Spector in Florida, Boyd in Darmstadt, and Gooch!
January 25, 2017
Jonathan Spector to Orlando City
The biggest move Tuesday saw long-time United States national team veteran Jonathan Spector complete his move back to the U.S. and join Orlando City SC. The Chicago native will bring tremendous experience and versatility to a club that could badly use both.
Spector, 30, will join the club in its third year of existence that is moving in to a brand new stadium. Orlando has yet to reach the playoffs after stumbling down the stretch last year. Its offense, led by Kaka and Cyle Larin, is in good shape but the defense is in disarray. Spector is primarily a right back be he can play anywhere across the backline.
As a veteran of Manchester United, West Ham United, and Birmingham City, Spector has played his entire career in England and famously made his professional debut at 18 playing for the Red Devils in a Champions League qualifier. The legendary English club discovered Spector while he played with the U.S. U-17 team at the 2003 Milk Cup and converted him from forward to defense.
Spector has been capped 36 times by the United States national team with his debut coming in 2004 when Bruce Arena cap-tied Spector in a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica (he holds a German passport through his mother). Spector's best international performances came at the 2009 Confederations Cup when he filled in for an injured Steve Cherundolo and helped the U.S. to a second place finish.
Overall his international presence on the U.S. team has been limited, playing behind Cherundolo and eventually losing the back-up spot to Eric Lichaj, Timmy Chandler, and DeAndre Yedlin.
Jason Kreis will now be heading into his first full season as Orlando’s head coach and will be under pressure to show improvement within a team that has spent money and undergone significant front office changes. Spector’s passing out of the back is top notch but more importantly he will provide leadership and maturity to a team that could sorely use it.
Terrence Boyd heads to Darmstadt
Terrence Boyd has been in desperate need of a new club for the past six months—ever since returning from a knee injury that kept him out nearly two years. Prior to his injury, he joined RB Leipzig to be part of the club’s 2.Bundesliga campaign. By the time he returned, Leipzig emerged as one of the best teams in the Bundesliga and possessed a forward lineup that was impossible for Boyd to break into.
On Tuesday, Boyd earned a fresh start, joining Darmstadt on an 18-month deal that will run through the 2017-18 season. The good news for Boyd is that Darmstadt can use all the help it can get as it sits in dead last in the Bundesliga with just nine points—and 11 just goals scored—in 17 games.
Boyd will turn 26 next month, so he's no longer a prospect. Still, he has played very little professional soccer for someone his age, with most of his first-team appearances coming at Rapid Vienna from 2012-2014. (The only other first-team appearances came in his first few months at Leipzig in 2014). In total he has played just 88 professional games in all competitions for a total 6,274 mintutes.
His production numbers are quite good, however, despite his limited minutes. He has scored 40 goals for a ratio of one goal every 157 minutes. For the U.S. national team he has earned 14 caps but is still in search of his first goal (and many of his appearances were late-game cameos).
Saving Darmstadt from relegation is probably too tough of a task for Boyd but if he can remind everyone of the player he once was, then it will be a smart move.
Gedion Zelalem heads to VVV-Venlo
United States U-20 midfielder Gedion Zelalem will sign an extension with Arsenal and go on loan to VVV-Venlo, which is currently the runaway leader in the Netherlands' second tier.
Zelalem, 19, has yet to break in at Arsenal and will now head out on the second loan of his young career. Last year he joined Rangers in Scotland and made 21 league appearances in the club’s successful promotional campaign back to the Scottish Premier League.
Now at VVV Venlo, he will join a club with a seven-point cushion for automatic promotion to the Eredivisie. It is not yet known if the Dutch club will hold an option to buy Zelalem.
Internationally, it is also unclear if Venlo will release Zelalem for next month’s U-20 World Cup qualifying campaign in Costa Rica. The German-born Zelalem made his international debut for the United States U-20 team in 2015 for the World Cup where it lost in a quarterfinal shootout to eventual champions Serbia. This year, Zelalem has played in just one camp for the U-20 team.
Onyewu and Picault in Philadelphia
Major League Soccer opened its preseason this week and the Philadelphia Union made two interesting player announcements.
Fabrice “Fafa” Picault had a good end to the 2.Bundesliga season last year with FC St. Pauli and earned a call-up and cap for the U.S. national team in a friendly against Puerto Rico in May. Now the Manhattan-born Picault will join the Union for a trial this preseason.
The biggest surprise, however, is that the Union also invited former United States World Cup defender Oguchi Onyewu to train with the team. “Gooch,” as he is affectionately known, last played on February 7, 2015 while a member of Charlton Athletic in the English Championship.
Onyewu, 34, is one of the most recognizable players in American soccer history but never fully recovered from the gruesome knee injury he suffered in 2009 October World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. His injury, combined with injuries to Charlie Davies and Stuart Holden, proved costly to the team’s 2010 World Cup campaign.
Since then Onyewu had a series of brief stints with Sporting CP, Twente, Malaga, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, and finally Charlton.
Union technical director Earnie Stewart made it clear that Onyewu is not an official trialist and is simply there for training and fitness. Still, he did leave the door open.
Stewart: "never say never" as far as Onyewu signing, says he's just training right now— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) January 24, 2017