I woke up this morning, ready to plow through my usual 30 minutes reading Soccernet.com and the like, and what do I see? The Gooch moving to AC Milan? My initial reaction was, no way he sees the field enough to make this move productive. Nesta, Kaladze, and new signing Thiago Silva (insert UFC joke here) on the face of things, seem to be ahead of him in the natural pecking order. Not to mention a very similar player to Onyewu, by the name of Phillip Senderos came and went through Milan with little success recently. However, if we think about the risk for either of them, what did Milan have to lose with this signing? And, if your Gooch how do you pass the opportunity up? Coming off a compelling stretch of performances in the Confederations Cup, snatching up Onyewu on a free transfer is good business with little downside for Milan. On the flipside it’s been obvious for several years that Gooch has been looking for a move to a major European club (no no, the Newcastle loan doesn’t count) to enhance his profile and no doubt pocket book as well. On several levels this seems like a solid situation for both parties.
A few notes on the negative side of things: First, Onyewu isn’t the most technical of players; he looks uncomfortable with the ball at his feet, and tends to release the ball quickly as opposed to holding possession and looking to up move field like many world class center backs. Not ideal for a a player stepping up against regular world class competition especially in the Champions League. Secondly, I’m not sold on his pace; I have stark memories of him being caught out on numerous occasions for the United States, and worry greatly that this will be a more prominent problem for him in Italy and against other premier European talent. And thirdly, playing time. For any American player entrenched in the national team a move to a new club should typically include a benchmark of starting a minimum of 30 games. And frankly I don’t see Onyewu starting that many matches with the current roster at Milan. I fear the glitz of Milan could come at the expense of further progression of his game. Onyewu will be relying on the physical attitubes greatly early at his new club, which I think may also be a positive for him as well. If used correctly, he could be a nightmare matchup with many forwards in Italy, which will be intriguing to watch.
Over all I think this move has solid possibilities for both Gooch and his career with the US national team. I wish more players were getting this sort of high profile opportunity to honest. However, this move does have some serious draw backs attached to it if things don’t work out. At the very least many soccer fans across the United States will get to see this unfold in pretty good detail, Fox Soccer Channel airs weekly Serie A games, which focus mainly on the big four of Italian football. Which should provide us regular insight on the progression on Gooch’s careerwith Milan.