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Oguchi Onyewu Signs For Philadelphia And That 2006 Penalty Call Is Still Bogus

Oguchi Onyewu signed for the Philadelphia Union on Monday, bringing back a smorgasbord of painful nostalgia. I loved Onyewu, he proudly flew the flag for American soccer players abroad for a number of years, but he was also at the center of a couple unpleasant memories during a very formative time in my life. 

Back in the early 2000s, you’d have to travel to to get the down-low on how Americans were playing in the footballing bastions of Belgium, Scotland and Norway. Usually, they’d say Onyewu had, once again, bossed things at the heart of Standard Liege's defense, and I trusted that insight. As far as I was concerned, he owned the Stade Maurice Dufrasne. 

His performances for the United States at the 2005 Gold Cup made him look like he’d redefine the center back position for the United States. Forget Alexi Lalas, this dude was going to defend the American backline like Hector defended Troy.

Who can forget when he obliterated Jared Borgetti, Mexico's all time top scorer, and stared him down as a 23-year-old colossus in 2005? 

The defender was widely known for his menacing size and strength, but he was pretty brilliant technically (by American standards) at 6’4’’. But I believe Onyewu’s size ultimately doomed him at the 2006 World Cup.

German referee Markus Menk, and I must choose my words carefully here, was obviously guilty of sizeism during the United States’ 2-1 defeat against Ghana in their final group game. The result saw Ghana advance while the USA were knocked out, and I, for one, will never forget or forgive that. FIFA agreed with me, in a way, and Menk didn’t referee another game at the tournament, but that didn’t ease the pain.


Heightism exists in soccer, and it doesn't favor the tall outfield player. Onyewu never played with the kind of edge that you’d associate with his height and size. As a Newcastle United fan, believe me when I say that. His 11 Newcastle appearances on loan in 2007 made Newcastle not bother signing another American for almost 10 years.

Say what you’d like about US soccer fans (pretentious, over-optimistic, extremely limited in chanting anything beyond U-S-A!), but we don’t gripe a lot when massive moments are contrived against us. 

That reminds me, that was a hand ball by Torsten Frings at the 2002 World Cup. If that’s called, we win that match and we'd have probably won the World Cup. U-S-A! U-S-A!

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. The Philadelphia Union have signed Oguchi Onyewu, who’ll largely play the role of mentor for a core of young defenders while providing depth at center half. I, for one, welcome the Gooch.

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