He looks more like an American gridiron player than a footballer but Oguchi Onyewu gives Bob Bradley's USA size, power and a bite at the back. The 26-year-old, of Nigerian descent and nicknamed ‘Gooch,' combines well with central defensive partner Carlos Bocanegra to create a watertight seal in front of goalkeeper Tim Howard. He's 1.93m and 95 kg but is surprisingly mobile and agile.
After two years of collegiate football, Onyewu bypassed Major League Soccer and hit out for European shores. In 2002 he landed in France's Ligue 1 with Metz, from where he was loaned to Belgium's La Louvière. He eventually made a home in Belgium and established himself at club giants Standard Liege in 2004, where he quickly became renowned not only for his size, but his contributions to the team. In 2007, Onyewu was loaned out to Newcastle United in the English Premier League, but he was unable to adapt to the speed and frenetic nature of the game in England, returning to Liege after only 11 appearances for the Geordie outfit. He helped Standard to the 2007/2008 domestic title upon his return.
For the United States, Onyewu has been a rock at the back, neutralising opposition strikers since his 2004 debut against Panama. He started all three games for the United States at the FIFA World Cup™ in Germany in 2006 and was a crucial cog in the CONCACAF Gold Cup-winning sides of 2005, 2007 and 2009. His performances in the latter competition, where USA went to the final, earned Onyewu a contract at Italian giants AC Milan.