Oguchi Onyewu has critical career choices ahead

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We know Oguchi Onyewu will probably land on the U.S. Gold Cup team. As we talked about yesterday on the blog, the provisional U.S. roster of defenders, minus the men used so extensively for the recent World Cup qualifiers, tells us so.

There would be a real shortage of center backs minus Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra or both.

So, welcome back into the national team fold, “Gooch.”

What we don’t know is where the big center back will be in the fall. Nor does he, apparently. That came out of a conversation over lunch Onyewu had with the Washington Post’s Steven Goff.

Onyewu remains under contract with Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon for one more season, although another loan to La Liga club Malaga now sounds highly unlikely. What he told Goff about a return to Spain for the 2013-14 season:

I’m not holding my breath. I am looking for other options. I thought I was in good standing [last year] but it turned in the wrong way. I definitely need to put myself in a good place.”

Yes. And soon.

Only, it’s not that easy. It’s tough for guys like Onyewu, who need to find regular playing time but might need to swallow the unpleasant taste of a significant pay cut for that to happen.

Think Eddie Johnson is making as much in Seattle as he did while under contract to Fulham? Of course not. But he’s playing regularly – and he got back into the national team scene. In the big picture, it’s been an amazingly blessed time for Johnson, who came so close to tumbling out of the game entirely.

So, MLS for you, Mr. Onyewu?

“I will never exclude MLS, but I am not ready to leave Europe yet,” he told Goff.

And there you go. As I said, it’s hard to give up the paycheck. And the dream. But …

In and around that settled spot Onyweu occupied for so long at Standard Liege, he has come and gone in England, Italy, Holland, Portugal and Spain.  He has 48 appearances combined at all those places, or about one good season in total.

Maybe it’s time for Onyewu to get more realistic about his choices. He’s 31 years old, after all – which means his options will continue to decline.

Any possible chance Onyewu has of climbing back up the depth chart and getting within striking distance of Brazil depends on his playing time this fall and next spring.