Familiar Faces in New Places: Breaking Down USMNT Summer Transfers

It has been a busy summer for the USMNT and its players. A perfect nine points to take the lead in CONCACAF’s final stage of World Cup Qualifying? Check. Undefeated run to hoist the Gold Cup for the first time since 2007? Check. A random August trip to the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina to play a Wednesday friendly with hardly any training? Check. Additionally, several key American players have swapped clubs during this crucial summer, trying to best position themselves for a spot on the plane to Brazil for next year’s World Cup.

jozy-altidore-sunderland
Early returns from Sunderland mean good things for Jozy Altidore (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Dan Popko has been  updating the transfer ticker on the blog these last couple of months, but with the games themselves taking top priorities, we have not analyzed the moves in detail. That’s what this post is for, to get all the transfers in one spot. Transfers will be listed in order from most to least important, in my humble and always correct opinion. Feel free to agree or disagree with in the comments.

All dates and transfer fees are taken from transfermarkt.co.uk. This site has transfer fees in pounds, which I have converted to American dollars via Google’s pounds to dollars calculator (rounded to the nearest ten thousandth). Any cheap shots taken at Sunderland are from the point of view of a long-suffering Newcastle United fan.

1. Jozy Altidore AZ Alkmaar>>>>>Sunderland AFC (July 7, $13,650,000)

Altidore’s move to Sunderland was not the most high profile transfer, as we’ll see in a moment, but it was the most important for the long term future of the USMNT. The man who, barring injury, will start up front in Brazil will get his second chance to shine in one of the best leagues in the world after his disappointing 2009-10 season at Hull City. Altidore rejuvenated his career at AZ, bagging 51 goals in 93 matches in all competitions during his time in Holland. In an early American Soccer Junkies podcast, Dan Popko and I were in virtual agreement that Altidore would be moved to a mid-level English Premier League club. We were correct, as Sunderland swooped in and paid AZ £8,800,000 to bring the American star to the Stadium of Light. Altidore starts right away and could form a dangerous forward combination with Steven Fletcher to give the goal-starved Black Cats (what a stupid nickname) a shot at finishing in the upper half of England’s top league. Altidore’s previous loan stint in England’s top-flight with Hull did not go well, as he only scored once in 28 league matches. Of course, he’s a much better and more complete player than he was four years ago. While the Premier League is not as wide open as the Dutch Eredivisie, double-digit goals is not out of the realm of possibility for the United States’ best striker.

clint-dempsey-seattle-sounders
Clint Dempsey arrived in Seattle to much fanfare (Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

2. Clint Dempsey Tottenham Hotspur>>>>>Seattle Sounders FC (August 3, $9,280,000)

Dempsey is probably the best player in the USMNT’s ever-growing player pool — although Michael Bradley is fast closing the gap — but his shock move from English juggernaut Spurs to MLS is not as important of a transfer as Altidore’s. The main reason is because Dempsey is an established pro, who has spent the last seven years slowly crafting his game in England. No matter where Dempsey plays, he will succeed, be it in England, the United States or Siberia (Editors Note: Come and get him Tom Tomsk!). At age 30, we know what we’re getting with Dempsey: Offensive creativity with a knack for finding the net combined with a work rate rivaled by few. Expect him to lead Seattle deep into the MLS playoffs, while continuing to sport the captain’s armband and enjoy the luxury of having the offense run through him for the Stars and Stripes. To prepare for the World Cup expect a return to England on loan during the winter a la Landon Donovan’s spell with Everton in 2010. The legacy of Dempsey’s return to the good ‘ol US of A will be written during the next World Cup cycle.

3. Clarence Goodson Brøndy IF>>>>>San Jose Earthquakes (July 1, Free transfer)

There are more talented players with bigger upsides than Goodson on this list, but the tall Virginian has more to gain or lose than any of them. After a strong Gold Cup saved his national team career, Goodson’s spot in the squad is unknown to anyone outside of Jürgen Klinsmann and his coaching staff. He could easily either start the opener in Brazil or watch it on TV with the rest of us come next summer. Returning home should help his cause. Goodson was in and out of the squad during his last year in Denmark, but will be asked to anchor the back line for a San Jose side that has failed to live up to lofty expectations during this MLS campaign. What his future holds? I have no idea, but at age 31 with young talent on the rise, this cycle may be his last chance to have an impact for the red, white and blue.

