at Red Bull Arena last night to run their record under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann to 1-3-1, with two goals scored.

Not a rousing start for the new boss, results-wise, but fortunately, results don’t matter right now, and there were some encouraging signs last night.

The Yanks dominated the first half and played some stylish one-touch soccer. The five U.S. substitutions in the second half changed the game, and not for the better.

Let’s look at the ups and downs of the new boss’s fifth outing with the team:

The Good

1.    Oguchi Onyewu is 100% Again

Gooch is back to his old self, positioning well, cutting out entry passes, and of course, winning anything in the air within a 20-yard radius of his 6-4, 210-pound frame. He even got into the attack a few times last night, and nearly set up Clint Dempsey for a late equalizer. His rock-solid presence also lifted centerback partner Carlos Bocanegra, who was able to play more aggressively. They were a first-class duo last night; too bad Bocanegra is 32 and unlikely to be on the Brazil 2014 roster (Gooch is 29. And just as a refresher, his wife looks like this.)

2.    Remember those slow starts under Bob Bradley?

The team appears to have been cured of that condition under Klinsmann, and last night the U.S. got off to a lightning-fast start, with Jozy Altidore testing Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera in the very first minute, and Brek Shea following suit four minutes later (a play not included in the highlights below).

3.    Left-side lockdown

The left-back, left-wing combination of Timmy Chandler and Shea had another quality outing, controlling play on that side of the field and completely hemming in none other than Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia. This is a huge development in an area that has long been a trouble spot for the USMNT. Said Klinsmann afterward: “[Valencia] is a very, very good player but you couldn’t see him at all because Timmy Chandler closed him completely down.”

The Bad

1.    Tim Ream played himself out of the pool—for now.

Klinsmann inserted Ream into the game in the 71st minute—no doubt to give the 24-year-old a taste of national-team play in his home stadium. But the move proved costly as Ream was slow to react to Jaime Ayovi’s knifing run in front of goal eight minutes later. Ayovi beat the Red Bulls defender to the cross (from Ayovi’s cousin, Walter Ayovi) and nodded home the game’s only goal. It was a rudimentary lapse by Ream, a talented player who has admitted to a sophomore slump this season. He needs to re-focus his game at the club level before he gets another call-up from Klinsmann.

2.    Finishing!

There was a promising sequence (also not included below; what’s up with that, US Soccer?) late in the first half in which the U.S. strung together a series of one-touch passes around the Ecuador box, with Shea finding Maurice Edu about nine yards out in front of goal, then darting toward the net. Edu, in an apparent attempt to play it back to Shea, instead rolled the ball harmlessly into Banguera’s arms. It counted as a shot, but it may as well have been a backpass. The U.S. created several other opportunities in front of Ecuador’s goal, but the final ball was always sub-standard. Ironic for a team coached by one of the greatest finishers of all time.

3.    Right-Side Wrongs

The normally steady Steve Cherundolo had an off night, struggling to contain the speedy Jefferson Montero and turning the ball over uncharacteristically. Three times he attempted the same move of faking a backpass to Tim Howard before turning toward the sideline and trying to advance upfield past pressure—and it failed all three times. Cherundolo’s halftime replacement, Jonathan Spector, was even worse. The Birmingham City man was torched soon after coming on, and later awkwardly headed a cross right to Montero at the edge of the box.

Highlights:

Klinsmann, postgame:

USMNT: Quick Hits on Honduras Win

It took four games, but Jurgen Klinsmann finally locked up his first win as coach of the U.S. national team as the Yanks edged Honduras 1-0 in Miami this past Saturday.

Clint Dempsey scored a beautiful goal just before halftime and Tim Howard made several excellent saves to preserve the lead in rainy, windy conditions at Sun Life Stadium.

The Americans could have—should have—added to their margin at least twice as Brek Shea and Oguchi Onyewu each missed sitters in the second half.

Three quick hits on the game:

1. Comeback Kids—Well, maybe they’re not kids—they’re both 29—but centerback Oguchi Onyewu and winger DaMarcus Beasley both returned to the team after long absences, and both performed well.

Onyewu, who is getting regular playing time for Sporting Clube de Portugal (don’t call it Sporting Lisbon), looked confident and steady—a lot like the quality player he was before a ruptured patellar tendon derailed his career in Oct 2009. Even if he missed a wide-open net on the rebound of Dempsey’s shot in the 66th minute.

Beasley was active and dangerous in his 25-minute cameo on the left wing. He combined well with Dempsey a few times, and looked very capable of staying in the USMNT picture. He has two goals for Puebla this season.

2. The Sons of Thomas Dooley—Klinsmann played against Dooley, the first German-American player to make a splash with the U.S. team, and he is continuing the tradition that brought the former Schalke 04 defender to these shores, tapping Hoffenheim’s Danny Williams for this camp, and giving another nod to Nuremberg’s Timmy Chandler. Both looked like worthy additions to the pool.

