Oguchi Onyewu's last competitive game game came on October 14, 2009. Now, seven months later, he's back and ready to anchor the defensive line for the United States.
"Did you see any rustiness?" he bullishly challenged a reporter when asked if he felt any lingering affects of the knee surgery and months on the sidelines after playing 65 minutes in the USA's loss to the Czech Republic. "I didn't feel any rustiness."
When Onyewu made way with the game tied at 2-2, he quickly strapped ice to the suspect knee and looked to be walking gingerly. However, U.S. coach Bob Bradley gave the strongest endorsement to Onyewu of any of his players for making the final 23-man roster which will head to the World Cup.
"We're confident that he's far enough along," Bradley said in the post-game press conference. "What we've seen on the field, how he's come back from hard training sessions, it's pretty clear. In that regard we feel good about the progress he's made."
Eventually, the Czech racked up four goals en route to a 4-2 victory. The AC Milan defender was directly at fault for the first, losing out on a header with Tomas Sivok just before halftime as Sivok looped the ball into the far corner of the net.
"He jumped before me," Onyewu shrugged. "While he was in the air and I'm just trying to jump up, he had his forearm keeping me down. He just put his weight against me and jumped early, that's all."
With under three weeks to go before the United States faces England in the World Cup, Bradley admitted he wanted to see reaction times on situations similar to that play quicken.
"We've seen improvement in this camp in terms of just how he moves around, so that was encouraging," Bradley said. "I thought his overall reactions to the game were good, on the ball, passing, that kind of thing - pretty solid. Now it's just all those things being moved up a few notches."
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