Even after seeing replay, Onyewu disputes PK call vs. Brazil
LANDOVER, Md. -- The game was only 10 minutes old, but it can still be argued that it was the turning point of the USA's 4-1 loss to Brazil on Wednesday night.
Costa Rican referee Jeffrey Calderon whistled a controversial hand ball offense in the box by American defender Oguchi Onyewu on a shot from Leandro Damiao. Brazilian star winger Neymar stepped up to convert the ensuing spot kick for a very early visitors' lead.
It was a play that made US manager Jurgen Klinsmann called "questionable" and it made him "furious."
“I didn’t think it was a penalty," said the USMNT's English Premier League star Clint Dempsey.
“I don’t know any other country that’s getting a penalty called on that [hand ball] 10 minutes into the game and at home - anywhere in the world," US captain Carlos Bocanegra said after the match. "We fought back for 2-1 at halftime and so maybe if they don’t call that penalty in the beginning, it’s 1-1 at halftime and it’s a different game."
Klinsmann indicated in his press conference that Onyewu informed him that the ball hit him in the stomach and outside the box. Television replays showed the ball did make contact with Onyewu's left arm, but what's inconclusive is whether it happened inside the penalty area.
So as with many hand ball controversies that lead to PKs, it becomes a referee's judgment call as to whether it was "ball to hand" or the hand intentionally blocking the ball.
MLSsoccer.com asked Onyewu himself after Wednesday night's match.
"I watched the replay and my arm was definitely inside [the line of] my body and you can see that I’m actually turning away from the ball," Onyewu said. "So by no means was I trying to block it with my arm. I’m sliding over to help Stevie Cherundolo at that moment and I’m actually still shocked that he [the referee] would call that kind of PK."
The Brazil match will not go down as a memorable outing for the Olney, Md. native Onyewu, who experienced his share of struggles when it comes to passing the ball out of the back and one-on-one defending. He also looked culpable for losing his man on the second Brazil goal scored by an unmarked Thiago Silva on a header off a Neymar corner kick.
Klinsmann admitted that it took a while for Onyewu to get into the game. But then again, so did the US.
“Any time a team like Brazil is spotted a goal, it’s going to change the game," Landon Donovan said of that PK again. "So the penalty decision was a little harsh to take and then we kind of fell asleep and we're down 2-0 [on Silva's goal]. But, I think from that point on, we got better.”