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Quick halftime thought: a nightmare for Oguchi Onyewu

May 30, 2012, 9:01 PM EDT

us soccer

U.S. fans love Oguchi Onyewu. They fell in love when he stared down Mexico’s Jared Borgetti in Columbus way back in 2005, en route to South Africa. As I’ve written before, he had that “I’m a bad man!” thing going, and we were smitten.

But his roster of really unsettling performances is growing faster than his list of good ones.

Onyewu just wasn’t up for the job at South Africa, losing his starting spot in the middle of the tournament. Some people might forget that the big fellow was seriously top of things last October as he got back in the lineup against Ecuador. Here’s what I wrote about him that nigh in the SI.com’s ratings.

His timing has never been better, as he was unimpeachable in the tackle and in aerial challenges. And Onyewu demonstrated a steady and heady sense of just how to employ all that muscle in his first start under Jurgen Klinsmann. One nitpick: he did get drawn out of position a time or two in the first half, which has always been an Onyewu bugaboo. But his overall body of defensive work and steely determination to get forward late (above and beyond in a friendly) more than made amends. All things considered, his impressive and memorable 90 minutes at Red Bull Arena might be the most significant take-away from Tuesday’s loss. Michael Orozco Fiscal, we barely knew ya.

Well, that looks like “one in a row” as I like to say. Because he’s having an absolute awful time of it tonight, his first start since then.

The handball for Brazil’s early spot shot? It’s a tough call, but a center back has to have a little better body control there. Period.

The second goal had his paw prints all over it. His botched clearance led to the corner kick. And it’s tough to say whether it was Onyewu or Jermaine Jones who lost his mark on the goal, but my best guess is that it’s Onyweu.

In the 40th minute, his water bottle of confidence looking completely drained, he handed Brazil a completely needless corner kick.

Overall, Onyewu’s passing is labored and, generally, just not good enough. It almost looks like the Brazilians are pressuring in a way that funnels the ball to Onyewu, and then stepping up to pressure. Either way, the Americans aren’t getting much going forward once the ball arrives into Onyewu.

By the way, this 2-1 deficit certainly isn’t all Onyewu’s fault; he’s just the one most culpable so far. If we’re being honest, Landon Donovan is having an absolute stinker, too.

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