111413_isi_dempseyclint_mlsjw103013001 Joshua Weisberg/isiphotos.com
The Silly Season

MLS Offseason Loan Moves: Who is Heading Out?

Is Clint Dempsey heading back to the Premier League? Will Landon Donovan play soccer abroad or go on vacation? And what about Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi? ASN's Liviu Bird explores the landscape.
BY Liviu Bird Posted
November 14, 2013
5:32 PM
JURGEN KLINSMANN REITERATED his position on Tuesday in a U.S. Soccer interview that Major League Soccer players who aspire to be on the 2014 World Cup team cannot afford to rest during the next few months.

"We made it clear, our priority No. 1 for them is finding a team to get on loan for January, February into March, or if that is not possible, you have to be with us in January camp," Klinsmann said.

The camp, which he called “mandatory,” begins Jan. 6 in Los Angeles. But Klinsmann didn't stop there.

“If a player has the opportunity to go on loan, you’ve got to go for it. You’re in real competition; you’re in a real competitive environment. You’ve got to have a point to prove and kick-start 2014 that way," he said. "It is important to us to cut short their vacation time, not making it longer than four weeks in December, because it would take far too long to get back into shape and get back into a rhythm before the beginning of 2014, and we can’t afford that.”

Given these statements, we decided to take a look at a few prominent MLS players and speculate where they might go when the transfer window opens Jan. 1.

Landon Donovan
MLS Club: Los Angeles Galaxy
ASN Ranking: 3
Injury Status: Not called into U.S. camp this week due to ankle injury. Out four to six weeks.
Outlook: Donovan has twice gone on loan in the winter, both times to Everton in the English Premier League. However, that was before his Cambodia hiatus and the circus that followed, when he struggled to get back into the U.S. national team picture. Now more than ever, it’s difficult to know what goes through Donovan’s mind when he thinks about the future. Klinsmann specifically named Donovan as a player he wants to see on loan, but as last year showed us, Donovan will do what he feels is best for himself.
Likely Destination: Nothing would be surprising here. After he recovers from injury, Donovan could go back to Europe for a couple months, or he could just show up to January camp and go to Galaxy preseason afterward.

Clint Dempsey
MLS Club: Seattle Sounders
ASN Ranking: 4
Injury Status: Left U.S. camp in Scotland with a calf strain. Also struggled with a shoulder injury toward the end of the MLS season.
Outlook: When Dempsey signed with the Sounders, he negotiated a clause in his contract that allows him to return to Europe for a stint before the World Cup next summer. Despite his recent injury concerns, all indications are that he will indeed exercise that option. Seattle wants to keep him happy, and anything that could help him break out of his below-average form that he displayed in MLS last season would be welcome.
Likely Destination: Recent reports have linked Dempsey with various Premier League clubs. England seems to be his most likely destination, as clubs there are most familiar with his work abroad.

Matt Besler
MLS Club: Sporting Kansas City
ASN Ranking: 7
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: After emerging from the last January camp as a starter for Klinsmann, Besler’s stock has only risen. His superior footskills among U.S. center backs but not overbearing size make him a less-than-ideal candidate for the physical Premier League. However, teams on the European continent would likely value his cerebral play more, and that’s where Besler would receive the biggest boost to his soccer IQ, which still lacks at times.
Likely Destination: Germany would provide the ideal combination of high-level play and emphasis on the mental side of the game.

Graham Zusi
MLS Club: Sporting Kansas City
ASN Ranking: 8
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: Zusi was the third player, along with Donovan and Dempsey, that Klinsmann specifically named as one he would like to see abroad this winter. Zusi said he would be open to getting some playing time elsewhere, but his team is still in the MLS Cup playoffs. If he can find somewhere that will give him playing time, Zusi would benefit immensely from seeing a higher level of play on a consistent basis.
Likely Destination: Zusi went on trial to West Ham in the Premier League in January before deciding to sign an extension with Kansas City. A team in mid- to low-table is his most likely landing spot.

Omar Gonzalez
MLS Club: Los Angeles Galaxy
ASN Ranking: 13
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: Gonzalez spurned multiple overseas and Mexican clubs’ offers to sign a Designated Player deal with the Galaxy this summer. He would fit in best in the Premier League, with his dominating physical presence, but Gonzalez’s biggest need for improvement is in his feet. Time in England would mask those issues, but a move elsewhere on the continent would push him to improve.
Likely Destination: Gonzalez went on loan to FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga two winters ago, where he tore his ACL in his very first training session. Could Timmy Chandler’s club still be interested in taking him on? Stoke City was also reported to be in the negotiations when he re-upped his L.A. deal.

