Americans Abroad: Seasons to start for contingent that's stayed overseas
Plenty of the United States national team’s biggest names have migrated to Major League Soccer, but much of the player pool still plies its trade abroad. Players in Europe are in the closing stages of preparation for seasons kicking off in the next few weeks, while Liga MX began in late July.
Some are settling into new clubs, including Aron Jóhannsson, whose transfer to Werder Bremen just finalized. Others are back in familiar settings with the hope for success that a new season brings.
The next events on the U.S. calendar are September friendlies against Peru and Brazil and the Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico in October. With World Cup qualifying kicking off in the spring and the Olympics and Copa América (tentatively, anyhow) next summer, lots of players could find themselves in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans in the near future.
Here’s a look at the status of the vast majority of Americans abroad heading into the new season:
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City)
It’s been a while since Cameron played for the national team. If he gets called in for the upcoming matches, it’ll be just under a year since he saw action in the U.S.’s 4-1 loss to Ireland in November 2014. He’s a mainstay at his club, though, which asked him to sit out the Gold Cup. Manager Mark Hughes gave him a new contract at the end of last season, and he should feature prominently for Stoke again this year.
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
His solid play for the U.S. in Tim Howard’s absence notwithstanding, Guzan has been less than settled lately. Tim Sherwood sat him on the bench toward the end of Aston Villa’s 2014-15 season, setting off speculation on a transfer that didn’t materialize. Guzan is back in the No. 1 seat at Villa Park for now, with Shay Given leaving for Stoke. Howard will also be available for selection again soon, though, meaning Guzan might be relegated to the bench for the U.S.
Tim Howard (Everton)
Despite announcing that he’ll be ready to return to Klinsmann’s team in time for the September friendlies and, ultimately, qualifying for Russia 2018, Howard’s selection isn’t a given. Klinsmann showed his disdain for players taking a break when he left Landon Donovan out of the squad for Brazil, and although Donovan’s hiatus was from all soccer and not just the national team, Howard will have to show his desire and sharpness haven’t faded.
Everton plays four matches before the U.S. convenes again, including one against Manchester City.
DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
The biggest question surrounding Yedlin’s season right now is whether he’ll stay at Spurs or go on loan to look for vital first-team playing time.
He’s played 11 league minutes since joining Tottenham, and he wasn’t even on the traveling squad for the Audi Cup in Munich in the week before the Premier League season starts.
A player can only develop so much by playing in the reserves, especially when the league is primarily for Under-21 players as it is in England, so Yedlin could find himself regressing if he can’t find minutes soon.
Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem and Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers will likely play with their clubs’ youth teams at the start of the new season, but they’re both in the mix for Olympic qualifiers in October. … In the Championship, Emerson Hyndman is expected to play a vital role in the midfield as Fulham pushes to get back to the top flight, but he is reportedly the subject of transfer interest from England, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. … Danny Williams has been drawing more interest from Klinsmann again (although was left off the Gold Cup team), but Reading reportedly would not release teammate Andrija Novakovich for the U-20 World Cup this summer. … Lynden Gooch looks set to play for Sunderland’s U-21 team again after his surprise exclusion from the U.S. U-20s. … Jonathan Spector signed a two-year contract extension at Birmingham before the last season ended, but he hasn’t played for the U.S. since its historic win in Italy in 2012. … Cody Cropper signed with MK Dons after his Southampton contract expired in a bid for playing time as he tries to break into the regular senior team picture, while likely remaining the U.S.’s No. 1 in its Olympic efforts. … Tim Ream returns to Bolton after playing in the Gold Cup, as the club has denied overtures from Queens Park Rangers for his services.
John Brooks (Hertha Berlin)
After showing much promise in earlier friendlies—not to mention his game-winning goal against Ghana at the World Cup—Brooks suffered in an inconsistent Gold Cup. He has been one of the Bundesliga’s best young defenders in recent years, though, and he should feature prominently again for Hertha Berlin in the upcoming season. He won’t have any easy matches for the team that just escaped relegation at the end of the previous year, but that should only serve to sharpen his abilities.
Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Chandler has never struggled for playing time in the Bundesliga, but it doesn't look like he'll start the season in Eintracht Frankfurt’s top 11 this time. Manager Armin Veh intimated that he didn't consider participating in the Gold Cup a good enough excuse to report to preseason as late as Chandler did, so he could find himself on the bench when the Bundesliga season kicks off. The right back is something of an enigma, mixing solid appearances with subpar ones, so finding a consistent level of play when he gets his opportunity again would go a long way toward cementing Klinsmann’s confidence in selecting him.
Aron Jóhannsson (Werder Bremen)
His transfer complete, Jóhannsson will now have the chance to do what fellow American striker Jozy Altidore did not: parlay success in the Dutch Eredivisie into more of the same in a major European league. German defenses won’t be as forgiving as the still-developing players in the Netherlands, so Jóhannsson will have to raise his game. He should have plenty of confidence, though, after being one of the U.S.’s most effective forwards at the Gold Cup despite scoring just once.
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
One of the U.S.’s best players during a disappointing Gold Cup, Johnson faces a new challenge as Borussia Mönchengladbach enters the Champions League this year. He was on the Wolfsburg squad when it finished third in its group in 2009-10, but Johnson did not make an appearance. He’ll be in Mönchengladbach’s lineup more often than not again this year, and as long as he avoids injury, the 27-year-old’s experience in the world’s top club competition will only add to the breadth of experience he brings to Klinsmann’s selection.
Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt)
The Gold Cup cap-tied Morales to the U.S., as the midfielder’s start against Panama in the final match of the group stage now precludes him from playing for Germany or Peru. However, despite Morales’s continued participation in recent friendlies, his replacement with Joe Corona for the knockout round showed that he isn’t quite at the top level in Klinsmann’s mind just yet. He helped Ingolstadt win the 2. Bundesliga and earn promotion, and if he continues to see plenty of first-team action at that consistently higher level, that will only help him when he joins the U.S. team in the future.
Plenty of other Americans toil in the German lower leagues and currently sit outside the national team picture, including Andrew Wooten, who scored two goals in Sandhausen’s first match of the 2. Bundesliga season, but you never know when Klinsmann will make one of them the next surprise call-up. … Julian Green is already a known quantity, but after a tough time on loan at Hamburg from Bayern Munich last season, he needs to find a stable environment to continue his development toward being a regular first teamer. … Borussia Dortmund II midfielder Junior Flores could take himself out of contention for the U.S. soon with a one-time switch to El Salvador, which he has reportedly been considering since being left off the U-20 World Cup roster. Club teammate Joe Gyau should be ready to play by winter after setbacks lengthened his recovery from a knee injury at the end of 2014-15. … One of Gyau’s good friends, Bobby Wood, has started both of Union Berlin’s matches so far this season, assisting two goals in a wild 4-3 loss to Sandhausen in the first. … Caleb Stanko made Freiburg’s bench in the second match of the season as the just-relegated club kicked off its 2. Bundesliga campaign with two wins, while Zack Steffen played 90 minutes for the club’s second team and kept a clean sheet in the first Regionalliga Südwest match. … Russell Canouse played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim II’s 6-1 season debut in the same Regionalliga division after withdrawing from the U-20 World Cup with an ankle injury. … Mario Rodríguez came off the bench for Borussia Mönchengladbach’s reserves in their season opener, and he should feature prominently in the U.S. U-23 team’s forward line as the Americans try to qualify for the Olympics. … Terrence Boyd has not played for Red Bull Leipzig since tearing his ACL in December, and his injury recovery is still ongoing.
Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes)
Bedoya rejoined his club for training on Tuesday ahead of the start of the season this weekend, so he’ll likely need to regain fitness before being thrown back into the starting lineup. He also missed the end of last season with a knee injury, but Bedoya has proven himself vital to Nantes’ league efforts as well as most of the successes the U.S. has on the world stage. Assuming he gets back to regular form, he should be one of the first names on the list for the playoff against Mexico in October.
