While much of the attention surrounding the 2010 Eliteserien title chase has been centered elsewhere, IK Start defender Clay Goodson feels that his club has every chance to stand atop the league standings come November.
Goodson is entering his third season with Start where he has emerged as one of the best defenders in Norway attracting attention from clubs all around Europe.
Despite the presence of Goodson, many pundits in the Norwegian media are already discounting Start as title contenders, opining that the team's back line is still too vulnerable to be considered seriously as a top three team.
However the native of Alexandria, Virginia is quick to dispute that notion and thinks that this year's squad has plenty of fight in them to take on all comers.
"We're not afraid of anybody," Goodson recently told YA. "We are a young team which has its ups and downs and we still have lots to learn, but we have been together now for a couple years, we're great up front and we are going to push it for 90 minutes."
Start will get a chance to measure their progress in the second week of the season when they travel to Trondheim to face reigning champions Rosenborg.
The match is sure to be preceded by plenty of stories of Start's upset 2-3 victory over Rosenborg last season when Rade Prica was whistled for a penalty after shoving Goodson to the ground which proved to be the decisive goal in the final minute.
Prica called out the former FC Dallas man in the media afterwards for flopping even though he had admitted on the field to Goodson himself that the call was correct.
Instead of getting into any verbal spats, Goodson has chosen to stay above the fray and says that he is only focused on taking on Rosenborg, and not any individual player.
"I am absolutely looking forward to [the Rosenborg match]. They are talented and I have nothing but respect for them. They really have things in order there and there is a good reason why they've dominated Norwegian [soccer] the last 20 years," added Goodson.
It would have been easy for Start fans to have believed that their rematch this year against Rosenborg would be without Goodson after the club announced in November that they would look to move the defender in hopes of paying off some of the debt owed by the club.
Rumors of a transfer to teams in Denmark, Germany and France all circulated but when the dust settled after the winter transfer window, Goodson was still a member of the Kristiansand club, something that he said actually expected all along.
"I'm not surprised that I'm back," he explained. "I have a good situation here and live a good life. That doesn't mean I don't have greater ambitions, but the moves that were out there really didn't make any sense. There is so much speculation in the transfer market so you really never know how serious things get, but nothing really ever materialized where it got to a serious point."
One move that the ex-Maryland Terrapin star hopes come to fruition is to be selected by Bob Bradley for this summer's World Cup.
Goodson had plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills to Bradley during the winter months at the US national team training camp in Carson, California back in January, last month's friendly versus El Salvador and last week's 2-1 defeat versus Holland.
No matter the situation, the lanky 27 year old effusively contends that he always feels pride putting on his USMNT jersey.
"It makes me feel good any time I get a cap. With it being a World Cup year, it makes it even more important. I've really enjoyed the experience."
The squad that assembled last week in Holland was the first time the "A" team members had a chance to train together since last October's World Cup qualifiers.
Most of the players who featured in the match against the Dutch are expected to be named to Bradley's 23 man roster. For Goodson, the dynamic surrounding the squad last week was one of both enthusiasm and excitement.
"It was nice to see everyone considering the ĎA' team regular hadn't been together since the Costa Rica match. Everyone is on the same page and we are all putting our best foot forward. This is a huge opportunity and there is no excuse to not be excited. Everyone who is there makes the team better and brings something to the table. No one looked out of place," Goodson concluded.
The American duo of Goodson and Freeman begin their Eliteserien campaign this weekend when they host Sandefjord.