Cup hopes rest on Yanks abroad
More so than in previous World Cups, the U.S.' first team in South Africa this summer will consist almost entirely of foreign-based players. You only need to have seen the U.S. performance against Honduras in January to realize that this team going nowhere with the core of MLS players who fell to
Only one MLS player from that game,
A rash of injuries to foreign-based players has raised alarm bells in recent weeks about the U.S.' chances at the World Cup. On the positive side, several key players are playing the best soccer of their club careers. In particular,
Any chance England will underestimate the 27-year-old attacker has been shot by Donovan's string of solid performances for Everton. After three failed stays in Europe, he has finally achieved the respect he yearned. It was a coincidence that Donovan joined the Toffees just as they hit their best patch of the season.
But Donovan, playing a free role in midfield like he has done for the U.S. in the last year, has been a key contributor for Everton in the six Premier League games he has played -- wins over Manchester City, Sunderland, Wigan and Chelsea on Wednesday, a tie with Arsenal in his debut and a lone loss to Merseyside rival Liverpool.
Against Chelsea, Donovan assisted on
"That was Landon's best game for us," Everton manager
Donovan's reversal of fortune mirrors that of
Altidore has been real handful for opposing defenders -- drawing a pair of yellow cards in consecutive games against Chelsea and Manchester City. Hull's 1-0 loss at Blackburn on Wednesday was its first defeat since Altidore returned to the lineup.
Then there's U.S. captain,
A month later, Bocanegra is still at Rennes, but back in the starting lineup. Rennes played its best game of the season in a 4-2 win over league leader Bordeaux on Saturday. While Bordeaux's
If you'd have told
It might have been just enough to keep him from fainting if you also told him that
In the last year, the U.S.' problem area has been its back four. Now it's the front six, where the primary candidates to join Donovan, Altidore and
Dempsey and Davies, who combined for four of the seven goals in the U.S.' run to the final at the Confederations Cup, are in a race against the clock to be fit for the World Cup. Beasley and Edu both were on the comeback trail at Rangers when they re-injured themselves. Beasley's injury, described by Rangers manager
The good news for Clark and Holden is that they found (short-term) homes in Europe -- never a foregone conclusion -- after leaving the Houston Dynamo as free transfers. The bad news is that they arrived at Bolton Wanderers and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively, after layoffs of six weeks or longer and both were immediately injured.
Both risk running out of time to regain their form before the end of the European season and failing to make enough of an impression to return to their clubs next season.
The other injured attacker abroad is
We'll have a better idea where the U.S. World Cup hopes stand in the next month. Will Davies return to training at Sochaux? Will
The best-case scenario is that four of five of the injured Americans abroad are ready to go by mid-March and get two solid months of playing time -- enough time for them to find their form but still short enough to be fresh for the World Cup.
That and nothing happens to Donovan or Altidore in the meantime.