(Wednesday, March 21, 2007) -- So far, so good for Oguchi Onyewu in his late January move from Belgium to Newcastle United of the English Premier League. But the United States central defender is not sure whether his stay at St. James' Park will extend beyond the end of the season.
Some of the world's top clubs -- Chelsea, Real Madrid and AC Milan, to name just three -- tried to obtain Onyewu via transfer from Standard de Liège, but after Onyewu balked at several apparent deals, Newcastle won his service on loan for what amounted to the last 13 matches of the season.
Onyewu is uncertain of whether he will be asked to return. "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 going to have to be up to the coach in a couple weeks come April time," said Onyewu from a U.S. men's training camp in Carson, Calif. "So we're going to have to wait and see. I don't want to read too much into my performance or the future from here."
At the time of the acquisition, Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder was non-committal whether his club would pay the undisclosed transfer fee required to keep Onyewu beyond the May 13 season finale at Watford. Onyewu believes he's played well enough to be asked to stay.
"I've been at Newcastle a couple months now and it is definitely, training-wise, a lot more intense," the 24-year-old said. "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."
Since joining Newcastle, he has gone 90 minutes in all five matches. Of particular note, Onyewu has not been cautioned since joining the Magpies. In 18 matches for Standard this season before his move -- 15 in the Jupiler League and three in the UEFA Cup -- Onyewu received six yellow cards. In 116 professional club matches in his career, he was issued 25 yellow cards and four reds, while he has three yellows and a red in 17 international appearances with the U.S. men.
On Sunday, the visiting Magpies went down 2-0 to relegation-challenged Charlton Athletic before 27,028 at The Valley.
Onyewu and the United back-line played well, except for a couple of costly mistakes. On-loan Chinese star Zhi Zheng put Charlton up 1-0 with a header in the 53rd minute and Jerome Thomas converted a penalty kick after Zhi was taken down in the box by Nolberto Solano in the 88th minute.
Newcastle (10-13-7, 37 points) is in 11th place and hopes of earning a berth into the next UEFA Cup have pretty much faded. After losing to a supposedly weaker opponent, the Magpies have nine points and five positions to make up in their eight remaining matches. Charlton, in 18th place, is still four points from escaping the drop zone at 7-17-6 with 27 points.
For Newcastle, it was the end of a bad week after being ousted from the UEFA Cup Round of 16 by blowing a two-goal advantage. United had captured the home leg of the two-match series 4-2 over AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands March 8, but after the Dutch club prevailed 2-0 Thursday in Alkmaarder, it tied the series 4-4 and advanced by the first tie-breaker having scored two road goals to none for the Magpies.
A late Newcastle goal, which likely would have sent United to the quarterfinals, was disallowed.
The Magpies played four UEFA Cup matches since Onyewu arrived, but he could not participate since he had already played for Standard in this edition of the tournament.