Williams lined up in right midfield and nearly scored 30 minutes into his debut, curling a shot just over the top left corner from 18 yards out. He also had a diving header blocked in the 45th minute.

Chandler may end up being the starting left back for the U.S. when World Cup qualifying begins next year. He’s a little raw, but extremely athletic, and he combined well with rising star Shea on the left.

Speaking of…

3. Brek Shea: A Bro Who Keeps Things Extremely Chill

The 21-year old winger who just doesn’t like “normal haircuts” recently did a live chat with MLS fans on Facebook, and, as the MLS Insider noted, got the following question: “Brek you seem like a bro who keeps things extremely chill. What’s your secret?”

We have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s working. After a shaky debut against Colombia in Oct 2010, Shea has been consistently effective for the U.S. in five subsequent appearances. He should have scored his first USMNT goal (he has one assist) when Jozy Altidore put it on a platter for him in the 53rd minute, but apart from that flub, he had another excellent game.

So what is his secret? Maybe it’s the painting—did you know Shea’s an artist in his spare time? Check it out here (really).

Another fun fact about Shea: he’s the first player born in the 1990s to make an appearance for the full national team.

Honduras highlights:

Klinsmann’s boys return to action tonight at Red Bull Arena, where they’ll take on Ecuador (7:00 pm ET, ESPN2).

Onyewu Injury: Nothing Salome Can’t Fix with A Backrub

U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu left FC Twente’s Dutch Cup quarterfinal against PSV Eindhoven after just 25 minutes on Wednesday, prompting American fans to wonder if the snakebitten centerback was due for another extended spell on the sidelines.

Onyewu, 28, ruptured his patellar tendon in October 2009, not long after signing with Italian giants AC Milan. He missed the remainder of the 2009-10 season while rehabbing the injury, and had been unable to crack the Milan first team so far in 2010-11.

On Jan. 11, he was loaned to Twente, making his first competitive club appearance in more than a year on Jan. 19 against Heracles.

When he left Wednesday’s game, just his third with Twente, so prematurely, it seemed his bad luck had returned.

But yesterday came news that the injury was relatively minor:  a tweaked muscle between his ribs, according to reporter Avi Creditor, who spoke to Gooch on Thursday.

All he needs is a few days off, some rest–and some light massage from his tantalizing Persian wife, Salome.

It could be a lot, lot worse.

Your Colossal Early-2011 Backpost Roundup

 

Yeah, we’ve missed a few stories as the New Year has gotten off the ground. Today, we catch up (again) with links, clips, and roughly 1,200 words on the biggest BP talking points of the past seven or eight days.

Ready, set, go:

• The Beckham-to-Tottenham arrangement turned out to be a training stint only, and it has not—as yet, anyway—transformed into a loan deal.

• Remember this guy? He was red-carded for that heroin smuggling charge last year and now faces a 51- to 63-month suspension.

• The fallout continued to rain down from FIFA’s dubious decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, as Mohammed Bin Hamman, Qatar’s representative on the FIFA executive committee, bit the hand that feeds (or that Qatar fed?), criticizing Sepp Blatter’s regime while also rejecting proposals to move the tournament to January to escape Qatar’s unhealthy summer heat.

“I believe Qatar can stand alone and organize the competition by itself,” said Bin Hamman, “and I’m really not very impressed by these opinions to distribute the game over the Gulf or change the time from July to January.”

That was interesting, but then Bin Hamman went on to add, in a moment of irony so dense it caused the head of everyone within earshot to explode:

“I think we [FIFA] need to be more open to the people, more transparent. A lot of things could be done. Maybe the actual administration can do that, they have to commit themselves to doing that. The structure is not helpful or useful for our world.”

Can mere words adequately do the above justice? We’re not even going to try.

Edson Buddle left MLS for Bundesliga 2 side Ingolstadt, and these guys were not happy about it. We can hardly blame them; the German side, which is in second-to-last place in the German second-flight—in other words, on the brink of dropping to the third division—reportedly offered Buddle twice his MLS salary.

So long, Edson. Here’s another look at his half-brilliant, half-fluky goal vs Seattle in last year’s playoffs:

• Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry embarked on an offsesaon training stint with his old club, Arsenal, while his countryman defender Didier Domi signed a deal with the New England Revolution. Domi, 32, has played for PSG, Newcastle, Leeds, and Espanyol.

• In other Red Bulls news, the club confirmed the long-anticipated signings of Norwegian midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli, and speedy, feisty English forward Luke Rodgers. More intriguingly, to us anyway, New York also acquired 20-year-old Brazilian winger Marcos Paullo, formerly of Atletico Paranaense, the same club for which reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira used to play.

For video of the young Paullo, um, not scoring, click here (he does look skillful though).

New York is also in talks with homegrown product Matt Kassel, a midfielder who played at Maryland, about an MLS contract.