Eddie Johnson
MLS Club: Seattle Sounders
ASN Ranking: 17
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: With the way Johnson’s last stints in Europe ended, it’s hard to see him attracting interest anywhere or wanting to go anywhere this winter. The Sounders could be looking to offload him to another MLS club, which could mean he has his hands full trying to find a permanent home soon, let alone a temporary residence.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Clarence Goodson
MLS Club: San Jose Earthquakes
ASN Ranking: 21
Injury Status: Left out of U.S. camp due to injury. Severity and length of recovery unclear.
Outlook: Goodson landed back in MLS after his career in Scandinavia came to an abrupt end. He is still just on the fringes of the national team setup, and no clubs in major European leagues have shown interest in him. Despite a start in the final Hexagonal match, it would be surprising to find him on the plane to Brazil unless something drastically changes before next summer.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Kyle Beckerman
MLS Club: Real Salt Lake
ASN Ranking: 18
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: It’s hard to say just how much Beckerman figures into Klinsmann’s plans for the World Cup. He played a major role in the Gold Cup, but his inclusion on the squad for important games is still spotty. Beckerman has never really shown interest in going abroad, even for a short period of time, staying in MLS for his entire professional career so far. He doesn’t appear to be on anybody’s radar outside the U.S.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Nick Rimando
MLS Club: Real Salt Lake
ASN Ranking: 22
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: It’s always more difficult for goalkeepers to move on loan than field players, barring injury catastrophe at a club. Even then, loans tend to last just two or three weeks while players recover, at which point the loanee is sent back to his club. Add in Rimando’s age and the fact that nobody would likely see him as a prospect for the future, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be going anywhere to escape the Utah winter.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Brad Evans
MLS Club: Seattle Sounders
ASN Ranking: 26
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: Evans may want to go somewhere this winter, but it’s not likely that anybody will want to take him on. He’s also locked into negotiations with the Sounders to renew his expiring contract, so his focus is squarely at home. Playing out of position with the national team doesn’t help his case, as teams abroad are likely not certain where exactly Evans fits into a team.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Brad Davis
MLS Club: Houston Dynamo
ASN Ranking: 34
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: As with Evans and a couple others at the bottom of this list, Davis isn’t a strong candidate for a loan because he isn’t on anybody’s radar outside the U.S. Again like Evans, he doesn’t provide much to any team that could take him on, besides his service on free kicks — which isn’t any better than most teams abroad have already. The Dynamo midfielder is a long shot for the World Cup squad, and an even longer shot for a winter loan.
Likely Destination: January camp.

Chris Wondolowski
MLS Club: San Jose Earthquakes
ASN Ranking: 39
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: If Wondolowski wanted to go on loan somewhere, the end of last season was his opportunity to do so. He had a mediocre 2013 season by his standards, and his national team successes came against extremely weak opposition, making it highly unlikely that he turned heads abroad. He seemingly receives call-ups only when others are unavailable due to injury, so he doesn’t seem to be on Klinsmann’s mind much, either.
Likely Destination: Wondolowski is far down the U.S. depth chart at forward. He’ll need a great showing at the January camp, as well as several goals in any friendlies, to earn a ticket to Brazil.

Carlos Bocanegra
MLS Club: Chivas USA
ASN Ranking: 41
Injury Status: Healthy.
Outlook: When it comes to the national team, the past year has not been a good one for Bocanegra. Turmoil at Rangers led to his loan to Racing Santander, where he couldn’t find any playing time. Klinsmann stripped him of his armband for the U.S., and Bocanegra was happy to move to his native Southern California when Chivas USA picked him up. It seems his European adventures, which included great stints at Fulham and in France’s Ligue 1, are over.
Likely Destination: If Klinsmann has any plans for the former U.S. captain — and it’s not looking like he does — then he’ll probably have to earn his way back into the picture during the January camp.

Do you have a feeling on where players should end up? Let us know your thoughts on moving players on loan in the Comments section.

Liviu Bird is ASN’s tactical analyst. He is also the Cascadia contributor for SoccerWire.com.

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