Instead of worrying where the goals are going to come from, this US soccer team’s biggest concern is keeping the ball out of its own net.
Four years ago, the Americans outscored opponents, 3-1, in their final three World Cup warmups, as Morocco, Venezuela, and Latvia played mostly behind the ball with packed-in defenses. The time, against more talented opponents, the US had a 7-6 margin against the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Australia.
While the offense was flowing, the backline was inconsistent.
“I think it’s coming together quite well,’’ defender Oguchi Onyewu said. “That’s why we’ve been in camp for so long, you know, just to get the communication and get the chemistry down, and I think, you know, everyone is starting to jell together as a team.’’
Heading into Saturday’s World Cup opener against England, Onyewu might be the biggest question.
The 6-foot-4-inch defensive anchor tore his left patellar tendon Oct. 14 during the final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica and had surgery a week later. He didn’t make it back onto the field for AC Milan.
Onyewu returned May 25 against the Czech Republic, playing until the 65th minute and getting beaten to a header by Tomas Sivok for the first Czech goal.
Onyewu entered at the start of the second half against Turkey four days later, then entered in the 61st Saturday against Australia.
“I’m personally feeling better since the camp started a couple, a few weeks ago,’’ Onyewu said. “Right now, there haven’t been any issues. I’m feeling good and there’s nothing more to say.’’
Onyewu hasn’t gone 90 minutes in a match since Oct. 10. Clarence Goodson started the last three warmup games and could be paired with Jay DeMerit against the English.
The defense hasn’t been quite as impressive during this cycle as in the previous four years. The US outscored opponents, 42-16, in qualifying while the differential was 35-11 in the preliminaries for the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the organization regretted Sunday’s incident, which left 16 people injured outside Makhulong Stadium in the township of Tembisa near Johannesburg.
“I am sure, and you are sure, that this is like an alarm clock and this will not happen at any match at the World Cup,’’ Blatter said after a two-day meeting of FIFA’s executive committee.
The stampede occurred at an exhibition match between Nigeria and North Korea where police said a crowd twice forced open the gates to the stadium.