Union sign former USMNT centerback Oguchi Onyewu

The Philadelphia Union announced the signing of centerback Oguchi Onyewu to a one-year contract as a Discovery Signing. Onyewu was a regular for the US Men’s National Team between 2005 and 2010.

“Gooch” should provide depth and plenty of much-needed veteran experience to the back line. In 2016, the Union leaned on the trio of Joshua Yaro, Richie Marquez, and Ken Tribbett. Yaro and Tribbett were both rookies, and Marquez was a second-year player. The odd man out with this new signing will probably be Tribbett, who should end up getting lots of playing time with Bethlehem Steel. Onweyu, at 6’4” and 210 pounds, could give manager Jim Curtin an option when he needs size in the back, since Yaro is kind of small for the position at 5’11” and 163 lbs.

The 34-year-old Onyewu also brings plenty of international club experience, having played in Belgium, England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and France. He has also had some health issues, including a serious knee injury sustained during a 2009 World Cup qualifier match against Costa Rica which caused him to miss the entire 2009-2010 season while under contract with Italian club A.C Milan. He was never quite the same again for the USMNT after that. He suffered another knee injury in 2012 while playing in Portugal, and his playing time steadily decreased after his recovery from that. His last professional game was February 7, 2015 when he was playing for Charlton Athletic in England’s third-tier division League One. Since then he has been bouncing around for trials with various clubs, but has not been offered a contract until now.

Curtin is hoping that the Union’s sports performance department can bring Onyewu back to playing at a level that will have him competing for a starting position. When in his prime, Gooch was a beast on the USMNT’s back line. If he can manage to come back anywhere near to that form, this will be a good signing for the club. It’s hard to imagine old man Gooch taking the place of Yaro or Marquez as a regular starter though.

Onyewu spot isn’t the only hole sporting director Earnie Stewart has patched. They also filled a need at striker when they signed veteran Englishman Jay Simpson. The 28-year-old Simpson has Premier League experience, but has spent most of his career bouncing around England’s lower divisions, along with a season in Thailand. The Union also brought depth to the left back position when they signed Giliano Wijnaldum, a 24-year-old Dutchman who has spent most of his career in the Netherlands’ top division, the Eredivisie. It remains to be seen if he could challenge Fabinho for a regular place in the starting XI. Both Simpson and Wijnaldum will take up international slots on the Union roster.

The Union will be traveling to Clearwater, FL on Tuesday where they will spend the month of February training.

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