On the same weekend Michael Bradley leaves Europe to return to MLS, Clint Dempsey makes his English Premier League return for Fulham against Jozy Altidore and Sunderland.
Dempsey played his first 2014 game for Fulham in FA Cup action last week, but will finally have a chance to help the Cottagers improve their EPL standing with a win against last-place Sunderland -- which is in dire need of three points to close the gap on Fulham.
The Black Cats come in with some confidence after having beaten Manchester United 2-1 in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal last Tuesday. Altidore hasn’t been starting in Sunderland’s most recent matches, but the Fulham matchup should present the American striker with another good opportunity to impress manager Gus Poyet, though the recent play of Fabio Borini and continued steady form of Steven Fletcher could make starting a tough proposition for him.
USA teammates Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan both face tough tasks this round, with Cameron and Stoke City meeting Liverpool on Sunday before Guzan and Aston Villa tussle with league-leading Arsenal. Tim Howard and Everton have an easier road this weekend, taking on Norwich City on Saturday.
In the Championship, a pair of former U.S. Gold Cup teammates square off as Tim Ream and Bolton take on Eric Lichaj and Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Lichaj and Forest come off an impressive FA Cup thrashing of West Ham United, though Lichaj was forced to leave that match with a knock so his availability against the Trotters will be in question. Ream has continued his renaissance with a regular starting role for Bolton.
Danny Williams continues to try and revive his own U.S. national team hopes on Saturday when Reading plays Watford. The Royals are winless in four matches, and have slipped to ninth place in the Championship, but a win could help catapult them back into contention for a top six place.
Brek Shea will be looking to return to the starting lineup for Barnsley on Saturday when the last-place team in the League Championship meets Charlton. Shea did not feature in Barnsley’s FA Cup loss to Coventry City on Tuesday, but will look for his first appearance since his New Year’s Day debut start.
A pair of young American midfielders will also be in action on Saturday, with Duane Holmes and Huddersfield Town taking on Millwall, while American-born Gboly Ariyibi and Leeds United meet Sheffield Wednesday with a chance to break into the Top Six.
In France, Alejandro Bedoya and Nantes will look to halt a two-match losing skid on Sunday with a win against a Lorient side that is 4-0-1 in its past five matches. Bedoya has continued to start for Nantes, which sits in seventh place in Ligue 1, but he will need to step up his attacking game to help his team out of its recent funk.
In Mexico, Friday night will offer a great showcase opportunity for the American contingent at Club Tijuana, when the Xolos take on reigning Mexican champion Club America. New Tijuana manager Cesar Farias started three Americans in the club’s Clausura-opening draw against Atlas, but will be hoping for more offensive production from Herculez Gomez and Joe Corona.
Jose Torres will be hoping for a chance to face his former team on Saturday when UANL Tigres takes on Pachuca. Torres didn’t start in Tigres’ opening loss to Club America, but could feature against the same Tuzos squad he spent six years with.
DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco are in action on Sunday when Puebla takes on Monterrey. Puebla opened the Clausura campaign with a draw, but will be home for Sunday’s showdown against Humberto Suazo and the Rayados.