Clint Dempsey's return to Fulham, Eddie Johnson's controversy-marred move to D.C. United, and Jose Villarreal's decision to leave the L.A. Galazy for Cruz Azul highlight a busy period for Americans.
DECEMBER TURNED OUT
December 23, 2013
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to be a very busy month for American players, as several found their way to new clubs—including a few who are moving to new leagues. Here is a quick look at some of the moves worth keeping an eye on.
Clint Dempsey to Fulham FC
While not formally announced yet, this deal is the worst kept secret in London. It is easy to get sentimental about this since Clint Dempsey’s success at Fulham was a rallying cry for American fans for five-plus years. The fact is, however, that Dempsey will at Craven Cottage for just a few short weeks no matter how well he plays. Afterward, he will return to Seattle.
What is interesting about this deal is that from 2007-2012, Fulham helped to make Dempsey a better player and raised is stature to being one of the faces of American soccer. In 2014, Fulham may give Dempsey some momentum heading into the World Cup and the start of the MLS season, but it won’t make Dempsey a better player.
This loan actually benefits Fulham more than it does Dempsey. Fulham currently sit in the relegation zone in the Premier League and Dempsey will be a valuable asset for a few weeks to help his former club pick up points and stave off relegation . If Dempsey can help save Fulham, it will resurrect his image with the club after the bitter fallout he had in 2012. It could also cement his status as one of the club’s best-ever Premier League players.
Eddie Johnson to D.C. United
The reports of Eddie Johnson’s final months at Seattle were ugly
—he had problems with his teammates, coaches, and the front office.
D.C. United is rebuilding after a disastrous season and Johnson is going to be a big part of that effort. He is going to get his much-desired pay raise. The pressure will be on him to perform and be a leader off the field as well. It is a gamble on the part of D.C. United and it is impossible to know how it will play out but it will be one of the more interesting stories in the early part of the MLS season.
Jose Villarreal to Cruz Azul
This was a deal that took a lot of people by surprise and it's easy to see why. Villarreal was earning minutes on a talented Los Angeles Galaxy team surrounded by players like Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Omar Gonzalez. He is now going to head out on loan to one of the best teams in Mexico—a place where playing time will be hard to earn.
If Villarreal can establish himself at Cruz Azul, his stock will rise quickly. But there is signifcant risk because he was in a good situation in Los Angeles. Villarreal was one of the more promising young players in MLS, and his move to Cruz Azul and LigaMX will serve as an indicator as to his talent level.
If Villarreal finds success with Cruz Azul on loan and end up joining the club permanently, it will be a major loss for MLS. It is one thing when MLS sells top players to clubs in the major leagues of Europe, but losing one of its best young players to LigaMX (with whom MLS wants to compete) would be a bitter pill to swallow.
Michael Farfan to Cruz Azul
Over the course of his three-year MLS career, Michael Farfan has been hard to figure out. He has been inconsistent but on his best days he has been a very effective player in MLS. It would seem that moving to a top Mexican team would be a bit of a stretch but LigaMX is tough to read. MLS and LigaMX value different skill sets, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Farfan do well.
It is a bold move for Farfan to leave a league where he is comfortable and established. At 25 years of age he is taking a chance and going for it. If he ever wanted to grab the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann, he has stepped in the spotlight. Now it is up to him to make the most of it.
Steve Clark to Columbus Crew
Over the past two seasons Steve Clark earned the reputation as one of the best (if not the best) goalkeeper in Norway. The problem is that his club, Honefoss, was clearly a step below the level of the Tippeligaen. As a result, Clark was usually under siege. After nearly single-handedly saving the club from relegation in 2012, Honefoss was unable to avoid the drop this past year.
Clark is capable of incredible saves and is one of the most athletic American goalkeepers. Now he will have the opportunity to showcase himself with the Crew—a team that will be more competitive than Honefoss and does not face relegation. Clark was always one of the more underrated Americans in Europe and now he will get a chance to prove that he belongs in the U.S. national team setup.
Zarek Valentin to Bodo/Glimt
Last year the Montreal Impact loaned Zarek Valentin to Bodo/Glimt in Norway’s second tier. It was a successful deal as Valentin was the team’s starting right back throughout the season and Bodo/Glimt cruised to promotion by winning the league by a large margin.
Now Valentin has signed a permanent deal with Bodo/Glimt—a move that isn’t gaining much attention but will provide Valentin a chance to improve his stock. The Tippeligaen has been good for American players in recent years, with Joshua Gatt and Mix Diskerud breaking into the national team after playing with two of the best teams in Norway. Will Valentin share a similar fate?
Time will tell but right back is not a deep position for the national team at the moment and Valentin is set to earn a lot of playing time in the Tippeligaen.