Photo by ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
BALTIMORE — Clarence Goodson five years ago was a newcomer to the international game, absorbing whatever wisdom his veteran teammates could impart in hopes of making the right impression.
Back then, the lanky centerback leaned heavily on the likes of Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit and Jimmy Conrad. They had been through the U.S. Men’s National Team grind, knew the ropes.
Nowadays, the 31-year-old Goodson is that player. With 39 caps and a World Cup trip on his resume, he’s an elder statesman on this experimental Gold Cup squad, doing what he can to help guide a group high on talent but largely lacking in experience.
“It’s very much up to the older pros,” Goodson said, “the guys who have been around a little bit more and have experiences, to try and help the younger ones out and welcome them in — very much the way the boys before us have done.”
With knockout-round reinforcement Omar Gonzalez yet to report, Goodson is poised to make his third start of the Gold Cup on Sunday when the U.S. faces El Salvador in the quarterfinals at M&T Bank Stadium.
It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for Goodson, who played his college soccer at the University of Maryland and attended W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va., about an hour’s drive away.
But it won’t feel like it with a majority of the sell-out crowd likely pulling for El Salvador. And it’s in that type of environment the U.S. will be happy to have Goodson’s presence anchoring the back line.
“He’s an experienced player,” said 23-year-old midfielder Joe Corona. “He’s been around with the national team for a while now and I think he brings a lot of confidence into us forwards and midfielders. He’s someone you can trust back there.”
Once this tournament is over, Goodson will join the San Jose Earthquakes, making his return to MLS after five years plying his trade in Europe. It should be a stabilizing move for Goodson, who with the World Cup a year away is currently competing with several players for the fourth centerback spot on coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man first-choice roster.
And when he does begin his integration with the Earthquakes, the transition should be eased by the presences of Gold Cup teammates Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon.
“He’s a great defender, very smart, very cerebral player and he reads the game well,” Wondolowski said. “He’s been asking questions [about San Jose] and I’ve been trying to help him along the way.”
But for now, Goodson is focused on his unfinished business in this tournament. While he knows he needs to make sure his own performances are steady, he’s doing so with a focus on also sharing whatever knowledge he can with Klinsmann’s youthful roster.
“I think one of the biggest things is having the guys know what to expect with Jurgen and with training,” Goodson said. “Certainly we want to have things as seamless as possible.”