One of the Union's offseason priorities was to shore up the center back position, and the team met that goal with Monday's signing of former U.S. national team standout Oguchi Onyewu.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Onyewu has 69 caps with the U.S. team, having played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
Known as "Gooch," Onyewu hasn't played in a game since Feb. 7, 2015, with Charlton Athletic of England's League One. Onyewu came to the Union's camp to work out with the team. But after seeing the pep in his step, coach Jim Curtin and sporting director Earnie Stewart said the defender, who turns 35 in May, still had plenty of tread left.
"To see the change of direction, the cutting, he looks great," Curtin said. "He looks in good form, and I think there is even another level we could push him to with our sports performance department."
While terms weren't released, it's known that Onyewu has been signed to a one-year deal. He is a Discovery signing. Each Major League Soccer team has a Discovery List, a group of up to seven players not under contract with MLS who have been identified as desirable acquisitions for that team.
The Union will relish Onyewu serving as a mentor for the young players. But that won't be his only role.
"We want him to push to be a starter," Curtin said.
Born in Washington, Onyewu wasn't with the team on Monday. He will join the Union in Clearwater. They depart for Florida on Tuesday and will have two separate training camps there. Their eighth MLS season opens March 5 in Vancouver.
There was a clear reason the Union was looking for a center back. Last season, when the Union earned the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they scored a team-record 52 goals. The problem is they also allowed a team-record 55 goals.
"I think we scored enough last year. But down the stretch, when the games got a little bit ramped up, maybe we lacked a little bit as a team leadership-wise in the back," Curtin said.
Last year, Richie Marquez started 33 games at center back. The other center back spot had Ken Tribbett make 19 starts, while rookie Josh Yaro started 15 games.