BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, February 15, 2010
The recent closing of the 2010 winter transfer window marked the end of a very busy month in which several American players found themselves at new clubs.
As with every other transfer window, there were winners and losers. Some players found themselves with new teams that will provide them an opportunity to further their careers and bring their play to a new level.
Other players, on the other hand, found themselves with teams that are a step back from where they were or where they were expected to be at this point in their careers. Also, there were some players that failed to make a move when it was necessary for them to do so.
So here is a breakdown of the winners and losers of the winter transfer period of this pivotal World Cup year.
Stuart Holden to Bolton Wanderers: Transfer Window Winner
Stuart Holden's anticipated move back to his native UK was widely expected. The versatile midfielder has come off a terrific first few seasons in MLS where he gradually developed into one of the best players in the league while playing on the Houston Dynamo, one of the best teams in the league over the last several years.
The move is coming at a perfect time for Holden, 24, because he is coming off a year where he proved he belongs in one of the world's best leagues. In 2009, Holden earned both a place on MLS's Best XI and earned his first US national team cap. He is now widely expected to make the US's 2010 World Cup roster, and with the injuries the team has suffered, he has a chance to be a first team starter in South Africa.
The move is also coming under the perfect situation for Holden. His head coach at Bolton, Owen Coyle, is showing that he really believes in the young American. At the beginning of January, Coyle was coaching Burnley and Holden went to trial for them. When Coyle left for Bolton halfway through the month, he brought Holden with him where he eventually signed for the rest of the season.
Far too many Americans have found themselves in situations where they have had coaches skeptical of their ability but Holden starts his European career on good terms.
Ricardo Clark to Eintracht Frankfurt: Transfer Window Winner
Like Holden, Ricardo Clark left MLS's Houston Dynamo in January to play in one of the best leagues in the world. The defensive midfielder has long been one of the best players in the league and was a regular with the US national team.
At 27 years old, if Clark was ever to make a move, he had to make it in this window. The chance to now play for a solid Bundesliga team is a very good opportunity. Playing time will certainly be challenging but he possesses all the skills necessary to succeed in Germany.
With the World Cup fast approaching, Clark will have a great chance to prove himself and stand out among the crowded group of central midfielders in the US's player pool.
Landon Donovan to Everton: Transfer Window Winner
The most high profile move made by an American this window is also the best move. The US's best player will now find himself moving to Europe to play for a team that wants him and believes in his abilities.
Unlike last year's loan to Bayern Munich, where Donovan played for an inexperienced and beleaguered coach in Jurgen Klinsmann, Donovan will be playing for a proven and established head man in David Moyes.
Donovan's first few games at Everton have already seen him establish himself as a starter and solid contributor. While his agreement with Everton is only a loan, continued strong play will only increase the pressure to make the deal permanent or will make a transfer to a higher club more likely in the summer.
Freddy Adu to Aris Thessaloniki: Transfer Window Winner
In 2007, Freddy Adu left MLS for Europe to play with Portugal's Benfica. Since then, his career has been in a constant downward spiral. Over that time, Adu has failed to see any regular playing time with Benfica, Monaco, or Belenenses.
Now with Aris on a 18 month loan, Adu has a chance to turn around his misfortune. Still just 20 years old, there is still time for Adu but the perception of being a bust is also fast approaching.
Adu walks away from this transfer window a winner because he appears to be in a situation where the coach, Hector Cuper, believes in him to the point where he is going to give Adu a chance to show he can help the team. Early results have been promising. Adu has already earned playing time, notched a nice assist and scored a game-winning goal since the second half of the season started.
While Adu is still unlikely to make the 2010 World Cup roster, perhaps this move will allow him to improve and become an important player for the 2014 cycle.
After failing at three teams, the fact that Adu can walk away from the transfer window on a new team with a clean slate and a fair chance to prove himself is about as good a move as he possibly could have had.
Gale Agbossoumonde to Sporting Braga: Transfer Window Winner
Gale Agbossoumonde's six month loan to Portuguese leaders Sporting Braga is a very good move despite the fact that it is likely that he may not play with the first team this season.
The 18 year old central defender is one of the best prospects in the American system and having the chance to play with Braga for the second half of the season is a great opportunity for him. Braga's defense so far this season is one of the best in all of Europe having allowed only six goals in their first 17 games.
Regardless of whether or not Agbossoumonde plays with the first team, he now has the chance to learn at a team with an exceptional defense, and if he plays well he can convince Braga to make the loan a permanent transfer this summer.
DaMarcus Beasley to stay at Rangers: Transfer Window Loser
DaMarcus Beasley's failure to move from the Rangers is one of the more disappointing developments of the winter transfer window for American fans.
Beasley has largely been out of favor at the Scottish club since his injury in 2008, and his failure to find a club to give him regular playing time comes at a very bad time for Beasley in both his professional career and his ability to help the US national team.
The physical play of the Scottish league has taken its toll on Beasley who has been injury plagued in recent years. The fact that he is staying in Scotland will likely see him continue to struggle for minutes while always remaining vulnerable to injuries due to his small size.
A chance to play in a league with more open play could have rejuvenated Beasley's career and perhaps given him some momentum heading into this summer's World Cup.
Michael Orozco on loan to Philadelphia Union: Transfer Window Loser
Fairly or unfairly, many US fans remember Orozco for his unfortunate opening minute red card in a pivotal game against Nigeria at 2008 Olympics. But in the season following that tournament, Orozco showed promise as he emerged as a starting center back for San Luis in Mexico's highest division.
Last September things changed and his form dropped sharply and he fell out of favor at San Luis. While his loan to Philadelphia may result in more playing time, it is also not a good move for a talented player like Orozco. Since Philadelphia is an expansion team, it is likely that their defense will be besieged constantly, and that is not a good environment for a young player whose confidence has been shaken.
Eddie Johnson to Aris Thessaloniki: Transfer Window Loser
Since Eddie Johnson had made the move to Europe in 2008, his career has gone in reverse. Two years ago, he left MLS to join EPL club Fulham. Aside from a few occasional moments, Johnson has looked poor in the little playing he has received at both Fulham and at Cardiff, where he went on loan for the 2008-2009 season.
In this recent window, Johnson was loaned to Aris Thessaloniki where he will join his aformentioned compatriot Adu. While this move makes sense for Adu, who is only 20, it is not good for Johnson.
Johnson will be 26 next month and he is at an age when a forward should be established. Instead, Johnson's latest club is his third European club in two years and each move has seen him move down a level in quality. For a striker in his prime, it is not a positive development.
Bryan Arguez to Estoril: Transfer Window Loser
Bryan Arguez's career in Europe has been puzzling. When he moved to Hertha Berlin in 2007 as an 18 year old, there were initial reports of him making a solid impression at Hertha. Soon after, however, there were more reports that put his work ethic and off-field decision making in question.
In contrast, at last year's U20 World Cup, Arguez was perhaps the best American player on the field in an otherwise disappointing tournament for the US. He surely looked like a player with a future.
Hertha still remained unimpressed and released Arguez this past December. His move to Estoril this winter may have been necessary but it is disappointing for a player who showed US fans last fall that he has talent superior to a mid-table team in the Portuguese second division.