CHESTER, Pa. – It is widely accepted that there are certain characteristics and responsibilities that come with wearing a captain’s armband, including the ability to represent your fellow teammates in the public eye.
Someone should remind US defender Oguchi Onyewu of that.
Onyewu was handed the honor of wearing the US armband for the first time on Tuesday night against Colombia, but he did not find it in him to speak publicly following the match at PPL Park. Instead, he opted to wag his finger at media, maintaining his policy of silence during this October national-team camp.
No one questions the fact that Onyewu must be going through a difficult time in his professional career. There is not even a hint that he has a chance to break through into the AC Milan starting lineup. But what is gained by hiding behind the veil of silence?
Jozy Altidore, who is far from being a regular at Villarreal, could adopt the same stance, but instead speaks very frankly about his future at the La Liga club and the mountain he has to climb.
Across the way on Tuesday, there was Onyewu’s AC Milan teammate, Mario Yepes, who similarly is not a first-choice defender at the same Serie A club team, but he faced the heat as Colombia’s captain.
So unless Onyewu, well-known for his Jared Borgetti stare-down fame, can also look the media in the eye, there is no good reason for him to be a US captain. Failure to represent your team in public and the inability (or unwillingness) to face the music are not exactly the qualities of which leaders are made.
[inline_node:314089]UNWRITTEN RULE?: Eric Lichaj grew up in a Polish household in the Chicago area. But he was not given a chance to play against Poland at Soldier Field.
Alejandro Bedoya has Colombian parents and a father a grandfather who played in Colombian professional soccer. But he did not see the field on Tuesday against Colombia despite the fact that he had family and friends travel from all parts to PPL Park.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting, but you keep moving forward,” Bedoya said. “My family was excited because they wanted to see Colombia. It would've been cool to play them, but it'll have to be in another time."
Bob Bradley is not known to be the sentimental type. However, it would have been an important gesture toward those two players, especially given the fact the two games were friendlies and it meant something to each of them.
Here’s a suggestion for a new unwritten rule in international soccer, especially when it comes to friendlies: A player has close ties to an opposing country and he happens to be in camp? Give him his five minutes.
WHILE WE’RE EXPERIMENTING: The US manager criticized his team’s tempo and flow against Colombia, especially in the first half when he dispatched three central midfielders in Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in a 4-3-3 formation.
[inline_node:320719]Bradley talked about “finding a better tempo with the ball” and to “quickly get it [the ball] and get the team into a flow” as well as “playing out of the back and playing forward fast enough.”
What he is really crying out for is a playmaker. But Edu, Jones and Bradley are the same type of player although Jones is a better overall player than the other two, covering more ground and displaying more technique and vision. Even Edu admits it, although he chooses different semantics.
“Yeah, we’re similar, but then we have our own individual traits we can bring to the table,” Edu said. “We may have similar characteristics but I don’t think we’re identical players.”
While Jones has shown enough in two games to be a keeper in central midfield, it’s about time that Stuart Holden gets a look in the same central position he plays at Bolton. It would be interesting to see how the tempo and flow works with him in there. There are other players – see Bedoya and Clint Dempsey – who can assume the right midfield spot.
Holden in central midfield would mean sitting Michael Bradley, who became the fourth-youngest US player to reach 50 caps.
But we’re experimenting. It’s OK.