The Philadelphia Union’s signing of center back Oguchi Onyewu yesterday may have seemed a little anticlimactic. While it’s exciting to get a guy like Gooch on the squad, it wasn’t exactly a big surprise that this was going to happen. An out of contract guy with a ton of caps doesn’t just fall out of the sky into your preseason training if there’s not a job offer at the end of the line.
Regardless of whether or not it was a surprise, it seems to be a good move - although there are a few factors that remain to be seen. Right now we don’t know how much Gooch is going to make, which was a big concern of a few of the people who responded when we asked on twitter what people thought of the signing.
@BrotherlyGame should be better than Tribbett, hope he was cheap— Keith Hickey (@usarsnl) January 30, 2017
@BrotherlyGame Like it if he was cheap. Could be useful on-field as late game sub, off-field as locker room presence.— petesosal (@petesosal) January 30, 2017
This touches on another benefit of having Gooch around - the ability to have him coaching and mentoring the Union’s very young defensive corps. Pete wasn’t the only one to point this out either.
@BrotherlyGame Will be a great mentor for Marquez and Yaro with his experience!— Evan Shrawder (@eshrawder22) January 30, 2017
@BrotherlyGame I like the signing honestly he can train up our young cbs like he is a coach and teammate! ⚽️— skyler hoffner (@skylerhoffner3) January 30, 2017
A few people expressed concern at the thought of Onyewu getting regular minutes at the position, which is understandable. Onyewu is 34, and it’s a fair question to ask if he’d be up to the rigors of playing a full MLS season.
@BrotherlyGame why not? Should provide guidance while not competing for the starting job from the two young guns. Solid depth.— Kyle W. King (@kylewking) January 30, 2017
@BrotherlyGame from a mentoring aspect it's a good signing, but if he is to be used regularly (which i don't think is the case) pray for us— JT (@JTKeuler__) January 30, 2017
I also polled the staff here at Brotherly Game, and their responses mirrored a lot of the concerns expressed above.
Alex Klein: I like it in the signing an older guy to mentor the young guys role. I'm a little worried on the whole playing the game aspect, it's been a while since he's been on a team. I'd give this move a thumbs in the middle for now, and if he can still contribute on the field a thumbs up.
John Adair: I enjoy the idea of having a veteran presence in the middle to aid in the development of Josh Yaro among others. Not sure how much of an impact he makes on the field but certainly doesn't hurt in the locker room.
Evan Villella: I'd throw him a US Open Cup game or two and maybe if we have some bad luck with injuries he'll get some MLS action. That being said, everyone else hit on the whole "he can develop guys and that's good" thing.
Colin Campbell: I want to see him in action before I judge. If he is fit, I'd start him over Yaro or Ken Tribbet. He's a big body to beat out players like Jozy Altidore or (if he were still in the league) Didier Drogba. If he's not fit, we now have experienced CB depth and a big body to stand in the way. Either way, he's a great influence on the younger CBs and I do think that this is a good move (free agent and I can't imagine he's taking up a huge salary) so to me, this is low risk high reward.
Jared Young: Everything needs to be in the context of his salary which we won't know for a little while. But from a fit perspective I like it. Adds veteran depth and spot starts and can teach the youngsters a few tricks even if he can't perform them himself anymore. I would not delay the development of Yaro in favor of him so I hope that doesn't happen.
John Rossi: Gooch will bring some welcome experience to a backline that is still incredibly young. With no other center back over the age of 24 on the roster, it is hard to overstate the influence that Oneywu can have. On the field, the 34-year-old will be good for a handful of starts throughout the year, but his age and injury history will ensure that he won’t be stealing many minutes from the younger center backs. As long as he’s not making more than $150k, Gooch looks like an ideal veteran defensive leader.
Matt Ralph: It's hard to say without knowing how much the Union are paying but I like the idea of a veteran with as much international experience as Gooch has passing on that wisdom to players like Auston Trusty, Joshua Yaro and the rest of the back line.
Nick Youngstein: We can FINALLY play a 3-back!!! Just kidding. He's likely better than Tribbett as the third CB. Or maybe it even gives Yaro a chance to play CDM if he can't handle CB, in spots. As has been said, it depends on how much his salary is.
For what it’s worth, Gooch did play in a charity match earlier this year for former (and possibly soon-to-be) Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani, and seemed to be able to hold his own.