BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, February 7, 2011
With the 2011 winter transfer window now closed, here's a brief rundown of some of the more important deals that were reached in January and what exactly they mean for the clubs, the players, and the US national team.
Jermaine Jones from Schalke 04 to Blackburn
This was obviously a deal that was necessary. After missing the entire 2009-2010 season with an injury, Jones' return to action only lasted a few months before he had a falling out with Schalke head coach Felix Magath and was relegated to the reserves.
In all, it was a great deal for Jones to head to Blackburn because it shows that despite having played such little soccer over the past two years, a top flight team is still very interested in his services.
For the US national team it was also obviously a great move but Jones must seize the day. He is 29 and is just starting to break into the US national team. He will have tight competition from Michael Bradley, Maruice Edu, and Stuart Holden who will all be in their prime years in 2014 while Jones will be 33.
Michael Bradley from Borussia Monchengladbach to Aston Villa
Michael Bradley's move to Aston Villa is one that is very ambitious for the 23 year old but Bradley always seems to break into the starting lineup wherever he goes.
It also marks the latest step in a young career that has consistently progressed. After starting out in the MLS at just 16, he then moved to the Eredivisie at 18, then to the Bundesliga, and now to a historically strong English Premier League team.
It was important that he moved from Monchengladbach who were decimated by injuries to their defense which forced everyone to play on their heels. At Aston Villa, Bradley will now be able to play in a more attacking role which has always been the strongest area of his game. The gritty goal scorer will now be in a position to do so at Upton Park.
From the US national team's point of view, this comes at the right time. The next World Cup is still three years away and the need for having a key player consistently have playing time is not as pressing as it is in other years. Bradley can take some time and break into the lineup and emerge as a truly elite player.
Oguchi Onyewu from AC Milan to FC Twente
This is another deal that had to get done so that Onyewu can begin to put his career back together. Since moving to Milan, Onyewu has played very little for club and country both because of health and the brutal knee injury he suffered in October 2009.
Onyewu's knee should be healed and if his recent back injury is not serious, then he can begin to reemerge as a top American player in Europe with a solid Twente team which is among the best in Holland.
From the US national team point of view, this is perhaps the most important development of the winter transfer window because the central defense is the worst it has been in recent memory.
With Jay DeMerit having been out of action for 10 months in addition to Onyewu's absence, the remaining options are Carlos Bocanegra, who is usually a left back, and Clarence Goodson. After that, what is left are MLS youngsters in Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez.
Jozy Altidore from Villarreal to Bursaspor
This loan deal for Altidore is less certain of success than most of the other American deals in this transfer window.
Since signing for Villarreal, Altidore has not seen much time with the elite Spanish club. He has gone on loan twice and each time has not gone well.
Altidore's first loan to Xerez did not result in any playing time. His second loan to Hull City in the English Premier league saw increased playing time but not much production.
It also saw embarrassing moments in the form of him being suspended for arriving late to a game then divulging the details via Twitter and also a red card for headbutt during a crucial game at the end of the season.
Now he heads to a team that in Bursaspor that is currently in second place in Turkey and only two points out of the lead. They are currently third in the league in terms of goals scored so Altidore will have to play well to justify playing time.
Altidore is not going to a team that needs him so it will be up to him to finally show that he is worthy of being on good European club.
Josh Gatt from Altach to Molde FK
Two months ago, Josh Gatt was just another American youngster with no international experience trying to make his way in a lower level European league.
Now Gatt is an emerging US U-20 international playing in the top league in Norway while being coached by a Manchester United legend in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who, as it turns out, was interested in acquiring Gatt for several months.
This is a very good move because it is always good when a young player shows a quick upward trajectory in Europe. Gatt's success also translated into the US U-20 national team when he emerged as one of the team's best players after two goals and three assists in a single game against Canada in December.
At 18 years old, Gatt is now certainly one of the top young American players to watch in Europe.
Eddie Johnson from Fulham to Preston North End
Eddie Johnson's move from Fulham to Preston North End can be viewed as good only so far as it will hopefully result in some playing time.
Johnson's European career has generally been a disappointment where he has not found much success aside from a brief stretch of good play last year when he went on loan to Aris in Greece. He was never very productive for Fulham or even Cardiff City where he went on loan in 2008.
Now at 26, he finds himself on a desperate Preston North End team that is in last place in the Championship. While significant success in Europe will probably never happen, if he can contribute for Preston and help them avoid relegation, he will probably have finally found a level where he can finally settle down.
Robbie Findley from Real Salt Lake to Nottingham Forrest
In what would have been a great move for the struggling striker to move to promotion contending Championship team, the recent announcement of a thigh injury serves as a major setback.
Findley could miss up to three months and likely won't contribute to the club until next season.
Freddy Adu from Aris to Rizespor
This loan move represents the latest downward step for the once overhyped Adu. Now in the second division in Turkey, Adu will hope to finally have found a level where he can play regaularly.
This move can in no way be viewed as a success but rather a sobering reality check. While his high valued contract with Benfica still probably scares some teams from taking him on loan, the fact is that no teams other than a lower-division Turkish team would take the risk. Trials in Switzerland, Denmark, and the lower divisions of Germany did not attract much interest.
The wake-up call should be clear. If Adu does not succeed at Rizespor, what is next?
Sean Cunningham to Molde FK
In another interesting move, 18 year old Sean Cunningham signed his first professional contract in January with Molde FK where he will play with long-time friend Josh Gatt and under the coaching of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Cunningham's deal is exciting because the club seem to be quite high on him which means that he could get playing time as the season starts.
The added significance of this deal is that Cunningham plays left-back which has long been the Achilles' heel of American soccer.
Should Cunningham earn playing time early going for Molde, it could very much add a solid new component to the US U-20 national team. Cunningham has not played for the US U-20 team and the team's current left-back Gregory Garza does not play for his Portuguese second division club Estoril.
Edson Buddle from the LA Galaxy to Ingolstadt
In one of the more surprising deals, Edson Buddle has left the MLS for Europe. But as one of the league's best goal scorers, he now finds himself at a club trying to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga 2.
Buddle's move probably has a lot to do with an increased paycheck because at 29, this was the last time for him to make a relevant move to Europe. If he can help the club avoid relegation, his deal will have been a success.
While making the move to Europe usually is done with the goals of personal improvement, Buddle has probably already reached his potential.
For the US national team, as long as he plays for Ingolstadt he will probably be the same player now as he was if he stayed with the Galaxy. Buddle remains a likely player for the US Gold Cup team this summer, so success at Ingolstadt will be important.
Jemal Johnson from MK Dons to Lokomotiv Sofia
In what is one of the most underrated deals for an American player at transfer window, forward Jemal Johnson will now find himself on a club that can sneak itself into European competition this year.
The New Jersey native was previously with Milton Keynes Dons where he scored 12 times in 96 appearances since joining the club in 2007.
He has had a journeyman career throughout England after joining Blackburn in 2004 with his first professional contract.
Still at just 25, Johnson now finds himself on a decent Eastern European club that he can help lead to European competition. This is a great deal for him as he was stagnated in the lower leagues in England for too long.