Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Americans Make Big Moves During Transfer Window

The January transfer window was an active one, especially for members of the United States Men’s National Team.

Some big names made big splashes in the market, and many made moves in search of more playing time. Michael Bradley’s loan to Aston Villa was the most publicized of any change of teams for Americans and Freddy Adu has found another new team to try and break into.

Then there are the unlucky Americans, the ones who needed a change, or were rumored to switch teams, but nothing panned out for them.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the biggest American moves (and non-moves) that went down during the transfer window.

Jonathan Bornstein: to UANL Tigres, leaving Chivas USA

Pros: The Mexican league is slightly better than MLS. The teams are deeper and the rosters aren’t as restrictive as those in MLS. So playing against some tough competition should definitely help the left back.

It also helps that he gets experience playing in Mexico, a place the USMNT has a lot of trouble winning in.

Cons: Mexico isn’t that much of an improvement over the United States. For a guy who started a number of games for the USMNT in World Cup qualifying, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup the move isn’t one that gets a lot of people’s attention. You wonder how little did he showcase himself?

Verdict: Bornstein had done everything he was going to with Chivas and Tigres is better than some other suitors he’s had (Maccabi Tel-Aviv). He isn’t moving to a bad league by any means, and just changing scenery will re-energize him and make him compete just a bit more.

Eddie Johnson: to Preston North End via Fulham (loan)

Pros: Like a lot of guys on this list, playing time was a big factor in Johnson needing a move. He’s played in 11 games for Fulham this year, 10 of them as a sub. That number is three more than the amount of games he had previously played for the team since joining them in 2008.

He’s done alright for Fulham in the limited action he’s gotten this season and hopefully he can ride a little bit of momentum to Preston.

Cons: He just hasn’t had any luck in Europe. He’s bounced around a lot, not ready to become a full-time member for Fulham and not good enough that any of the teams that he’s been loaned out to have wanted to keep him.

He did ok in Cardiff City, playing in 30 league games (25 as a sub), scored two goals and added four assists. Those numbers aren’t great though. He just hasn’t been able to really catch on anywhere.

Verdict: Johnson burst onto the USMNT scene scoring four goals in his first two appearances, but since his breakout year of 2005 things have gone incredibly slowly for him, mostly because of his unsettled club situation. Who knows if he’ll ever get on the field—let alone score—with any regularity, but Preston doesn’t seem like a bad place to try.

Kenny Cooper: to Portland Timbers, leaving 1860 Munich

Pros: Since arriving at Munich in 2009, Cooper made only 15 total appearances for the club across all competitions and he got on the field only seven times as a substitute when he was loaned to Plymouth Argyle. Over those 22 games he scored only three times.

In MLS he will not only be playing regularly once again, but he returns to the league where he was one of the hottest scorers. In 90 league appearances with FC Dallas he scored 40 goals, including 25 goals in his final 45 games.

Cons: Cooper will be coming back to the States with much less confidence then when he left. Every situation is different, and Cooper’s trek to Germany didn’t go over well. It happens. But athletes have a sense of pride in their abilities and Cooper will be coming back having been served a bit of humility.

Verdict: Cooper made a good move to come back to MLS. At one point fans were clamoring for him to get a call-up to the National Team, but now they seem to have moved on. It’s time for Cooper to get back on track and he will get that opportunity in Portland.

Edson Buddle: to FC Ingolstadt, leaving Los Angeles Galaxy

Pros: His paycheck is much bigger now. Going from the salary cap-hindered MLS, to the free-spending scene in Europe, Buddle will earn much more for his services.

Also, Ingolstadt is a club struggling mightily on the offensive end of the field, so if he can keep up the scoring pace he had with the Galaxy in 2010, the team will need him on the field.

Cons: The German Bundesliga 2 is not in any way better competition than MLS. It’s actually a step below. Not only is the league not as good, but his team is in the relegation zone, so it’s a bad team in a league that isn’t that good. He’s lessening his value there.

Verdict: The allure of Europe is strong to any player, and sometimes you have to start in a lower division and move your way up. It looks like Buddle took advantage of maybe his only chance at a big payday in spite of the level of competition.

Robbie Findley: to Nottingham Forest, leaving Real Salt Lake

Pros: 2010 was a rough year for Findley. After finishing 2009 as the leading scorer for MLS champion Real Salt Lake, he lost his touch in 2010, scoring only six goals in 26 games. He was nagged by injuries throughout the MLS season, and even though he was selected for the World Cup roster, he could not find the back of the net, no matter how good some of his chances looked.

He struggled but has enough potential that he still was able to get a transfer to England.

Cons: If he doesn’t rediscover his scoring touch, Findley will wind up on the bench. At least in MLS he would’ve been given the opportunity to play out his struggles.

Verdict: His form hasn’t been anything to be excited about lately, but he does have the skills to bounce back. Maybe he’s been distracted by a potential move to Europe, and now that he has it he’ll be more focused.

Jermaine Jones: to Blackburn via Schalke (loan)

Pros: Jones went from the dog house at Schalke to being revered at Blackburn. He went from the bench to starting in his debut. The team had been looking for a defensive midfielder for some time and manager Steve Kean has praised him.

Also playing in England will allow Jones to sharpen his English, which will help him further integrate himself with the USMNT.

Cons: None.

Verdict: Jones may have secured the best move among American players this winter. He’s gone to a team that really wants and needs him and he’s performed well in the early going. He’s a tough player and should enjoy a good tenure with the club, which also has an option to buy him.

Benny Feilhaber: stayed at AGF Aarhus

Pros: He stays comfortable at a club for which he has shined for all season.

Cons: Feilhaber needs a new challenge. Aarhus is only in Denmark’s First Division, so the competition isn’t as good. He’s proven himself on this level and he needs to move on.

