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Onyewu Set For Milan Debut Against Club America
AP, July 22nd, 2009 4PM

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Oguchi Onyewu, the first U.S.-born player to sign with prestigious Italian club AC Milan, will get his first chance to prove he belongs at the highest level when AC Milan plays Mexico's Club America in a friendly at the Georgia Dome on Wednesday (TV: ESPN2, 7 pm ET). "Obviously in sports, there's no guarantees,'' Onyewu said. "I'm certainly under the impression that I'll have to play for my spot. I'm still trying to figure out what I need to do because we have a number of great defenders on the squad, and this is the first day that I actually got involved with the team.''

Onyweu signed a three-year deal with Milan earlier this month, but the Italian club had been tracking Onyewu since he emerged with Belgium's Standard Liege in 2004. Despite an unsuccessful 11-game tenure with Newcastle, where he often failed to keep up with the fast pace in the English Premier League, Onyewu returned to Belgium for the 2007-2008 season and helped Standard Liege win two consecutive Belgian league titles.

AC Milan organizing director Umberto Gandini, who has hired Brazilian Leonardo as head coach, hopes Onyewu can be the central piece in a rebuilding job for the long-respected team. Captain Paolo Maldini retired when last season ended, and the exit of playmaker Kaka to Real Madrid devastated Milan fans. Gandini replaced coach Carlo Ancelotti, who signed with Chelsea, after Milan finished third last season in the Serie A. The team also announced that Massimo Ambrosini will replace Maldini as captain. "We are in a new period,'' Gandini said. "Therefore we are in a situation with our new coach, Leonardo, to help with ideas and new motivations to develop a new era. We are very proud of our history. We are very confident of our present and working toward the future."

 

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