Gooch's injury no reason to panic 

February, 22, 2012

About this time two years ago, many U.S. fans were beside themselves with worry that Clint Dempsey, who had just hurt his knee in a midwinter Premier League match, wouldn't be fully recovered by that summer's World Cup.

Of course, now we know that Dempsey -- as gaffe-prone former England goalkeeper Robert Green can attest -- showed no lingering effects from the injury and was one of the Americans' best players in South Africa.

So forgive us if we're not in a panic over Tuesday's news that veteran center back Oguchi Onyewu, a projected starter when World Cup qualifying begins in June and one of the Yanks' most experienced players, needs surgery on his right knee, and will be out for two months.

But we see why Onyewu's injury has some folks rather concerned. After missing most of the past two years with a variety of leg ailments, "Gooch" was in the midst of a stellar season with Portuguese heavyweight Sporting Lisbon. He's scored five goals, has Sporting on the verge of the Europa League's Round of 16 and has looked fully fit and at his best for the first time since 2009.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.