Verdict: Feilhaber is falling on the midfield depth chart for the USMNT and he needs to be playing against better competition to continue to prove himself. He will most assuredly need to move on this summer.

Eric Lichaj: stayed at Aston Villa

Pros: Lichaj, only 22-years-old, is still young and has time to improve. By staying at Villa, he will get to train day-in and day-out with a good EPL side.

Cons: After enjoying a nice five-game stretch being featured in the team’s lineup, and playing pretty well, Lichaj has quickly moved back to the bench. The decision is a little curious. That being said, if Lichaj is going to continue to sit the bench, it would be better to have him at least loaned somewhere where he can get consistent minutes.

Verdict: He’s young, but promising. He’s shown well when he’s appeared for both club and country, so more playing time for him would be nice. For his sake, hopefully a loan can be worked out in the future.

Landon Donovan: staying at Los Angeles Galaxy

Pros: He finally gets to rest. Donovan has been playing nonstop for the past few years, playing for the Galaxy, for the USMNT (in the Confederations Cup and World Cup) and two winter loans. He’s been at it every month it seems, so it’s good for Donovan to take some time to sit back and recharge the batteries.

Cons: Donovan has proved to be one of, if not the best, player for both club and country. After two successful winter loans it’s time for him to take the next step—a full transfer.

Verdict: Donovan has said since the end of the MLS season he needed to rest and wasn’t going anywhere this winter. Expect a move this summer.

Oguchi Onyewu: to FC Twente via AC Milan (loan)

Pros: He finally escaped the Milan bench. He signed with the club in 2009 but has yet to make a league appearance for them (his patellar tendon injury in World Cup qualifying was brutal to his status at the club).

He started and played in his debut for the Twente, so as long as he’s healthy he’ll likely be on the field for them.

Cons: Twente played Onyewu at left fullback. While he did fine for the team, and the USMNT is definitely hurting for a player to man that position, there is no way Onyewu will be the answer there. He doesn’t have the speed to cover the fast wings on the international level, so while it’s nice he’s playing it’s not at a position that he’ll help his country at.

Also, he’s so rusty he injured himself in the second game he played at Twente. He says it is not a serious injury, but the man has a lot of cobwebs to shake out.

Verdict: The move was an absolutely necessary one. Many wonder if Onyewu is really in Milan’s plans, so it’s good he’s someplace else for the rest of the season. If he’s healthy, he’ll play and that really is the most important thing for him right now.

Brad Guzan: to Hull City via Aston Villa (loan)

Pros: Guzan escapes Brad Friedel’s shadow and finally gets his turn to start. He’s been the No.2 for the USMNT without starting a league game since he left Chivas USA in 2008. Now he’s started five games in a row for Hull City, and he’s fared pretty well.

Cons: The loan was originally only for a month, but it has since been extended for another month. That’s a short time to enjoy the spotlight of starting between the pipes. At the end of February he’ll be back to the back at Villa.

Even before then, previous starter Vito Mannone could return for injury and Guzan would have to compete with him for the starting spot.

Verdict: Guzan needed this move. The only other thing he could have asked for was for a longer loan. Friedel’s been rumored to be leaving the club soon though, so he may finally get his chance at Villa sooner rather than later.

Freddy Adu: to Rizespor via Benfica (loan)

Pros: He actually has a team now. Benfica didn’t want him. Aris, the team he actually was still on loan with, didn’t want him. He trialed with Sion, Randers and Ingoldstadt but none of those teams wanted him either.

So someone finally put him on their roster. That’s a plus in his career considering the way things have been going.

Cons: Rizespor is in the second level of the Turkish soccer—not a talented league at all. It’s an improvement he’s on a team, but he could’ve easily come back to MLS and been playing at a much higher level.

What made him think Rizespor was the place he needed to be is an interesting anecdote we’d all like to know.

Verdict: One has to wonder how far Adu’s career has slid so far down to wind up at Rizespor, but you can’t hate on it too much, it is a roster spot. Let’s see if they actually play him.

Jozy Altidore: to Bursaspor via Villarreal (loan)

Pros: Unlike Adu, Altidore wound up in turkey’s highest division, which is a very talented league. Bursaspor is a talented team and Alitdore has a good possibility to get a lot more playing time than he was at Villarreal.

Cons: Playing time won’t just be handed to him. Bursaspor doesn’t have the stable of forwards that Villarreal did, but they do have guys in the mix. They also acquired Scottish international striker Kenny Miller and they still have their previous forwards.

Altidore has played well enough, but he’s struggled to score at all levels since his loan to Hull City last season. He’s going to need to pick up the pace.

Verdict: If Altidore can secure more playing time, it’s a good move. He’s been steadily, quietly, improving, but it won’t mean anything until he’s scoring goals. The move is a good one.

Michael Bradley: to Aston Villa via Borussia Monchengladbach (loan)

Pros: Bradley leaves the basement of the German Bundesliga to the EPL. His career continues to move upwards and this is the latest step up. Aston Villa has had its troubles in central midfield so Bradley should get his opportunities, especially since manager Gerard Houllier has been interested in him since the World Cup.

Cons: It’s the biggest league in soccer and Bradley isn’t going to be handed anything. Aston Villa brought in Jean Makoun and still has Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker, despite their struggles. So he’ll have competition and he’ll have to push himself to come out on top and stay there.

Verdict: This is a fantastic opportunity for Bradley as he continues his rise to soccer stardom. He’ll have to work hard, but that’s never been an issue for Bradley. It’s an exciting move and a well deserved one.

Photo Credits.
Michael Bradley: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Edson Buddle: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Jermaine Jones: AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Oguchi Onyewu: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Jozy Altidore: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

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