'They don't have an identity' - Onyewu says current USMNT is more talented but lacks cohesion when compared to past groups


Former U.S. men's national team defender Oguchi Onyewu says that the current American player pool is stronger than previous years on a player-by-player basis, but the current group of national team stars lack the cohesiveness and identity of those that found success in previous years.

Onyweu was a member of the USMNT from 2004-2014, earning 69 caps while scoring six goals at the international level.

The former defender represented the U.S. at two World Cups and four Gold Cups, winning CONCACAF's regional title three times during his career.

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Currently, the program remains in the midst of a rebuilding stage after missing the 2018 World Cup, with head coach Gregg Berhalter leading a younger group as the U.S. shifts to a new generation.

With players like Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams Weston McKennie leading the way, the USMNT has a number of players at top clubs across Europe, but Onyewu says that he's unsure if those players have truly discovered any form of identity as a unit.

"Very promising," Onyewu told ESPN. "I would say that because of the progression and the growth of the modern player, I think individually all these players are potentially better than all of the other individual players from previous years.

"I would say what they lack is the collective ability that former national teams had. They don't have that identity, they don't have that cohesiveness as a team. But if you take each individual player you'd be like, 'Oh wow, this player is playing here, this guy is playing here.'

"They're there. They have the technical ability. So now how do you take individuals and make it a unit? That's going to be their main challenge."

Onyewu was a key fixture for the U.S. through several memorable runs, including the 2009 push to the Confederations Cup final and the memorable group stage escape at the 2010 World Cup.

He played under three different USMNT bosses during his senior career, featuring for teams led by Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann.

And the former defender, who retired as a player in 2018, says he believes the American pool was at its strongest under Arena while adding that there's still a disconnect between the national team program and the Latin-American community.

"I'd say Bruce because we were ranked No. 2 or No. 3, right? There were great player pools for all of them," he said. 

"Jurgen definitely opened the floodgates for foreign-born American citizens, so it was kind of a curveball for the whole player pool in essence. The player pool under Jurgen was a lot broader, but even though it was broader, it wasn't as encompassing as it could have been or should have been.

The Latin influence in the team is still lacking, which is crazy because of the Latin influence we have in this country, but not The men's team level. The players just aren't there yet, for whatever reason."

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