MICHAEL ADUBATO - Monday, October 22, 2012
Still waiting for his first appearance for Malaga, US international Oguchi Onyewu remains patient and confident his chance to play for the Champions League club is coming soon.
Once at the top of his game, leading Standard Liege of the Belgian Pro League to back-to-back championships after the team suffered a 25 year dry spell, Onyewu also appeared in Europa League action, having sacrificed the Champions League with the Belgians in order to sign on with Italian giants AC Milan. He was also a stalwart in the defense for the US Soccer team at time. You could say that everything was coming up roses for the Clemson alumni.
Things then went a bit sour for the Washington D.C. native however after his move south. While in Italy he fulfilled the goal of appearing in the Champions League, but never appeared in a league game mainly due to a knee injury that he picked up while on international duty and a loan to FC Twente in the Dutch league for half a season.
The tall American was offered a chance to leave the Italians after his loan spell and took advantage of the opportunity by joining Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2011. He worked his way into the starting eleven and helped them to the semi-finals of the Europa Cup.
Things changed in Portugal and Onyewu was on the move again after Sporting's Ricardo Sa Pinto took over as the head coach and brought in a couple new central defenders. The American and Portuguese played together in Belgium and were far from the best of friends.
"The problem (in Lisbon) was that everything was a mess," Onyewu told Yanks Abroad. And that is pretty much all he wanted to say about that. "I'm in a better situation now."
The better situation is that on the last day of this summer's transfer window, the big defender found himself heading to sunny Spain to join Champions League team Malaga CF.
"I've been here just over a month now and it's a really great city," he continued. I'm really happy to be with a group (of players) like this. We're going to surprise a lot of people this season, and I think we already have."
The Anchovies started the season well, losing just once in the first six games of La Liga, and winning their first two Champions League games by a combined score of 6-0.
"(Head coach Manuel) Pellegrini is an experienced coach," Onyewu continued, "and he knows what he's doing. I'm excited to be coached and to be playing under him right now."
Speaking about his current deal, the former Clemson Tiger said, "It's a year loan with an option (to buy) obviously. If things go well I don't see why I would want to leave but you never know in football."
Earlier this month Sa Pinto was dismissed by the Sporting hierarchy so anything can happen indeed.
As happy as he is at the moment in Malaga where the temperature is averaging in the 70s, Gooch has yet to make his Spanish debut.
"Well you know, right now the team is playing well so its hard to change a team when the results are falling for you," he insisted. "I'm patient though and I'm going to bide my time. When I get my opportunity, it's for me to lose".
When asked about his team being underestimated in European competition, mainly because in the Champions League draw they were in the fourth/last pot, the one time Newcastle United Magpie smiled and praised his team.
"Malaga is a growing club. I think in the past few years you could see the progress in the results and the way we play and definitely right now in the beginning of the season in Spain and the Champions League. We're getting the results that we need so I think this season is going to be really good for us."
Onyewu has been an integral part of the US National Team until injuries kept him out. As the USA plays a couple of World Cup Qualifiers the defender is not with Jurgen Klinsmann and the team at the moment.
"The national team; I'm not focused on that right now because I'm not playing for my club. I think you have to take things in their proper order and once I start playing here then I can then focus a little more on the national team"
Right now his goals are to get into the Malaga team and make a statement both in Spain and in Europe, before working his way back into the Nats.
"I'm very patient," he insisted.