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Soccer US National TeamWorld Cup

USMNT vs. Ukraine: A Center-Back Books Ticket To Brazil

Oguchi Onyewu

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At every youth soccer tournament, you will see soccer dads and coaches with t-shirts saying, “Offense wins games, defense wins championships”.  If this statement is true, then the U.S. Men’s National Team has big problems.

They are so porous, so inexperienced and so bad that I will go on record saying that if something does not change, they will concede three-plus goals in each of their 2014 World Cup matches. Other than Geoff Cameron, no one instills confidence while on the field.  The likes of Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Oguchi Onyewu, Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, John Brooks, DaMarcus Beasley and dare we say Edgar Castillo all have issues in their game that are easily exposed against better competition.

Current projections have a center-back pairing of Besler and Gonzalez with Goodson on the bench, and the other 1-2 spots up for grabs. After today’s match with Ukraine, let’s take a look at where Onyewu and Brooks stand in the pecking order.

We have all been waiting for Brooks to blossom and take over the starting job, but for everything this physically-imposing central defender brings to the table, he loses with his mental lapses. Today’s game might have just sealed his fate as far as the World Cup roster goes.

Brooks was left ball-watching on many occasions, especially on the play leading to the 16th-minute goal. He left a streaking striker unaccounted for and allowed him to split the two backs. At that juncture in the game and from his position, Brooks needed to either go with the runner or allow him to run offsides. Instead, he did neither, and it was 1-0 Ukraine.

Brooks also had a chance to bail out his central partner on the second goal but he, like Onyewu, missed a tackle high up the pitch. After Brooks’ ridiculous flick-on header in the 77th minute that led to a Ukraine corner, it is safe to say he is on the outside looking in.

Onyewu had his own problems and was an absolute nightmare on the ball. His distribution and clearance left much to be desired and often resulted in unneeded chances. With that said, we would expect him to sharpen his technical abilities as he continues to get games with Sheffield Wednesday.

What Onyewu does have in his favor is World Cup experience and a defensive prowess few American’s can compete with. The 6-foot-4 defender is tough in one-on-one battles and wins almost everything in the air. However, on the second goal today, the mistake started with him missing a tackle in the midfield area that left him sucked out of position and fellow defenders isolated.

His performance certainly did not help, but because of the howler by Brooks, it did not hurt either. At the moment, he is favored to get his passport stamped this summer.

It was a dreadful game for the U.S. and especially for its central-back pairing.  Unfortunately, one player must go to Brazil as a backup. Rather than Onyewu winning the spot, it looks like Brooks lost out in this quick battle of attrition.