Transfer window could prove quiet for Americans playing overseas
With the European transfer window back open, there's no better time for the annual tradition of taking inventory of which Americans could be on the move over the next month.
The only thing is, there's not really that many that need to go anywhere at all.
In contrast to last year at this time, most top-tier American players find themselves situated in favorable and productive club situations, and instead of using the winter months to plot moves for more playing time, they're preparing for the next phase of their respective seasons.
Take this core group of national-team veterans for example:
• Jozy Altidore is no longer in purgatory with Villarreal or fighting for time on loan at Bursaspor after the 22-year-old striker's emergence in his first season at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
• Oguchi Onyewu is far removed from his AC Milan headache and playing fullback while on loan at FC Twente, and instead he is now a fixture at center back for Portuguese power Sporting Lisbon.
• Midfield rock Michael Bradley is an entrenched starter in Serie A's Chievo Verona after falling out of favor at Borussia Monchengladbach and mainly watching from the sidelines while on loan at Aston Villa a year ago.
• Bradley's then-Villa teammate, Brad Guzan, had the chips fall his way for once with Shay Given's monthlong injury allowing him the chance to prove his worth in the Premier League for the first time in three years.
• Winger DaMarcus Beasley was an afterthought at Hannover 96 in Germany, but with one transfer to Puebla in Mexico, he found himself rejuvenated and back in the international picture.
As for players on the fringe of the first-choice, national-team fold, midfielders Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber both left the depths of second-division soccer (Adu in Turkey, Feilhaber in Denmark) to come home and join MLS, and each prepares for his first full season since returning to the United States.
And a rung further down the ladder, 25-year-old goalkeeper Dominic Cervi is getting the first first-team playing time of his career in Scotland's second tier after languishing on Celtic's bench for more than three years.
While the overall survey of Americans finds most right where they need to be, there remains a few non-MLS-based Americans who could benefit from some transfer action this month.
Ricardo Clark is at the top of the list. With just one appearance for Eintracht Frankfurt all season and his name not anywhere near the team sheet in general, it's safe to say the one-time World Cup starting midfielder could use a change of scenery. A call-up to the U.S. national team's January camp will have Clark surrounded by familiar faces, and weeks of consistent training followed by friendlies against Venezuela and Panama should set Clark right in his quest for a new club.
Edson Buddle is another one in an odd spot in Germany's second tier. Despite being FC Ingolstadt's leading scorer in league play, Buddle was sent away from the team before the league's monthlong winter break, and he used the freedom to train with West Ham. A November coaching change has Buddle's situation in the balance even with his level of productivity.
Fullback Eric Lichaj has just started to return to training with Aston Villa, but he's still a few weeks away from regaining full fitness after a four-month layoff with a hip injury. After his successful loan to Leeds United last year, he was a candidate to return to Elland Road again during the summer, only to get injured at the most inconvenient of times. A loan at the end of the month would hardly be a surprise, considering his role with Aston Villa likely lies as a backup.
Jonathan Bornstein's move to Tigres UANL might have included a recent Mexican Apertura championship, but he didn't see a single minute of playing time during the title run. A loan to another club in Mexico or a return to MLS would certainly serve the 27-year-old Bornstein well if he has any hope of a return to the national team setup in the future.
Finally, there's the curious case of Eddie Johnson. The one-time can't-miss striker had secured a move to join Beasley at Puebla only to fail a physical and have the deal get called off. After an apparent deal with MLS fell apart last summer and now this, the well-traveled 27-year-old Johnson's options are extremely limited. He is in dire need of a place where he can get the minutes necessary to prove whether he has anything left in his tank, no matter what the level of play. If Adu, a former teammate of Johnson's at Greece's Aris FC, taught us anything over the last year, it's that sometimes it's best to swallow your pride and head to the Turkish second division.
With clubs in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia all on break, here is how the Americans playing in England, Portugal and Scotland -- including Landon Donovan in his return to Everton and goal-scoring goalkeeper Tim Howard -- fared over the past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):