Sometimes, even the smallest of cameo appearances can have the most meaning, and even a brief appearance off the bench can be the first step towards a return to glory.
Steve Cherundolo came on in second-half stoppage time of Hannover 96’s 2-0 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday, and while his appearance had little impact on the match, his first competitive appearance in six months still carried considerable significance.
The 34-year-old right back could still play a part in the 2014 World Cup for the United States if he returns to full health and form, but Cherundolo’s injury setbacks have jeopardized that standing. His cameo on Sunday offers the first tangible sign in half a year that Cherundolo might be able to make a run at his fourth World Cup.
Cherundolo wasn’t the only American to make his club season debut this weekend. Brek Shea came on as a 59th-minute substitute in Stoke City’s 4-0 dismantling by Everton. Tim Howard recorded another shutout for the Toffees, but Shea’s first league appearance this season was arguably the more significant news from a national team standpoint. Shea is coming off a promising substitute appearance and a lackluster start for the U.S. national team in its two November friendlies, but his 31-minute effort could be a first step toward more regular playing time for the Potters.
In Italy, Michael Bradley was handed a start for AS Roma and played 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Atalanta. Deployed in an advanced midfield role in the first half before slotting back into a more customary defensive midfield role in the second half, Bradley had mixed results on the day as Roma settled for a fourth straight draw.
Jozy Altidore didn’t have as much luck finding minutes. The Sunderland striker failed to make it off the bench in the Black Cats' 0-0 tie against Aston Villa. Manager Gus Poyet didn’t turn to Altidore despite the fact Sunderland managed just one shot on goal on the day. Brad Guzan made one save to preserve the shutout.
John Brooks continues to sit on the sidelines for Hertha Berlin. Having recovered from an October elbow injury, Brooks is now dealing with a knee injury that cost him yet another match. This time it was Hertha Berlin’s 0-0 tie against Augsburg.
Jermaine Jones had better luck in Germany, scoring a beautiful goal and turning in a strong outing in Schalke 04’s 3-0 win against Stuttgart on Saturday. Jones struggled in the U.S. national team’s two friendlies in November, but looked closer to his best in the win on Saturday.
In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan started and played 90 minutes in Anderlecht’s 2-1 victory against Cercle Brugge. The victory kept fifth-placed Anderlecht six points behind first-place Standard Liege, but just two points back of Club Brugge, which is in second place.
Aron Johannsson and Alejandro Bedoya both started for their clubs, but neither tasted victory. Johannsson’s AZ suffered a shocking 3-2 loss to NEC Nijmegen on Sunday, while Bedoya’s Nantes suffered a 1-0 setback against Guingamp on Saturday.
In Mexico, Jose Torres saw his season come to an end as UANL Tigres fell to Club America in the Liga MX Apertura playoffs. Torres came off the bench and played 17 minutes in Sunday’s 1-1 second-leg draw. The teams finished tied 3-3 on aggregate, but Club America advanced as the higher seed.