Onyewu also decided to 'play without pay' at AC Milan back in 2010.

Will some MLS team take a flier on former U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu?


Oguchi Onyewu, the imposing center back who was once a U.S. national team lineup staple, has always enjoyed a special relationship with U.S. Soccer fans. At a time when the good, sweet, clean U.S. fan still felt a little vulnerable, a little self-conscious about it all, he was like a big brother who walked you to school – and you just knew that nobody would be messing with big bro on watch.

The snapshot moment of his career came back in Columbus in 2005, when Onyewu stared down Jared Borgetti, a physical and talented Mexican goal-scorer and, at the time, one of the chief obstacles standing between the United States and Germany 2006.

Since then, the man they call “Gooch” has been a career defined more by potential and promise than actual delivery. Some of that was about shooting beyond his actual reach in career moves. Some was about injury.

Either way, the bottom line doesn’t look great in 2014.

Onyewu is 31, which is hardly too old to be effective, so long as he picks the right league. On the other hand, he’s on the wrong side of the hill, on the downside of his career. And the real deal breaker here as Onyewu looks for his next address is this cold-water splash of reality: He has not been a season-long, first choice selection since his days with Standard Liege ended in 2009.

Yes, some of the press clippings say “Gooch” was a starter for Sporting Lisbon upon 2009 arrival in Portugal. But he started 17 games that year; Sporting played in 46 matches covering league play and Europa League action. So, that’s a shoulder shrug of a season.

After that, things didn’t go well at Malaga (while on loan) nor at Queens Park Rangers. He didn’t look good in his limited U.S. national team appearances.

As we’ve written a few times at ProSoccerTalk, Onyewu is about to be out of contract with QPR. Nicolas Mendola wrote about it today. He wondered if D.C. United might be the spot.

But United has just made big moves to upgrade the center back position, taking on Bobby Boswell from Houston and putting a lot of faith in emerging youngster Ethan White.

Besides that, is Onyewu likely to take a major salary reduction, which an MLS entrance would almost surely require? Because even the backups are paid well (relatively speaking) in Europe. Here, a team that pays more than $150,000 for a center back had better be getting a trusty starter. A center back in the neighborhood of $200,000and beyond had better be a trusty starter and a leader, and one who isn’t prone to injury.

Some MLS organization may well believe they have that Onyewu – but given the big center back’s career trajectory, it’s a risk.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. The manager guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Costa Rica v United Staes: Final - 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.

Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.

[ MORE: UCL Final in United States? ]

The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.

The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.

Get well soon, Lauren.

WATCH: FC Dallas rocket goal sends Guatemalan rainwater flying off net

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Carlos Lizarazo #22 of FC Dallas looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.

The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.

[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]

Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.