A number of U.S. men's national team stalwarts have come down with a case of bad timing.
With World Cup qualifying set to resume in about three weeks, three veterans and past lineup staples are in no shape to participate. Right back Steve Cherundolo is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and has not played for Hannover 96 since Dec. 19. Carlos Bocanegra, who was a healthy scratch in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying hexagonal opener against Honduras, has not played for Racing Santander since before the 2-1 loss to Los Catrachos on Feb. 6. Clint Dempsey has a minor calf injury that Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas says may keep him out for up to two weeks, which makes it close enough leading into a stretch of two crucial qualifiers to raise an eyebrow. Landon Donovan's extended break from the game has him set to miss perhaps his last chance to play against Mexico at Estadio Azteca during a time when the national team could use his spark and then some.
Even indirectly, timing has not worked in the USA's favor. When Celtic and Honduras left back Emilio Izaguirre was injured and ruled out of the final qualifying round opener, it paved the way for Juan Carlos Garcia to get the start. The same Garcia who entered the game with zero international goals. And the same Garcia whose bicycle-kick equalizer turned the match in San Pedro Sula on its head.
One U.S. player who could turn the trend around with impeccable timing, though, is Brek Shea.
With Jurgen Klinsmann able to count his reliable wing options on one hand (and not necessarily one with five fingers) and the U.S. attack lacking true flankers who are not shy in taking defenders on one-v-one and creating for its goal-starved forwards, opportunity is there for the taking for Shea. If his debut for Stoke City is any indication of the trajectory of his Premier League voyage, then the 22-year-old should have every chance to play his way back into the international picture, where he was once a Klinsmann lineup fixture.
In his first match action since Sept. 29, Shea turned in an encouraging 66 minutes off the bench as an injury replacement for Matthew Etherington and even won a penalty against Fulham (one that was not converted by Jonathan Walters, at no fault of Shea), in the Potters' 1-0 loss. One solid showing does not suddenly make Shea the answer to the USA's problems, but the process in laying the foundation for Shea's time in England could not have come at a more appropriate juncture. Still, earning a regular place in manager Tony Pulis' good graces is a top requirement for Shea. Rebuilding his match fitness and sharpness over the next three matches leading into the next international break -- Stoke faces West Ham, Newcastle and West Brom prior to the USA's March 22 clash against Costa Rica -- is a must as well. At the very least there is a shred of good fortune for a U.S. international at a time when the national team needs it most.
Shea's debut capped a week in which Jermaine Jones became the second American to score in a UEFA Champions League knockout stage (matching DaMarcus Beasley's feat in 2005 for PSV), and Terrence Boyd returned to the scoresheet for his club. In the assists department, Jones contributed one over the weekend for Schalke in league play, Edgar Castillo came through with a game-winning one for Tijuana in a landmark Copa Libertadores performance, and Timmy Chandler and Michael Bradley turned in clutch helpers to deliver a draw and win, respectively, to their clubs.
On the other end, red cards to Michael Orozco Fiscal and Maurice Edu mean that this week should be a quiet one for two of the heroes who lined up across the back line for the USA's historic 1-0 win at Azteca in August's friendly. Those were the most notable contributions from Americans playing abroad this past week, and here is how the full contingent fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
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Geoff Cameron, D/M, Stoke City -- Started, played 51 minutes in Stoke City's 1-0 loss to Fulham on Saturday.
SEASON: 28 games, 26 starts
Cody Cropper, GK, Southampton -- Not in the 18 for Southampton's 4-2 loss to Newcastle on Sunday.
SEASON: 0 games
Clint Dempsey, M/F, Tottenham -- In the 18, came on as a 66th-minute substitute in Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Lyon in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday. Tottenham advanced on a 3-2 aggregate and will face Inter Milan in the round of 16. Dempsey was not in the 18 for Tottenham's 3-2 victory over West Ham in league play on Monday, as he was nursing a minor calf injury that will keep him out for 1-to-2 weeks.
SEASON: 33 games, 25 starts, 8 goals
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- Started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Lyon in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie. Friedel was in the 18 but did not play in Tottenham's 3-2 victory over West Ham in league play.
SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 21 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- Started, played 90 minutes and made five saves in Villa's 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday.
SEASON: 26 games, 26 starts, 48 goals allowed, 6 clean sheets
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and made three saves in Everton's 2-1 loss to Norwich on Saturday.
SEASON: 30 games, 30 starts, 37 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 2-1 loss to Arsenal.
SEASON: 21 games, 13 starts
Brek Shea, M, Stoke City -- In the 18, came on as a 24th-minute substitute in Stoke City's 1-0 loss to Fulham on Saturday. The appearance was Shea's Stoke debut, and he marked it by winning a penalty that ultimately was not converted by the Potters' Jonathan Walters.
SEASON: 1 game
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- In the 18, did not play in Derby County's 1-1 draw with Bolton on Tuesday and in Derby County's 2-1 loss to Watford on Saturday.
SEASON: 3 games, 1 start
Stuart Holden, M, Bolton -- In the 18, did not play in Bolton's 1-1 draw with Derby County on Tuesday. Holden was not in the 18 for Bolton's 4-1 victory over Hull City on Saturday.
SEASON: 2 games
Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Not in the 18 for Bolton's 1-1 draw with Derby County or for Bolton's 4-1 victory over Hull City.
SEASON: 16 games, 14 starts
Jonathan Spector, D/M, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday and in Birmingham's 2-0 victory over Peterborough United on Saturday.
SEASON: 25 games, 21 starts, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Leicester City -- Not in the 18 for Leicester City's 2-1 loss to Charlton Athletic on Tuesday. Whitbread was in the 18 but did not play in Leicester City's 0-0 draw with Blackpool on Saturday.
SEASON: 15 games, 14 starts, 1 goal
Mike Grella, F, Scunthorpe United -- In the 18, did not play in Scunthorpe's 2-1 loss to Hartlepool United on Saturday.
SEASON: 22 games, 12 starts, 2 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 1-1 draw with Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday.
SEASON: 33 games, 31 starts
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and notched the game-tying assist in Nurnberg's 1-1 draw with VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. It marked Chandler's second consecutive game in which he assisted on a second-half equalizer after doing the same in stoppage time against Hannover in Nurnberg's previous match.
SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Not in the 18 for Hannover's 1-1 draw with Anzhi Makhachkala in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday. Hannover was eliminated on a 4-2 aggregate. Cherundolo was also not in the 18 for Hannover's 5-1 victory over Hamburg SV in league play on Saturday.
SEASON: 28 games, 27 starts
Fabian Johnson, D, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 2-1 loss to FC Augsburg on Saturday.
SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 3 goals
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and scored a game-tying goal in Schalke's 1-1 draw with Galatasaray in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie on Wednesday. Jones marauded forward on a Schalke break and was the recipient of a pass from Jefferson Farfan before one-timing a blast from the top of the area to tally a valuable away goal. Jones also started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and assisted on the opening goal of Schalke's 2-1 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf in league play on Saturday.
SEASON: 26 games, 23 starts, 2 goals
Michael Parkhurst, D, FC Augsburg -- Not in the 18 for Augsburg's 2-1 victory over TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday.
SEASON: 23 games, 21 starts, 2 goals (21 games, 20 starts, 2 goals with FC Nordsjaelland)
Danny Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- In the 18, did not play in Hoffenheim's 2-1 loss to Augsburg.
SEASON: 17 games, 13 starts, 1 goal
John Anthony Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin -- Started, played 62 minutes in Hertha Berlin's 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern on Monday, a win that reclaimed first place in the league for the capital club.
SEASON: 19 games, 16 starts
Joe Gyau, M, St. Pauli -- In the 18, came on as an 82nd-minute substitute in St. Pauli's 3-0 victory over FSV Frankfurt on Friday.
SEASON: 10 games, 2 starts
Alfredo Morales, D/M, Hertha Berlin -- In the 18, did not play in Hertha Berlin's 1-0 victory over Kaiserslautern.
SEASON: 2 games, 1 start
Bobby Wood, F, TSV 1860 Munich -- In the 18, came on as a 53rd-minute substitute in Munich's 2-1 victory over Eintracht Braunschweig on Sunday.
