Oguchi Onyewu made one thing clear when discussing his Major League Soccer debut this season for the Union: The veteran center back who was part of the U.S. World Cup teams in 2006 and 2010 is not coming in just to be a mentor for the younger players.
Even though he last played in an actual game in February 2015 for Charlton Athletic of England's League One, Onyewu, who turns 35 in May, doesn't feel his age or recent inactivity should slow him down. And he hasn't lowered his goals, either.
"My goal is to compete and I have never not been a 90-minute player," said Onyewu in a conference call Wednesday. "I am here to make an impact and help the squad and for me personally, that will be on the field."
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Onyewu also understands that he can serve as a mentor to a young Union squad that allowed a team-high 55 goals last season, but feels his biggest contribution will come on the field.
He said an injury forced him to be sidelined for about six months and after that he was about 80 percent but just didn't want to jump back into competing until he felt 100 percent.
Now he feels ready to go.
Born in Washington, D.C., Onyewu says that he determined if he were to play in MLS, that it would be on a team in the East Coast. He had been training with the Union this preseason and was signed on Monday.
So while he's looking forward to playing, Onyewu, who has accumulated 69 caps for the U.S. national team, remains a little sensitive about questions concerning his age.
"For everyone to focus on my age, I think that's kind of ignorant," he said.
And he plans to quiet the skeptics this season, which begins when the Union travel to Vancouver on March 5.
"If the question is, do I have more left in my tank? I definitely do," he said. "And you're going to see that on the field this year."