This year saw a number of transfer moves among Americans Abroad, and while there were some duds in the bunch, there were also some very successful moves made this year.
For some players, judging their transfers after half a year seems a bit early in the game, but we can definitely judge them based on how they stand so far, even though some players could still turn things around and make their transfers successful.
One player who you won’t see on either of these lists is Jozy Altidore. His big-money transfer to Sunderland hasn’t led to glory for the U.S. national team striker just yet, and Sunderland sits in last place heading into 2014. However, he continues to get regular playing time despite the team’s struggles, his own struggles, and a coaching change, which makes it a bit early to write off the move as a failure.
There are some other moves involving Americans that have far less room for doubt about whether they were failures. On the other side of the coin, there were only a handful of moves involving Americans that could be called clear-cut successes, and two in particular that are looking like major positives for the players involved, and for the U.S. national team.
Here are Goal USA’s selections for the five best club moves made by Americans, as well as the five worst.
FIVE BEST FOREIGN CLUB MOVES BY AMERICANS
T5) Zarek Valentin to Bodo Glimt
At first glance, Valentin’s move to the Norwegian second division seemed like a disappointing one for a former U.S. Under-23 national team defender and high first-round MLS draft pick, but Valentin escaped an uncertain situation with the Montreal Impact and helped Bodo Glimt gain promotion to the Norwegian top flight. In the process, he earned a permanent transfer and has boosted a career that had faltered a bit in MLS.
T5) Jose Torres to UANL Tigres
After becoming a staple at Pachuca, Torres moved up to a bigger club in Tigres, where he wasn’t a locked-in starter, but saw plenty of playing time on a squad that was the best in Mexico during the Clausura regular season. He saw less time in the more recent Apertura campaign, and the upcoming season will tell us whether Torres’ future really lies with Tigres.
4) Eric Lichaj to Nottingham Forest
After failing to break through at Aston Villa, where it felt like he never could catch a break, Lichaj joined a quality Forest side in the League Championship and promptly established himself as a regular starting right back. He sat the bench for a few games earlier this month, but has regained his job in time to help Nottingham Forest climb to fifth place, and has earned a recall to the U.S. national team in the process.
3) Michael Orozco to Puebla
When Orozco went on loan to Puebla a year ago, it was unclear what the move would mean for him, but all it did was earn him regular playing time in Liga MX and a way back into the mix with the U.S. national team. A steady starter through both seasons of 2013, Orozco parlayed his loan to a permanent move and he’s now on the radar for a potential place on the U.S. World Cup team.
2) Aron Johannsson to AZ
When Johannsson first made the move to AZ Alkmaar last January, it was unclear what sort of role he would take on. AZ planned shrewdly, and when the Cheese Farmers sold Jozy Altidore to Sunderland, in stepped Johannsson to pick up the goal-scoring slack. His jump from Denmark to the Dutch league has been a smooth transition and now his goal-scoring exploits have interest in him growing as he heads toward the World Cup. A strong showing in Brazil could make Johannsson a target for big-spending clubs next summer.
1) Alejandro Bedoya to Nantes
What a difference 14 months can make in the career of a player. In the summer of 2012, Bedoya’s future was in limbo due to the financial crisis at Glasgow Rangers, but a successful stint at Swedish side Helsingborgs IF helped Bedoya get back in the groove. Bedoya not only parlayed that into a return to the U.S. national team, he also earned himself a big move to French side Nantes.
Bedoya jumped right in with Nantes and earned a starting job, helping the club make an impressive push toward the top of the Ligue 1 standings. He has also carried over his scoring touch from Sweden, scoring three goals for his new team. In the process, he has solidified his place in the U.S. team, making his move to one of Europe’s top five leagues the best of the year for an American.
FIVE WORST FOREIGN CLUB MOVES BY AMERICANS
5) Oguchi Onyewu to Queens Park Rangers
It seems extremely premature to already write off this move considering it just went down in late October, but the fact that Onyewu hasn’t played a single minute yet raises some alarm bells, especially for a player coming off another move (to Malaga) that saw him barely play. Maybe the move turns into something better come 2014, but right now it looks as though Onyewu is once again collecting a nice-sized paycheck for being a bystander.
4) Herculez Gomez to Club Tijuana
After leaving a strong club like Santos Laguna, Gomez was expected to become a regular staple for Club Tijuana. A knee injury delayed his arrival and once he did return to health, Gomez never did quite settle in with the Xolos. The team’s disappointing season led to the firing of manager Jorge Almiron, which just might help Gomez re-establish himself and potentially get back into the U.S. national team picture.
3) Freddy Adu to Bahia
Being paid nearly a million dollars to spend eight months living in a Brazilian beach town probably doesn’t sound like a bad move, but for Freddy Adu, the lack of playing time and carousel of coaches at Bahia made his stint in Brazil a forgettable one. The American playmaker had a handful of different options when it came time to leave the Philadelphia Union, but Brazil didn’t work out all for the 24-year old.
2) Brek Shea to Stoke City
When Stoke landed Shea in a multi-million dollar transfer, there were some questions about just how Shea would fit in with the Potters. A delay in recovering from a foot injury slowed his progression, and a coaching change at Stoke meant having to try and impress a new manager. Mark Hughes has given Shea some brief looks, but it just doesn’t seem as though Shea is in his long-term plans. A loan seems likely, and we might just see Shea leave Stoke City for good without ever really establishing himself.
1) Michael Parkhurst to Augsburg
The Adu and Shea moves will top most people’s lists, but it is easy to forget that Parkhurst faded into oblivion at Augsburg after parlaying some impressive UEFA Champions League performances into a move to join the Bundesliga squad. He made just two appearances with the team early in the year, but has not even made the substitute’s bench in the new season. A move away from the German club seems like a must, but walking away from the biggest payday, and likely last major payday, of his career is probably not an easy move to make for Parkhurst.