Rubio Rubín (FC Utrecht)
After an effective U-20 World Cup, Rubín returns to Utrecht, looking to build on the three goals he scored in 28 appearances in his first professional season. The Netherlands has long been a breeding ground for American forwards who go on to have varying success in bigger leagues, but at 19, Rubín has a bit more time to grow into the position. Continued call-ups to the national team would help, and he could be in the running for a spot on the Olympic roster.
Ventura Alvarado (America)
It's an important year for the 22-year-old Alvarado, who could find himself playing against the likes of Lionel Messi in the FIFA Club World Cup this December after helping America to the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League title. Along with Brooks, Alvarado appears to be part of Klinsmann's center back tandem for the future, and while he had an uneven Gold Cup, getting regular minutes for one of Liga MX's top sides (its slow start to the Apertura not withstanding) should continue his growth. He scored a goal in America's 2015-16 CCL opener against Motagua on Wednesday.
Joe Corona (Veracruz)
After Club Tijuana brought in another new manager, Corona found himself on the outs despite his history with the Xolos. The Mexican-American playmaker personified the club’s cross-border philosophy, a kid from Southern California who helped put Tijuana on the Mexican soccer map in its short existence. His loan to Veracruz at the last minute during Mexico’s annual transfer day in June didn’t go over well with the fans, but he immediately stepped into a starting role with the Tiburones Rojos as the new season kicked off.
Greg Garza (Atlas)
Garza also moved on loan from Tijuana on transfer day, which seemed peculiar given that he just signed a three-year contract extension with the Xolos a week prior. Last year was the left back's most consistent as a professional, which led to more frequent call-ups to Klinsmann’s team. He’ll need to settle in quickly and continue to get regular minutes at the first-team level to stay in Klinsmann’s favor, but he should be on the radar for the upcoming games.
Miguel Ibarra (León)
After being courted by MLS teams for a while, Ibarra instead moved to Club León. He scored his first goal for the club in Wednesday’s Copa MX draw with Atlético San Luis, which could put him back on Klinsmann’s radar for the September friendlies. Strangely, he didn’t even make the Gold Cup provisional roster after featuring frequently in a short period of time over the fall and winter.
Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana)
When Rubén Omar Romano took over as Tijuana’s manager, one of his first moves was to buy Orozco from his former club, Puebla. Orozco was an integral part of Romano’s team in 2013-14 when they worked together, and he jumped straight into the starting 11 in Tijuana as well, playing all 180 minutes of the Liga MX season so far. The move also took Orozco closer to his hometown of Orange, California, making him the latest Southern Californian to move to the club just across the border. With the unsettled U.S. central defense, his next step could be a return to the national team in a competitive environment.
William Yarbrough (León)
Yarbrough finds himself fighting for his place on the U.S. goalkeeper depth chart, more so with Howard's pending return next month. He made the Gold Cup squad ahead of MLS keepers Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, who had been regular call-ups behind the likes of Howard, Guzan and Nick Rimando. That he's 26 helps his cause for the distant future given Guzan (30) and Howard (36) are older, but he'll need to take a serious leap to another level if he's to push either for the No. 1 job under Klinsmann.
Intermittent call-up Édgar Castillo played the full 90 minutes in Monterrey’s 3-0 loss to Pumas to open the season, as well as a 3-1 Copa MX win over Ascenso club Correcaminos UAT. … José Torres’s Tigres made it all the way to the Copa Libertadores final against River Plate, but Torres saw no action in either match; he also hasn’t been called in by the U.S. since its dos-a-cero World Cup qualifying win over Mexico in September 2013. … Club Tijuana continues to collect and keep young Mexican-Americans by the bucketload. Paul Arriola scored in the Xolos’ Copa MX win over Zacatepec in late July, and he also appeared off the bench in both of the team’s league matches so far. He replaced Alejandro Guido in one of those games, as Guido looks to have his breakout season after spending much of the past two on the bench or on loan. Fernando Arce, Jr., who chose the U.S. over Mexico even though his father played for El Tri, continues to toil with the U-20s, as does John Requejo, Jr. … Since he’s now on loan at Oaxaca instead of Chivas, Juan Pablo Ocegueda has no trouble playing for the U.S., where he’s firmly in the Olympic team picture after helping the team take third at the Toulon Tournament in June.