Goodson may use World Cup as launching pad

US center defender is eyeing a move up from Norwegian league

Clarence Goodson is a cult hero of sorts in parts of Norway, but he’s anything but committed to spending the rest of his career there.

One day after he expectedly made the cut on the US 23-man roster for the World Cup, the 27-year-old MLS alum said he’s eager to seek different career opportunities, potentially beyond Norwegian side IK Start.

“We’ll see what happens, but I certainly don’t see my future in Norway,” Goodson said Thursday. “For me, it’s all about what opportunities arise.”

Those opportunities depend in part on what Goodson does beginning next month, as he heads to South Africa with as much to gain as any US player looking to earn a bump from the World Cup.

Think of Landon Donovan's international arrival in South Korea in 2002. Or Clint Dempsey, who attributed his rocket ride to Fulham to one strike at the 2006 World Cup.

“The World Cup,” Dempsey said Thursday, “can change everything.”

And that’s exactly what Goodson expects. Despite just 12 US National Team caps since his debut with coach Bob Bradley’s group in January 2008, he’s likely as integral as any player coming off the bench in South Africa, or even as a potential starter on a back line facing fitness and injury issues.

“It’s a big opportunity just to make this team, just going to the World Cup,” Goodson said. “The next step is just to put myself into good positions, whether it’s from the bench or in a starting role.”

It’s certainly a far cry from where Goodson was the last time the World Cup came around. He was a steady presence with FC Dallas in 2006, but he watched from afar as Oguchi Onyewu carved his niche as the face of the US defense for what most expected would be years to come.

But now, with Onyewu still seeking his form after last year’s devastating knee injury, Goodson could be Bradley’s on-deck option. The 6-foot-4 defender contributes size and savvy on set-plays, something the Americans have depended on from Onyewu for years.

“I think [Goodson] continues to get more confident,” Bradley said following Wednesday’s roster announcement. “Certainly his ability in the air, both in defensive situations and attacking set pieces has been a great plus. We feel that as he continues to get experience his play is going to get better and better.”

Goodson paired up with captain Carlos Bocanegra to anchor the back line in the team’s short-sided scrimmage on Thursday, just down the street from where they’ll meet Turkey in their final domestic warm-up on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Onyewu and Jay DeMerit anchored the opposite side’s back line in the scrimmage, but it’s certainly unclear what it all means. Goodson won Bradley’s favor perhaps as much as anyone in the team’s 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Thursday in East Hartford, Conn., assisting on a Herculez Gomez goal with – what else – a soaring header.

“Obviously, my size helps,” Goodson said. “Strong in the air, strong on the tackles. I feel like I can organize the team, and I’m an asset on set pieces.”

Goodson admitted he’s been speaking with other players on the US team about career choices around Europe, but that he’s undecided about where he’d like to go. He’s developed a strong connection with fans and the front office at IK Start based on the success he’s had there, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to keep him after his contract with the club expires at the end of this year.

“They like me,” Goodson said. “I think I’ve gone in there and done a good job, and they appreciate the pride that I’ve shown in doing the best I can, keeping my head down and doing the best I can.”

“It’s one of those things where we’ll have to see what kind of offers are out there,” Goodson added. “I just have to make the best decision for me, and for what’s going to make me the happiest.”