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U.S. Men's National Team Quote Sheet: Oguchi Onyewu Previews USA-Ecuador

U.S. MNT Defender

On being back in his first MNT camp since the World Cup:
“It’s always an honor to come into the national team program. This being the first camp that I’ve been in since the World Cup is a little special. Just knowing that it’s a different group of players, a different group of guys, coaching staff has changed. But at the moment I’m excited to get in and attack it and look forward to the Ecuador game coming up on Sunday. And I think everyone’s anticipating high hopes for that knowing Ecuador had a good run in the World Cup and they’re a good team and this should be a good test for our national team right now."

On how you have improved and what parts of your game have benefited as you look back at the World Cup and your time at Newcastle:
“First of all, I think the transition from playing in the Belgium League to playing in the English Premiere League, there is a definite change of pace in the game. Everybody tells you that once you play in the Premiership you have to make your decisions a lot quicker and you have to be more precise with your game plan. I think that’s where I’m improving in my game, to be a lot crisper with the decisions that I make and the passes that I give. And I’m feeling that now coming into the national team camp, I’m improving with each training session. So hopefully that will continue to go on like that.”

On his confidence to assume the role of a leader on defense:
“If called upon, yes. I have no problem with stepping up to that leadership role. I think that in any team the back four should be the main base of the team in terms of defensive strength and leadership role. So if I was called to that role I’d be able to take it as well as a number of other players.”

On the importance of his participation in the rebuilding of the MNT for the new World Cup cycle, and on his personal goals to establish himself with the next generation of U.S. players:
“Coming in this being the first camp since the World Cup, is actually starting all over from scratch because this is a different group of guys and a different coaching staff so you just have to prove yourself all over again even if the coaches are familiar with yourself. I’m really excited to do that, to prove my worth to the team as well as the coaching staff. Hopefully it’ll be a good experience from here on out.”

On how comfortable he feels with the players in the back on this roster:
“This being the first camp, it has to be the beginning of hopefully a long future with other players so as the training goes by and the weeks pass I think I’m gonna get a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the players around me. So we’re gonna have to wait and see how that grows.”

On if he is confident that his transfer to Newcastle is going to be permanent:
“I’m confident in the sense that I think I’ve been improving with Newcastle, but in my experience as a soccer player I try not to read into coaches’ decisions so that’s gonna have to be up to the coach in a couple weeks come April time. So we’re gonna have to wait and see. I don’t want to read too much into my performance or the future from here.”

On the choice players face of establishing themselves in MLS or trying to play in Europe:
“I feel that the decision to go overseas or stay in MLS … either way, they are both good leagues. MLS is growing with every season. Myself, I decided to go overseas because it was always a dream of mine to play football in Europe. I felt that at the time I went overseas it was time to realize my dream. Other players, like Landon Donovan, who has thrived in MLS and achieved great things, is a great example of a player who decided to stay in MLS and progress with their careers. I think in this decision, it is all about personal preference and personal decision. And each player has to look inside themselves.”

On the contrast between Belgium and England in his professional career:
“I’ve been at Newcastle a couple months now, and it is definitely, training-wise, a lot more intense. Not to put anything down in the Belgium league, but the Premiership is definitely a step up. The playing experience has been tremendous. Since I’ve been there, I’ve started every league game that we’ve had. The pace of the game has been exceptional, and I feel like I’m settling in well. I’ve been getting into the groove and learning from every game. Hopefully, at the end of the season, good things will come out of my experience there.”