Stars and Gripes

Occasionally interesting insight (and gripes) about the USMNT

The Case for (and Against) Gooch

with 4 comments

While Bob Bradley has many questions to ponder heading into Saturday’s clash, few loom larger (literally and figuratively) than whether Oguchi Onyewu will be ready to go for 90 minutes–or step onto the field at all.  Gooch says he’s ready; his playing time he received against Australia says he’s not.  A quick breakdown of the case for and against him starting five days from now.

Case Against:

– He hasn’t played a full 90 minutes since October, when he ruptured his patella tendon at RFK.  He’s gone nearly eight months without a full run of play.  Surely, one can’t be counted to deal with the likes of Rooney, Gerrard, and Lampard, having not simulated an actual game since before qualifying was completed?

– Since returning, he’s looked tentative.  His areal ability against the Czech Republic was lacking, particularly for a 6’4″ giant who was largely responsible for shutting down service to Fernando Torres in the epic Confederations Cup semi-final versus Spain a year ago.

– He has a notable “change in his gait”–he simply doesn’t run the way he used to, evidence that he doesn’t really trust his rebuilt knee, and that his full quickness and mobility has yet to return.

– He hasn’t played a full game alongside Jay DeMerit in nearly a year.  They’re not back in rhythm, and their communication will be poor.

– If he’s not fit, he’s not fit.  There’s no sense in risking an injury that will keep him out of the later games.

The case for:

– He was judged to be fully fit by AC Milan for the final two weeks of the season–a team that, mind you, was still fighting to secure an automatic spot in the 2010/11 Champions League, with a thin points margin over Juventus and Fiorentina.  Since then, he’s undergone nearly four weeks of rigorous fitness training, without any (known) problems.  He showed no signs of tiring in 45 minutes against Turkey, and frankly, looked rather sprightly, if still slightly favoring his other knee.

– Regarding playing time in the friendlies, he’s been building back up.  He played 45 against Turkey without trouble (yes, he had ice on his knee at the end, but nothing seemed to come of it), after getting his initial run out in Hartford.  Regarding last Saturday, if you’re Bob Bradley, do you risk a reconstructed knee for more than 35 minutes on that pitch?  It made Wembley look like Emirates.

– Where is this “tentativeness” everyone keeps seeing?  Against the Czechs, he looked a bit timid going back for the (missed) header.  Have we seen that since?  Against Turkey, he was aggressive, if a half step slow.  Yet he looked comfortable on the ball, and was tracking out 40 yards to break up plays.  I’ll take it.

– Finally, what risk of injury is there?  If here was “at risk,” he wouldn’t have played 45 versus Turkey.  If he were “at risk,” he certainly wouldn’t have stepped on the field Saturday, playing on a pitch that looked more like a sand lot than a World Cup surface.

Conclusion: Gooch says he can go 90; Bradley says “we’ll see.”  The press questions Bradley about his fitness; Bradley replies that he’s been pushed hard since the Princeton camp started.  Bradley plays him 45 minutes against Turkey, and gives him 35 against Australia; Gooch claims that Bradley was trying to give everyone playing time.

I have no idea what to believe.  But if it’s remotely possible that Gooch can effectively play 75 minutes against England (and really, unless he’s suffered a fitness setback in training over the last two weeks that no one knows about, it’s difficult to see why he couldn’t), he needs to be in the XI.  I think he will be.  And I’m prepared to look like an idiot if he’s not.


Written by Pete Kavanaugh

June 8, 2010 at 11:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. In the case against, you neglect to mention the quality of Goodson’s play? He’s definitely not perfect and was responsible for at least one of the goals in the Czech game, but I would take him in the air over Gooch right now and his chemistry with Demerit might be a bit better.


    June 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    • Mark–I can see that, but Gooch at 80% is better than Goodson at 100%. I did think that Goodson improved throughout the Turkey game, and was OK against AUS. But Gooch is the defensive leader, and has far more chemistry with DeMerit. If he can go 90, he has to be out there, in my humble opinion

      Pete Kavanaugh

      June 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

  2. Pete – I think another element here is the play between Goodson and DeMerit. I’ve been unconvinced by their partnership and communication; frankly, I’ve felt a bit more comfortable in the back four communication when Gooch has been there.

    Also, am I the only one (because I might just be crazy) who thinks that Gooch-Goodson should be in the cards? I know I’m in the minority in thinking that DeMerit was poor in the Turkey match, but I wish that the Gooch-Goodson combo had been given a few minutes just to see what it would have brought. Thoughts?


    June 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm

  3. I don’t understand the plays, but it’s quite impressive. Good luck, USA

    mary kavanaugh

    June 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm

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