Once one of the brightest stars in American soccer, Oguchi Onyewu fell mostly off the radar over the last two years as he dealt with injuries and bad timing.
But now that he’s back in the fold after signing with the Philadelphia Union on Monday, the veteran defender is ready to show that he still has more to give to the game.
“If you look at things realistically, I’m 34 years old so I’m not gonna play for another 15 years,” Onyewu said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “But if the question is, ‘Do I have more left in my tank?’ I definitely do. You’re gonna see that this season.”
The move to sign Onyewu happened quickly for the Union, who brought him in just to train with the club at the start of preseason camp last week — they insisted it wasn’t even a trial — before determining he’d be a good fit to bolster a young backline.
But it’s certainly been a long time coming for Onyewu, who’s been eager to return ever since he got hurt in the middle of 2015 after his contract with Charlton Athletic expired. At that point, Onyewu set his sights on an East Coast MLS club since he’s from the Washington D.C. area — but only after completely recovering, which he said didn’t happen until last summer. He had a couple of other opportunities that didn’t pan out, including one with New York City FC, before signing his first MLS contract after a lengthy career in Europe.
“I don’t take it for granted,” Onyewu said. “I’m ecstatic about this opportunity coming back to America and playing in MLS, playing in front of family and friends, and just establishing myself in the league.”
So far, the acclimation process has been a smooth one for Onyewu, who’s good friends with former US national team teammate Charlie Davies, as well as Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius and Brian Carroll. He’s also been getting to know the team’s young crop of fellow center backs — Richie Marquez, Joshua Yaro, Ken Tribbett and Auston Trusty — and he plans to help them grow into better players.
“The Philadelphia Union last year had a good squad but if you had to pick an element they were lacking, it would be sort of the experience of a veteran player,” Onyewu said. “Obviously if you want to check boxes, I kind of fill that role.”
But the 2006 and 2010 World Cup veteran insists he can be a lot more than just a mentor to youngsters or a locker-room leader.
He’s ready to play — a lot.
“Honestly I don’t really see my age as any kind of fault or negative,” Onyewu said. “There’s a lot of players in this league that are older than me that no one actually speaks about. There are players on the national team that are older that nobody speaks about.
“My ambition and my goal is to play every minute.”