Americans on the move in Europe

BY foxsports • February 3, 2011

The craziest winter transfer period in recent memory didn’t just make waves in England.

The shocks of all the move making were also felt in the United States, with the national team seeing several players make switches that could have major impacts on the team’s success in 2011.

The busiest international transfer window for American players in recent memory saw eight high-profile American players transfer, mostly of the loan variety, while Charlie Davies appears set to join that group with a move to D.C. United.

Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Oguchi Onyewu, Robbie Findley, Jermaine Jones, Edson Buddle, Eddie Johnson and, yes, Freddy Adu, have all switched clubs this winter, all with the hope of boosting careers ranging from promising to desperate.

Here is a look at each of the winter moves made by Americans in Europe, and what we might expect from them:

MICHAEL BRADLEY, ASTON VILLA

After two and a half seasons with Borussia Moenchengladbach, Bradley was ready for a change and managed to pull off a mid-season dream move to English club Aston Villa. The stable of central midfielders at Villa is crowded, but hardly imposing. Captain Stiliyan Petrov is past his best while Nigel Reo-Coker is an underwhelming option.

Manager Gerard Houllier didn’t bring Bradley to sit him on the bench, and a Bradley-Jean Makoun paring in central midfield could help give Villa the boost it needs to move up the standings and away from the relegation zone.

Is the move a good one for Bradley? Without question it is. He will have a chance to showcase himself in the world’s toughest league ahead of a summer that could see him either stay with Villa permanently or parlay a strong spring into a move to an even bigger club. There is always the risk of not playing regularly, but Bradley has played his way into a key starting role for every club he has ever jointed.

JOZY ALTIDORE, BURSASPOR

Altidore seemed destined to go on his third winter loan move in three seasons, but Turkey was a surprising destination. The 21-year-old striker joins the Turkish champions in the thick of a title race, and with Bursaspor recently having added striker Kenny Miller from Rangers, playing time isn’t a lock for Altidore.

The move may raise some eyebrows, but the Turkish Super Lig is tougher than many realize and being in the middle of a title race will mean getting the chance to play in some important and intense matches. Altidore has struggled to score goals on the club level, but he has improved in a variety of ways over the past year. His ability to hold the ball, his passing and his fitness have all improved and if he can find the net in Turkey, Altidore will take a step toward solidifying his place as a starting striker on the U.S. national team.

OGUCHI ONYEWU, FC TWENTE

One of the most inevitable moves of the winter was an Onyewu loan, and the American center back couldn’t have asked for a much better destination than FC Twente -- a strong team in a good league with a manager who knows him well.

Onyewu’s lack of minutes at AC Milan was threatening to jeopardize his place with the U.S. national team, but with Twente he should play regularly on a good team in attack-minded league. He is slotting in at left back for his club team, a position he won’t play for the United States, but the most important thing for him, and the U.S. national team, is that he gets regular playing time. Onyewu remains the best center back in the American system and he will be key to the U.S. team’s success at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

JERMAINE JONES, BLACKBURN ROVERS

A victim of a very public falling out with Schalke 04 manager, Jones had the unique distinction of being highly-regarded midfielder scrambling for a club that was willing to pay his high salary. In stepped Blackburn, which has plugged him right into a starting role.

The move is perfect for Jones and for the national team. Much like Bradley, Jones could play himself into an even bigger summer move, or he could impress enough to sign a long-term deal with a Blackburn side with some pretty lofty ambitions.

ROBBIE FINDLEY, NOTTINGHAM FOREST

What looked like a very good move for Findley has quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Findley signed a two and a half year deal with League Championship side Nottingham Forest, and was on the verge of making his debut, but a badly injured thigh in training that could now keep him out for up to three months.

Findley left Real Salt Lake after letting his contract expire, but we won’t be able to measure the qualify of his transfer until he actually plays. Now that he will miss most of the season, it will be interesting to see if he stays with the club come the summer.

EDSON BUDDLE, FC INGOLSTADT

One of the early winter transfer moves, Buddle made waves by leaving MLS powerhouse Los Angeles Galaxy to sign with a bottom-feeding Bundesliga 2 side. Ultimately, it came down to money for Buddle, who stands to quadruple his 2010 MLS salary with the German club.

Does that mean it’s a good move? Money isn’t the only reason the move works for Buddle. He’ll have the chance to impress European scouts, but there is some risk in joining a team on the verge of being relegated to the third division.

EDDIE JOHNSON, PRESTON NORTH END

There aren’t many players in more dire need of a successful loan move than Johnson, who is in the final half season of his contract with Fulham, meaning his last chance to impress scouts and convince a team he’s worth keeping in Europe.

A loan move to Preston North End, the last-place team in the League Championship, could be just what Johnson needs to show he’s capable of scoring goals. He scored for Greek club Aris a year ago, and showed flashes while on loan with Cardiff City two years ago, but anything short of a strong four months at Preston will likely mean a return to MLS for the U.S. national team striker.

FREDDY ADU, RIZESPOR

There have been few more perplexing career paths than the one taken by Adu, whose memorable transfer to Portuguese giant Benfica has been followed by a full-blown journeyman’s voyage through European soccer backwaters.

Adu has gone from Portugal to France to Greece, and now finds himself in the Turkish second division with Rizespor, a club hoping to play its way back to the first division after two years in the lower division.

The move seems borderline embarrassing, but Adu’s options are few. His salary under his Benfica contract cuts down already limited options, and he could conceivably stay beyond the summer and move up with Rizespor if the club gains promotion (assuming he plays well and actually likes playing in Turkey). If he doesn’t find success with Rizespor, he’ll head toward the summer facing a painfully uncertain future.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the U.S. national team and Major League Soccer.


share story