Local Players Key to US World Cup Performance

America will need Onyewu’s defense, Edu’s physical play, and Goodson off the bench.

By: Jason Koebler

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 If the US is going to upset England in its first game of the World Cup, it’s going to need everything it can get out of the nation’s capital. Three players on the American team hail from the Washington area. Defender Oguchi Onyewu played for Olney’s Sherwood High School before joining AC Milan, and midfielder Maurice Edu and defender Clarence Goodson starred at the University of Maryland. Here’s what some soccer experts say we can expect out of them.

Of the three, Onyewu means the most to the Americans’ chances but also represents the biggest question mark on the team. Onyewu is probably the team’s most talented defender, but the knee injury he suffered during the World Cup qualifying match against Costa Rica in November kept him off the pitch until early last month. He started in a friendly match against the Czech Republic last week but looked shaky and got burned for a goal.

Says ESPN SoccerNet’s Jeffrey Carlisle: “There’s a lot of questions after the Czech game; he was showing a lot of rust. He looked like a guy who hadn’t played soccer in eight months”—which, after all, he is. Carlisle expects that the US will employ the same defend-and-counter strategy it used in the Confederations Cup to upset Spain last year, and Onyewu will be key to the country’s success: “His potential impact could be massive.”

Edu, who was instrumental to the Terrapins’ 2005 National Championship run, has made quite a name for himself in the Scottish Premier League. He starts for the Rangers, one of the league’s two most popular teams. Against archrival Celtic, Edu scored the game-winning goal during injury time. “That was a huge goal,” Carlisle says. “He’s really popular over there.”

Edu’s former coach at the University of Maryland, Sasho Cirovsky, believes that Edu, a strong midfielder who has also played defense, will start against England, a very physical team. “He’s a great combination of speed and ability,” Cirovsky says. “He’s the kind of person you want to be around, a great competitor. He’s the kind of player you want playing for a national championship.”  

Against smaller teams like Slovakia and Algeria, US coach Bob Bradley may decide to go with the smaller, quicker Jose Torres. Edu scored against the Czechs last week, but Carlisle thinks Edu already had Bradley’s confidence: “I think he was already well aware of the contribution he could make.”

Goodson, an Alexandria native and defender for Norway’s IK Start club, has made huge strides in his game over the past year. “A year ago, I would have said he was a long shot to make the roster,” says Carlisle. “Since training camp in January, his star has been on the rise.” Early in his career, Goodson was known as a bit of a hothead. “He has a bit of a temper, but he seems to have matured in Norway,” Carlisle says.

Although Goodson almost certainly won’t start, if the US makes it into the second round, he could see the pitch, especially if injuries or yellow cards become an issue—if a player receives two yellow cards, he gets a one game suspension. Says Carlisle: “He’ll have to be ready.”

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