AC Milan signs Gooch to historic deal

Oguchi Onyewu signed with AC Milan making him the highest profile field player in American soccer history. The 27 year old defender stands a good chance of holding down a regular spot in an aging defense.

Onyewu joined Milan on a free transfer from Standard Liege following a strong showing against Spain and Brazil in the Confederations Cup.
Milan hasn’t won the league title since 2004 and a porous defense has been a big factor. The 6’4″ Gooch fits AC Milan’s need for a steady stay at home defender to win the aerial battles against taller attackers. He’ll have an opportunity to contribute immediately with AC Milan’s congested schedule.

Milan qualified for Champions League play automatically creating schedule congestion so Onyewu should see regular time if not getting an outright starters role. He will also benefit from training and playing alongside greats like Alessandro Nesta, once one of the world’s best defenders. The experience comes at a perfect time to prepare Onyewu for the World Cup.

The move came as a surprise since so few Americans have ever played in Italy. Its been over 13 years since Alexi Lalas played for Padova in the Serie A, Italy’s top professional soccer league. Although most sources credit Lalas as the first American to play in Serie A, he was actually the third.

The significance of this move is that it positions Onyewu to be on a far bigger international stage than any other American field player. Padova during the Lalas years was a bottom third team struggling to avoid relegation. If AC Milan rebounds from losing Kaka to Real Madrid it could become a factor in Italy and Europe and Gooch could emerge as our first global star.

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at

Historical note:

The first American born player to play in Serie A was in fact Alfonso Negro who was born in New York City on June 27, 1915. Negro broke into the top flight of Italian soccer with Fiorentina in the 1934-35 season and remained with the Florentine club until the end of the 1938 season, appearing in 51 games and scoring five goals. At the start of the 1938-39 season, he moved to Napoli where he played in 22 games and scored 3 goals. Negro played for Satanzarese in Serie B in 1933-34 before joining Fiorentina.

The second American born player to play in Serie A was Armando Frigo who was born in Clinton, New Jersey on August 5, 1917. Like Negro he first appeared for Fiorentina this time in the 1939-1940 season. He stayed in Florence for three wartime seasons appearing in 43 games and scoring six goals. Before joining Fiorentina, he played four seasons with Vicenza in Serie C in 1935-1936.

Source:  Colin Jose US Soccer History Archives


~ by zrwoodard on July 9, 2009.

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