When Josh Yaro went down with his torn labrum and underwent should surgery, there were questions about who would fill his void. And when Oguchi Onyewu was named that successor, there were still lingering questions.
Like could Onyewu start for three to four months, after not playing competitive soccer since the end of the 2014-15 English season, and play well? How would he play against Vancouver, whose field was turf? Could he handle the potent Toronto FC attack in the team’s first home opener?
The answer? Not only could he play, but he could excel.
So far in the 2017 season, Onyewu has played every second of every game. His pairing with Richie Marquez in the middle of the defense has created a shutdown back line, both on the ground and in the air. He plays the physical style of play Head Coach Jim Curtin likes, and while he’s physical, he’s still yet to be booked. But his impact passes more than just the eye test.
In his two games, Onyewu has been a key in kick starting the Union attack. He’s completed 79.5 percent of his passes on the season, including 53.6 percent in the attacking half. He averages 44 passes a game, and 16 percent of those total passes have been long balls. And on defense, he’s been just as critical to the Union’s success.
On the back line, Onyewu has won 75 percent of his tackles on the season, and has 15 clearances. He has two blocked shots and seven interceptions, in addition to his 11 ball recoveries. He’s won 50 percent of his duels during the season as well, while committing five fouls. His 15 clearances, seven interceptions and five fouls all are team highs.
So how did Onyewu play on the turf in Vancouver? Seven clearances, four interceptions (both team highs), 55 passes with 74.5 percent accuracy and nine attack entries. Fairly decent.
Could he handle the potent Toronto FC attack? He led the team again with eight clearances, won 100 percent of his tackles, had three interceptions and eight ball recoveries.
So could Onyewu start for three to four months, after not playing competitive soccer since the end of the 2014-15 English season, and play well? The numbers speak for themselves.