AC Milan announced Tuesday that United States defender Oguchi Onyewu, nicknamed "Gooch", has signed a three year contract making Onyewu the first American to join Serie A in more than 10 years.
Alexi Lalas was the last American to play in Serie A. Lalas played for Padova from 1994-1996.
Onyewu, 27, was born in Washington D.C. after his parents immigrated to the U.S. Like most suburban kids, Onyewu, who grew up in Silver Spring and Olney, Md., started playing recreational soccer when he was 5. He played basketball and ran track when he was in grade school, but his interest was always in soccer. He advanced through the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, made state and regional teams but wasn't selected for a youth national team when he was 15. The next year he tried out again and was selected for the Under 17s team and became part of the USA's original U-17 residency class with fellow US Youth Soccer ODP alumns Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and Bobby Convey.
At the 1999 Under-17 World Championship, he started all five matches and played every minute as the USA finished fourth.
Four players from the U.S.'s first residency class are now among the USA's top players. That class of 20 was the first to train year-round and live on campus at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Onyewu was also a standout on the U.S. Under-20 team, where he played in the World Youth Championship in Argentina in 2001, again starting all four matches and playing every minute, which is when he began to get noticed by international scouts. He was also an All-American at Clemson, where he played for two seasons, before he signed with French club FC Metz and then Belgium's Standard Liege.
Onyewu started for the U.S. in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and most recently at the 2009 Confederations Cup.