BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, February 10, 2012
With the winter transfer window now in the history books and with the dust now settled from all the moves that were made, it is worth a look back to see how several Americans did with their moves.
It wasn't the busiest of transfer windows for Americans but several important deals were made that could be important to the US national team moving forward.
Here are the most important moves that happened in January
Mikkel Diskerud to Gent on loan
It's still too early to tell how much playing time Mikkel Diskerud will get the remainder of the season in Belgium but the fact is that he now finds himself on a solid Gent team that is looking to challenge Anderlecht for first place.
Bottom line is that it was a great move for the US U-23 midfielder. He had to get out of Stabaek who were in major financial trouble. It is likely that he can show some promise, Gent will look to buy.
Diskerud had simply done everything there is to do in Norway. With Stabaek he had become a regular starter, won a title, and been among the better players on his team. Norway is a good place for a young player to earn playing time but it was time for Diskerud to move on and challenge himself.
The Belgian Pro League is a solid step up but it a step he should be able to handle. Diskerud will now have a great opportunity to take his career to a new level.
Landon Donovan to Everton on loan
This deal happened long ago in December but it's worth looking back and examining.
Donovan is clearly one of the best American players to ever play. He may be the most effective player to ever suit up for the US national team.
One of the constant criticisms of Donovan is that he never has played in Europe for an extended period of time. Still, this loan deal to Everton has worked out great and Donovan has played well ever since he first suited up early last month.
Everton is the clear winner of the loan because after struggling for most of the season, they got an effective player for two months who has given the club a boost.
Has it helped Donovan? If Donovan needed a confidence boost, then yes it has helped. But at 29 years old, a trip to Europe isn't going to improve him as a player. He is most likely as good as he is ever going to be no matter what club he plays for. He is also unlikely to stay at Everton since the club lacks funds to make MLS a fair offer.
American soccer fans have certainly loved watching Donovan play in one of the world's best leagues but if Donovan looks fatigued for the important World Cup qualifiers or CONCACAF Champions League games that lie ahead, it may call into question the wisdom of such a loan. If he is fatigued, it also may decrease the chances that Donovan will be an overage selection at this summer's Olympic gaems.
Herculez Gomez to Santos Laguna
The frequently traveled Herculez Gomez found yet another club after he signed for Santos Laguna after parting ways with Estudiantes Tecos.
Gomez is 29 years old and has not been able to work his way into Jurgen Klinsmann's plans for the US national team. If Gomez plays well for Santos, it will be impossible for Klinsmann to ignore him.
Playing time will be harder to come by at Santos Laguna but this move is a good one in that it will give Gomez a chance to compete for the Mexican championship.
Charles Renken to Portland Timbers
This move was one that caught many by surprise but the fact that such a move was made was telling.
A few years ago, Renken was one of the top youth players in the United States. But three ACL surgeries later and a long time away from the game has taken its toll on the young midfielder.
Still only 18 years old, Renken will now have the chance to play for a team that is aware of Renken's injury-prone past. Europe offers better opportunities for young players to develop but Renken's move to Portland is a good one because Portland is very likely to be more patient with Renken than Hoffenheim would be.
If Renken is able to put himself near the path he was on before his first ACL tear, he will have a quick route onto a first team.
Edson Buddle to LA Galaxy
Despite scoring some quality goals for Ingolstadt in Germany, Buddle is now returning to MLS where he has enjoyed great success over the years.
Like Donovan, Buddle is at an age where he is not going to improve as a player. He is at his ceiling. Right now, Buddle needs to play consistently and he will do that in LA. He will also be a key player on the league's best offense.
Instead of playing for team fighting relegation in the 2.Bundesliga, he will now be leading the Galaxy in the latter stages of the CONCACAF Champions League while playing with players like Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Robbie Kean, and Juninho.
Sounds like a very good move for Buddle at this stage of his career.
Omar Gonzalez to Nurnberg
When it was announced in early January that Omar Gonzalez was heading to FC Nurnberg on loan, it had the potential to be one of the best US transfers in recent years.