SEASON: 10 games, 5 starts, 2 goals
Andrew Wooten, F, SV Sandhausen -- Started, played 70 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Sandhausen's 3-1 loss to SC Paderborn 07 on Sunday.
SEASON: 18 games, 11 starts, 4 goals
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Michael Bradley, M, AS Roma -- Started, played 90 minutes and contributed the game-winning assist in Roma's 3-2 victory over Atalanta on Sunday. Bradley chipped a ball toward the far post, where Vassilis Torosidis headed home the winner in the 71st minute to deliver Roma's second straight win.
SEASON: 23 games, 21 starts, 2 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Malaga -- Not in the 18 for Malaga's 1-0 loss to Porto in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Tuesday or for Malaga's 3-0 loss to Real Betis in league play on Sunday.
SEASON: 8 games, 7 starts, 2 goals
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Racing Santander -- In the 18, did not play in Racing Santander's 2-0 victory over Mirandes on Saturday.
SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts (7 games, 7 starts with Rangers)
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar -- Started, played 90 minutes in AZ's 1-0 loss to NAC Breda on Sunday.
SEASON: 31 games, 31 starts, 21 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 78 minutes in Anderlecht's 2-2 draw with Club Brugge on Sunday.
SEASON: 36 games, 29 starts, 2 goals
Terrence Boyd, F, Rapid Vienna -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and scored a goal in Rapid Vienna's 3-3 draw with Red Bull Salzburg on Sunday. Boyd headed home a looped ball into the box to pull Rapid Vienna level at 1-1 in the 48th minute.
SEASON: 30 games, 24 starts, 14 goals
Maurice Edu, M, Bursaspor -- Started, was sent off in the 80th minute of Bursaspor's 2-1 loss to Gaziantepspor on Friday. Edu received two yellow cards in a three-minute span after he conceded the penalty that decided the match off a handball call in the box.
SEASON: 9 games, 7 starts (1 game with Stoke City)
Caleb Patterson-Sewell, GK, Vitoria Setubal -- In the 18, did not play in Vitoria Setubal's 1-0 victory over Beira Mar on Saturday.
SEASON: 5 games, 5 starts, 12 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Tony Taylor, F, Estoril Praia -- In the 18, did not play in Estoril's 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon on Friday.
SEASON: 12 games, 4 starts
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- Not in the 18 for Puebla's 0-0 draw with Merida in the Copa MX on Wednesday. Beasley started and played the first half of Puebla's 3-0 loss to Monterrey in league play on Saturday.
SEASON: 10 games, 7 starts, 2 goals
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- Not in the 18 for Tigres' 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul on Saturday.
SEASON: 0 games
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on the game-winning goal in Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Millonarios in their Copa Libertadores group stage opener on Tuesday. Castillo was not in the 18 for Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Atlante in league play on Saturday, as he was suspended for being red carded in the club's previous league match.
SEASON: 8 games, 8 starts
Joe Corona, M, Tijuana -- Started, played 69 minutes in Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Millonarios in the Copa Libertadores group stage. Corona was in the 18 and came on as an 86th-minute substitute in Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Atlante in league play.
SEASON: 8 games, 6 starts
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, Puebla -- Not in the 18 for Puebla's 0-0 draw with Merida in the Copa MX. Orozco Fiscal started and was sent off with a straight red card for handling the ball and conceding a penalty in the 54th minute of Puebla's 3-0 loss to Monterrey in league play.
SEASON: 8 games, 8 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Millonarios in the Copa Libertadores group stage. Garza was in the 18 but did not play in Tijuana's 2-0 victory over Atlante in league play.
SEASON: 0 games
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- Started, played 62 minutes in Santos Laguna's 1-0 victory over Club America on Friday.
SEASON: 8 games, 8 starts, 1 goal
Benji Joya, M, Santos Laguna -- Not in the 18 for Santos Laguna's 1-0 victory over Club America.
SEASON: 0 games
Jose Torres, M, Tigres UANL -- Started, played 62 minutes in Tigres' 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul.
SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts