Oguchi Onyewu's signing with Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday took one name off a long list of Americans who need to make club moves in order to boost their World Cup chances.
It also reminded us that Onyewu isn’t the only American who should be looking to make a move to a new club in order to salvage any hopes of earning a trip to Brazil next summer.
Onyewu’s status as a free agent allowed him to move in October, but for a handful of American players currently plying their trades overseas, the looming winter transfer window will serve as the last chance to make a move ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
The number of U.S. prospects mired on the bench for their clubs is considerable, and would be a more alarming concern for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann if not for the improved depth of the U.S. national team pool.
That doesn’t mean Klinsmann isn’t watching these situations closely, because the reality is there are several players who are capable of helping the U.S. at the World Cup, but only if they find regular playing time in the months leading up to Klinsmann’s final decision on a roster.
Not every situation is the same. At present, two of the best players on the U.S. team are facing some interesting decisions come January. Clint Dempsey is mired in a forgettable funk with the Seattle Sounders and has the option of going on a winter loan to stay sharp.
Part of Dempsey’s contract allows him to pursue a winter loan, but the real question now is whether he might not be better off taking time to rest before the 2014 season and the World Cup. He might get that long rest sooner than expect though if Seattle is eliminated from the playoffs early. He could wind up having a month to six weeks of rest before January, which would be more than enough time to recharge the batteries.
And if the Sounders somehow turn things around and overcome their current four-match losing streak and make a run to the MLS Cup title? Then Dempsey would be left with three weeks to recover from a laborious 2013, which might not be enough time.
Michael Bradley’s situation at AS Roma is also a tricky one. He is coming off an ankle injury that has cost him more than a month of the club season, a time during which Roma has gone on a perfect run through Serie A to sit atop the table with an unblemished record. Newly acquired Kevin Strootman has partnered perfectly with Daniele De Rossi, leaving Bradley looking every bit like he might be the odd man out.
So does Bradley leave in January, find a lesser club with more steady playing time in the half-season leading up to the World Cup? Or does he stay in Rome and fight for minutes, something he has done successfully throughout his career? It will probably come down to what sort of interest comes Roma’s way for him. The club has no real reason to sell him and loaning him when he is the natural back-up for both Strootman and De Rossi could leave Roma exposed a bit. It would take a sizable transfer offer, the kind that rarely comes in January, to see him leave, and the fact he hasn’t been playing might make the possibility of a big winter offer even less likely.
Bradley has been through a similar situation once before during his frustrating loan stint with Aston Villa in 2011. He failed to earn regular playing time after joining Villa on loan, but to his credit he still turned in a strong 2011 Gold Cup the subsequent summer. Things aren’t quite that desperate just yet, and you would think Roma manager Rudi Garcia will find minutes for him in order to keep his squad fresh.
Dempsey and Bradley have more appealing prospects than some others because, when it boils down to it, they are two of the USA’s best and will be on the World Cup team next summer as long as they are healthy. For several other players in the pool, the coming months are filled with far more uncertainty.
There are still two months to go between now and the January transfer window, but for the following American players the prospects of a January move are growing by the day.
Here is a rundown of top American players and prospects who should be looking for moves in January:
The 2010 U.S. World Cup midfielder was a regular on Klinsmann’s squads when he was seeing regular playing time, but since moving to Stoke City his opportunities have diminished along with his club minutes. Stoke is overloaded with defensive midfielders, so it’s tough to see him breaking through any time soon.
There was plenty of interest in Edu last summer, so he shouldn’t lack for options when January roles around.
The right back has struggled to get on the field for Augsburg, and isn’t even making the bench for his team. It would seem like a no-brainer for him to leave the Bundesliga club, but there is also the fact that he’s on the biggest contract of his career, and any move would likely mean an astronomical pay cut.
Parkhurst will eventually have to decide whether he wants to do that in order to boost his chance of making the World Cup team, which isn’t that far-fetched because you could argue that when he’s playing regularly he can be one of the best right backs in the U.S. pool. A return to MLS could help him.
Another Stoke City player struggling to see the field, Shea has already made it public that he badly wants a loan move for the second half of the Premier League season, and there really is no reason for Stoke City not to oblige.
Will a successful loan move be enough to force him back into the U.S. picture? It just might, but he’s also faced with the reality that the quality of wing options at Klinsmann’s disposal has improved since the days where Shea was starting regularly for the national team two years ago.
The Club Tijuana midfielder has had arguably the most drastic drop off of the past three months of any U.S. player. In July, Corona was shining in the Gold Cup and looking like a good bet to be a World Cup participant. A coaching change at Club Tijuana and subsequent benching of Corona has left his future in doubt. Corona has fallen behind American teenager Paul Arriola on the Xolos depth chart.
So where will Corona go? His high salary makes MLS a highly unlikely option, while Tijuana probably couldn’t afford to loan him to another Liga MX club. The reality is Corona may have a hard time leaving the Xolos this year and will need to find a way to fight his way back onto the field if he wants any chance at being on the U.S. World Cup team.
Adu’s second departure from MLS took him to Brazilian club Bahia, where it was believed his skillful style could thrive. A carousel of coaching changes and months without playing time later, Adu is looking like a prime candidate for another move.
Where could he go next? MLS isn’t an option right now because there aren’t many teams that would take on his high salary demands, but a return to Europe is a very real possibility. A return to Turkey, where he enjoyed a successful stint with Rizespor, could be one possibility.
The young American speedster is stuck in the reserve team setup at Hoffenheim and has yet to meet the expectations he generated as a youth national team star. A loan move to St. Pauli last year earned him some playing time, but he has returned to Hoffenheim and is once again stagnating in the reserves.
Gyau isn’t someone who is on the World Cup radar, but with playing time for Hoffenheim looking far off, Gyau should be looking for a winter move anyway to help get his career rolling.