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.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

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Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)