Nurnberg made it public that they eventually wanted to sign Gonzalez on a permanent deal. This would have allowed the best young American central defender to develop in one of the top leagues in Europe. The US national team is thin at the position but this would have fast-tracked the previously overlooked Gonzalez into a prime position under Klinsmann.
Instead, this once promising move quickly turned into one of the saddest moves ever for a US player. In just his first practice, he was tackled by US national team fullback Timothy Chandler and Gonzalez was diagnosed with an ACL tear.
It is unclear of the future of Gonzalez and he will likely return to training by the fall. The timing couldn't have been worse because when he comes back at the end of the MLS season, he won't have much time to impress and try to force another loan or transfer.
Gonzalez will likely make a full recovery but there is a very good chance that it won't be until the 2013 MLS season that Gonzalez begins to play at the level he was at in the 2011 season.
George John to West Ham
If there was one move that needed to happen, it was for George John to finally make the move to Europe.
After a very strong first part of the 2011 MLS season, John seemed to have worked out a deal in the summer to move to Blackburn. The deal didn't happen and John returned to FC Dallas but did not play as well as he had been the first part of the year.
Now John has been loaned to West Ham until March with the club also having the option to buy the defender for a long term deal.
John is yet to play in a first team match for West Ham and time is running out for John to impress. If John can find a way to break through, it will be very important for the US national team who do not have many young central defenders in Europe.
Tim Ream to Bolton
One year ago, Tim Ream was one of the hottest prospects in American soccer after a terrific rookie season with the New York Red Bulls. After his second year, however, flaws in his game were exposed.
Ream is still a great passing central defender but now he is moving to a very physical league where he will need to correct his weaknesses quickly. Bolton paid top dollar for Ream so they will work hard to make him into the player they believe he can become.
Bolton is currently in a relegation fight after allowing 49 goals in the Premier League. Ream will likely have an opportunity to play for the defensively struggling team and just where Ream stands as a top player will be apparent in the near future.
Billy Schuler to Hammarby
In one of the more interesting deal to take place in the winter, University of North Carolina forward Billy Schuler rejected an MLS Generation Adidas contract to sign with Hammarby who play in the second division in Sweden.
It is not unusual for some American players to reject MLS offers but it is unusual for a likely top draft pick to turn down MLS to play for a team at a low level like Hammarby - who narrowly avoided relegation to the third level last season.
This move is a tremendous risk for Schuler. If he can help lead Hammarby to promotion, he can eventually put himself into a good position similar to that of Charlie Davies and Alejandro Bedoya who were both good players in Sweden.
In a few years, if he is still playing with a Hammarby team in the second division in Sweden, it will be a very bad move for a player who had the potential to be an MLS starter his rookie year.
Robbie Rogers to Leeds
US winger Robbie Rogers has always has superb natural talent. He is fast and has the ability to play with both feet.
Despite that, his growth has stagnated in recent years in MLS. In 2008 he was named to the MLS best XI and in 2009 helped lead Columbus to a Supporters Shield. In 2010 and 2011, Rogers has not played as well but the talent is still clearly there.
Rogers has already played in Europe before. In 2006 he signed with Eredivisie club Heerenveen but returned to the US just a year later.
Still, he is just 24 years old and playing at a historic club like Leeds will help boost Rogers' confidence and allow him to reach the enormous potential he possesses. It is unclear whether or not he will be able to, but the opportunity is there for him.
Charlie Davies returns to Sochaux
Charlie Davies will now return to Sochaux after an up and down loan in 2011 with DC United. During his time in MLS, he looked good at times but it was clear he was not up to the level of his former self before his auto accident in 2009.
Davies is set to make the bench for Sochaux for this first time this weekend but it is unclear what his future at the club will be. Sochaux are having a terrible year and now sit in last place in France. It is hard to see how it is a good move for Davies to be heading back to the club.
Even if Davies national team career is over, he can probably be useful for a club somewhere in Europe but it is unlikely to to be Sochaux.