For past few seasons, Denis Onyango has been the mainstay in Mamelodi Sundowns goal, often standing between his team and possible defeats with his goalkeeping heroics.
Fast-forward to the 2022/23 season, Onyango has been relegated to second choice, keeping goal only four times across all competitions so far.
In those four matches, Onyango has not been convincing at all.
Even last season, there were a number of games where Onyango conceded some silly goal.
The former Africa’s number one has contributed immensely in the success of Mamelodi Sundowns, but, as with all good things, they come to an end.
Kekana’s era ended, albeit too soon, felt some of the Sundowns fans. Recently, Kennedy Mweene took on a goalkeeper coaching role within Sundowns to prepare for his future in football.
It is time for Onyango to consider making plans for his future too
But what has contributed to Onyango’s decline?
Age is catching up with him.
At 37 years, Onyango is not getting any younger.
He has become slower in his reactions to situations on the field, often reacting a few seconds to late, which has led to him conceding goals he would have easily saved a season or two ago.
The argument might be that goalkeepers have a long career span, but the fact is, not all goalkeepers are made the same.
Considering Onyango’s huge frame+Age, he might not play beyond his 40’s.
The advent of the modern goalkeeper.
Modern football tactics have placed a lot of responsibilities on goalkeepers.
Nowadays, goalkeepers have taken on roughly 50% of the on field players responsibilities, they are involved in build up play from the back, securing, consolidation and circulation of possession.
Off the ball, they are expected to stay higher up the pitch to mitigate the threat of opposition counter attacks.
For Denis Onyango, such responsibilities can be too much.
The 37-year-old Ugandan national is a traditional-old school goal minder. The penalty box is his sanctuary, having too much of the ball at his feet than his hands, and running around outside of his area is not what he signed up for.
With Rulani Mokwena’s advanced football tactics, Onyango finds himself at a huge disadvantage.
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The Ronwen Williams factor.
Williams has made the Mamelodi Sundowns number one spot his own.
He is improving with each and every game he plays, but what is perhaps the most important thing about his performances, is his ability to be involved with play.
He is comfortable with the ball at his feet, an easily becomes the eleventh player for Downs when they are in possession.
He is quicker, younger, a ball playing keeper, and an excellent shot stopper.
He is exactly what Downs tactics demand from a goalie, further putting Onyango at a disadvantage.
What’s next for Onyango?
Will he stay at Mamelodi Sundowns, and accept being the second, or even third choice keeper behind Williams and Pieterse?
The bench is no place for any player, but it is even worse for a goalkeeper of Onyango’s age. He needs to play more to keep his reflexes going. Sitting on the bench can be his end.
If he still wants to play, moving on and leaving a club he has made so many beautiful memories with, might be his only option.
The likes of Royal AM have shown some interest in him before; he will not be short of takers.
As for his time at Mamelodi Sundowns, he has seen his better days.