• Chivas USA striker Justin Braun and FC Dallas defender Ugo Ihemelu were released from Bob Bradley’s January US national team camp. Both players were struggling with injuries. The MLS-heavy US roster will meet Chile on Jan 22 at the Home Depot Center (TeleFutura, 10 p.m. EST).

DC United signed 24-year-old Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco, on loan from Uruguyan first-division side Racing Club.

• Promising 18-year-old Toronto FC academy product Nicholas Lindsay will miss the entire 2011 season with a knee injury.

• Following weeks of speculation that he would join the expansion side, former MLS and occasional U.S. national team striker Kenny Cooper officially signed with the Portland Timbers. Portland fans are excited about the prospect of Cooper and No. 2 draft pick Darlington Nagbe paired up top for their team.

• US defender Maurice (or “Morris,” as they call him in Scotland) Edu returned from a two-month injury layoff and did this for Rangers against SPL foes Hamilton:

Said Rangers boss Walter Smith as the team approached a busy patch of the schedule, trailing SPL leaders Celtic by five points: “We’ve got a lot of games coming up and Maurice Edu needs some game time.”

• The MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft both concluded within the past seven days, giving us, among other players, a Mr. Irrelevant and a Mr. Utterly [?] Irrelevant, namely William and Mary’s Alan Koger—a striker picked last in the SuperDraft (by New England)—and South Florida defender Javed Mohammed, selected with the final choice of the Supplemental Draft, by Colorado.

Kidding aside, the MLS version of Mr. Irrelevant does not always live up to his name—see Parke, Jeff, class of 2004, the starting centerback for Seattle Sounders FC six years later.

Late-round Supplemental Draft picks are not always doomed to obscurity, either. The 2005 edition featured two final-round picks you may recognize: Jeff Larentowicz and Chris Wondolowski—both currently in training camp with the US national team.

• The Chicago Fire added two Designated Players last season, Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and Mexican attacker Nery Castillo—and both are gone now. Ljungberg signed with Glasgow Celtic a few weeks ago, and today, Chicago confirmed that Castillo will go on a five-month loan to Greek club Aris.

• There was an Oguchi Onyewu sighting yesterday—on the field, in a competitive game, that is. After months of bench warming at AC Milan, the hulking US center-back was loaned to Dutch league defending champs FC Twente on Jan 11. Yesterday Gooch debuted—at left back—in a 5-0 rout of Heracles Almelo. Great to hear that Gooch is back in action after 20 months out of club ball, but … not so sure about that new position.

• Other Americans on the move or reportedly on the move included midfielder Jermaine Jones, who left Schalke 04 to join EPL side Blackburn on loan, striker Robbie Findley, who signed with Nottingham Forest, and Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Michael Bradley, who was rumored to be the target of a transfer bid from Sunderland.

• Last, but definitely not least, you have to like the way the re-born New York Cosmos are conducting business so far.

They hope to become MLS’s 20th team, in 2013, and they’ve already established youth academies on both coasts of the United States, headed up by former MLS stars Ted Chronopoulos and Giovanni Savarese. These training centers have already started to bear fruit, placing players in the US U-17 residency program and with the US U-15s.

On Jan 10, the Cosmos hired former US national team midfielder Cobi Jones as assistant director of soccer, and yesterday they unveiled former Manchester United icon Eric Cantona as director of soccer.

Given Cantona’s track record, this last move may be more of a publicity splash than an actual executive addition, but it’s certainly interesting. As were Cantona’s quotes after his hiring was announced. We’re not sure if there was a translation problem, or what, but … well, take a look:

“The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It’s kind of a mix between football and art.”

Then again, that’s probably just the quote we should expect from Cantona, who flashed midfield brilliance, Gallic impetuousness, and a popped collar during his years at Manchester United.

The latter two are on display here:

All right folks, that’s it for this round. If we missed something here, we either covered it elsewhere on the site—or we’re just going to have to live with missing it. But feel free to let us know of any big omissions in the comments. Onward.

Back Off Andrea Pirlo and He Will Make You Pay

Backpost reader Ref Baiter calls this “hands down one of the Top 5 strikes I have seen in years.”

It’s Andrea Pirlo’s 40-yard tracer into the upper 90 for AC Milan against Parma on Saturday:

Not too shabby. We would never argue with the RB (we leave that to the referees), but here are five goals from the past year that give Pirlo’s strike a run for the money:

1. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s World Cup semifinal rocket:

2. Danny Rose’s full volley against Arsenal (London derby; Premier League debut; and we agree with the cat):

3. Clint Dempsey’s Europa League far-post chip (put Fulham into the final):

4. Alex’s free kick vs Arsenal on Sunday (Powerful, swerving, unstoppable—like the Ref Baiter after a few pints):

 5. Juan Pablo Angel’s last-second game-winner vs Houston (definition of clutch; and a little love for MLS….):

Those are some golazos. Long may they survive copyright claims.

PS: U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu did not dress for Milan’s 1-0 win over Parma. He has yet to play this season.