4. Alejandro Bedoya Helsingborgs IF>>>>>FC Nantes (August 9, Free agent)

Bedoya was one of the Yanks affected by the liquidation process that sunk Glasgow Rangers to Scotland’s fourth division. Thankfully, he fled Ibrox and took his talents to Sweden on a short-term deal. In his one year in the Allsvenskan he netted five goals, while impressing in the Europa League. After an impressive finish to the 2013 Gold Cup, Bedoya was linked to Dutch side FC Twente, but the deal fell through. Recently, he signed a contract with the newly promoted French side FC Nantes. Ligue 1 is an underrated league and Nantes will struggle to stay in the top flight, but a strong showing by the American could push him into the discussion for future qualifiers and ultimately the World Cup next year. Expect Bedoya to methodically work his way into the starting lineup for a club lacking in talent.

5. Herculez Gomez Santos Laguna>>>>>Club Tijuana (July 1, $3,140,000)

Herc continues his nomadic journey throughout Mexico, this time heading north to Tijuana where he will join fellow Yanks Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo. Gomez has performed admirably in Mexico since his debut in Liga MX with Puebla in the winter of 2010. Like Goodson, Gomez is another player whose position in the squad is unknown. Once considered a lock for Brazil, a nagging knee injury has put his future with the USMNT in doubt. His pedigree in Mexico should get him significant match time as either a striker or winger once he’s recovered, but he needs to stay healthy in order to reclaim his spot in Klinsmann’s 23-man squad.

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Since his move to Nottingham Forest, Eric Lichaj has made a case for his USMNT inclusion (Photo Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe)

6. Eric Lichaj Aston Villa>>>>>Nottingham Forest (July 1, Free transfer)

A product of Villa’s youth system, the Illinois-born Lichaj finally gained and temporarily held a starting spot with the Birmingham side’s first team in the 2012/13 season. It could not have gone worse, as Villa’s defense ranged between “mediocre” and “downright atrocious” throughout last year’s English Premier League campaign. Lichaj lost his starting spot at left back and, at the conclusion of last season, the Villans announced that they would not resign the former UNC Tar Heel. Lichaj was quickly snapped up by Championship side Nottingham Forest, giving the 24-year-old defender another chance in England. Early returns have been good, with Forest starting the 2013/14 season with five wins and one draw in league and Capital One Cup games. With the USMNT fullback depth razor thin to the point that midfielders have been playing in key WCQ’s, a strong year could vault Lichaj back into the Yanks’ lineup, where he has not featured since Klinsmann took over.

7. Danny Williams TSG 1899 Hoffenheim>>>>>Reading FC (July 1, $2,730,000)

Williams clearly needed a change of scenery, as he had been a forgotten man for the struggling Bundesliga club. Surprisingly, the German-American left Germany altogether, signing with newly-relegated Championship side Reading. Williams will have to earn a place in the starting XI, as Reading hopes to quickly return to the Premier League. The defensive midfielder’s biggest obstacle in reclaiming a spot with the U.S. first team is the collection of players ahead of him. Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, Mix Diskerud Sacha Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu are all ahead of Williams in the holding midfield role. No matter how well Williams adjusts to England, it may be too much of an uphill battle for him to claim a spot on the 2014 World Cup roster.

8. Carlos Bocanegra Rangers FC>>>>>CD Chivas USA (July 1, Free transfer)

A day after Bocanegra’s unsuccessful loan spell at Racing Santander expired, Rangers sent the former USMNT captain home to California with Chivas USA. Bocanegra has received much-needed playing time for MLS’ biggest headache of an organization, but the quality of his performance has left a lot to be desired. His national team career may be over forever in doubt and the next time we see him wearing the stars and stripes could very well be in a testimonial match.

9. Juan Agudelo New England Revolution>>>>>Stoke City (January 1, 2014, Free transfer)

Long rumored to be heading across the pond, the striker will join Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu at Stoke at the conclusion of the MLS season. This move will be explored further in the coming months.

10. Alfredo Morales Hertha BSC>>>>>FC Ingolstadt 04 (July 1, Free transfer)

Like Williams, stuck behind a bunch of quality players at the holding midfield position. Unlike Williams, has not gotten the opportunities with the main side. A strong season in Germany’s second division could lead to more opportunities for another member of the German-American contingent, especially thanks to his ability to deputize in defense.

11. Freddy Adu Philadelphia Union>>>>>Esporte Clube Bahia (March 24, Season-long loan)

Has played just 22 minutes in Brazil’s Serie A since being loaned out in March. Career is once again in limbo. Of course, he is only 24 years old.

12. Mario Rodriguez 1. FC Kaiserslautern U19>>>>>Borussia Mönchengladbach II (July 3, Free Transfer)

Rodriguez did not find the back of the net at the U-20 World Cup this summer, but he did look like a potential star in the making in Turkey. Has been used as a substitute thus far, but a spike in performance could lead to a spot with Mönchengladbach’s main squad, channeling the specter of Michael Bradley. Will be one to watch in the next few years.

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