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Oguchi Onyewu, fueled by critics, leading stout Union defense

CHESTER, Pa. -- Oguchi Onyewu wants his critics to know something.

“The Onyewu that you guys said was in the past is obviously in the present as well,” the 35-year-old center back said Sunday. “To the critics, I’m just doing the job I’ve always been doing for the last 16 years.”

Once believed to be a bench option for a young Union defensive line, Onyewu, who missed nearly two years with leg injuries before coming to Philadelphia this offseason, has found new life. 

“Honestly, people acted like they don’t know who I am or the player I was, and they’re acting surprised when they see performances that I’ve put in this season,” Onyewu said. “I know what I’m capable of and luckily for me, the Union knew what I was capable of.”

What Onyewu is still capable of has been on display the last two weeks. With a convincing 3-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium, the club has posted back-to-back wins via shutouts. Anchoring the back line, Onyewu was a key component of that success.

“I think that was his best game,” Union manager Jim Curtin said of Sunday’s match. “He passed well, drew fouls when he had to. Overall, I thought he had a very good game.”

With Onyewu and young Jack Elliott in the middle, the Union are currently eighth in MLS in goal differential with plus two, and fifth in goals against with 20 in 17 games. This success doesn't come as a shock for the former U.S. Men's National Team starter, who has started 14 games for the Union this season. 

The veteran’s elevated performance is fueled by the chip on his shoulder. Before the Union added him to the roster, multiple MLS teams declined his services. He hasn't forgotten that, to the benefit of his new club.

“The Revs took a pass on me,” said Onyewu, who was handed the captain’s armband when Haris Medunjanin left the match late in the second half. “They might be going back on that decision now. It wasn’t just them, it was a few other teams. I think it had to do with my age and my past injuries. I don’t let adversity get in the way, I push through it. I’m just going to continue to do that with this team behind me and I hope to continue to do that for the rest of the season.”