Posted by: mdegeorge | February 3, 2011

A red, white, and blue end to the transfer window

Monday’s close to the transfer window brought the expected flurry of the unexpected, with tens of millions of dollars switching hands in frantic deadline deals to paper over cracks in relegation-threatened sides or solidify championship and/or European credentials.

But the closure of this year’s window had a decidedly American flavor to it with a couple of the Red, White, and Blue’s most integral members switching addresses.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

The first and most notable is Michael Bradley, the heart and soul of the American midfield, sealing a somewhat surprising six-month loan move to Aston Villa and the biggest stage in club football in the English Premier League.

The official announcement Monday ended a protracted quandary as to where he would land, with the suddenly deep-pocketed Sunderland eager to land the American midfielder after cashing in striker Darren Bent to none other than Aston Villa. Bradley’s parent club, Borussia Moenchengladbach, also reportedly agreed a fee with Turkish club Galatasaray for a loan move.

Of the three potential destinations, Bradley lucked out by heading to Villa Park. Out of favor with relegation-threatened Moenchengladbach, Bradley now has the opportunity to ply his trade in the Premier League. Villa has struggled through the first part of the season, mainly because of the disappointing showing of central midfielders like Steve Sidwell and Stephen Ireland who have been jettisoned in favor of Bradley and newly-acquired Cameroonian Jean Makoun. They are too good of a team to be sitting 13th in the table and are due for a much stronger second half of the season, especially with the new names in the fold.

The Turkish Super Lig wouldn’t have been the worst destination in the world for Bradley, and at Gala, he would have had the opportunity to play in a talented midfield that included such mainstays as Arda Turan, Sabri Sarioglu, and Zvjezdan Misimovic. Gala also have a shot at European football next season though they sit ninth in the suddenly topsy-turvy Turkish top flight that once was among the most predictable leagues in Europe (Bursaspor’s became only the fifth different club to win it since its inception in 1959). But in terms of competition, Turkey is a step to the side if not a slight step back from the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, Villa presents a better situation than Sunderland for Bradley to test himself against the best competition in the world. He has the opportunity to make a difference. Villa has obviously struggled defensively, as evidenced in the loss to Manchester United Tuesday and the fact that they have conceded at least one goal in each league road tie this year despite having one of the top goalkeepers in Premier League history in Brad Friedel. He’s also going to be surrounded by better talent at Aston Villa than at Sunderland, due in large part due to Bent’s defection from the latter to the former. Plus he’s surrounded by countrymen, including Freidel, Eric Lichaj, and Brad Guzan, though he’s out on loan to Hull.

But Bradley wasn’t the only American on the move late in the transfer window in an unusually active day for the Red, White, and Blue.

Jozy Altidore, he of the European futility, also submitted a change of address form that sees him headed to Turkey with defending Super Lig champs Bursaspor. Despite almost unquestionably leading the line for Team USA, Altidore’s production has been notoriously scarce at the club level, yielding a mere five goals in 50 total appearances in Spain and England, including only two from 37 league appearances. He’s in desperate need of a jump-start to his career as he’s approaching some dangerously familiar territory for bright, talented U.S. striking talent.

While a move to Turkey wasn’t best for Bradley, it suits Altidore. It’s a relatively free-wheeling league that thrives on creativity without the astronomical demands placed on the Spanish game by the incredibly high caliber of talent. Altidore may suffer from the pressure of a title race—Bursaspor currently sits second in the table—or he might thrive in the spotlight. Either way, he needs match fitness which he won’t be getting at Villareal. It’s not slight on him, since there are very few players who would be able to get regular time in a forward line featuring Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar (when healthy),  and Marco Ruben. He was making most squads for the Yellow Submarine but not getting match action.

There’s an immediate need for offense for the Green Crocodiles. They sit second in the table largely due to a defense that has allowed a league-low 12 goals in 19 matches. But they’ve struggled offensively, especially at home, where they’ve been able to manage just 13 goals in nine matches. Sercan Yildirim has led the way with six goals this term, but production is down from joint-leading scorers of last year, Pablo Batalla and Ozan Ipek. The team has made a concerted effort to fix the offensive problem by also bringing in Scottish striker Kenny Miller, who the pried away from Rangers despite him bagging 21 goals in 18 league matches in the fall. Both Miller and Altidore have experience in the English style, so they could help each other acclimate to the new surroundings. But this move is looking increasingly like a make-or-break six months already for the 21-year-old.

The striker whose fizzling career Altidore’s is starting resemble was also on the move to close the window, with Fulham’s Eddie Johnson heading to Championship bottom-dwellers Preston North End on loan. The much maligned American hitman has found opportunities to play hard to come by, despite long-term injuries to Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson ahead of him, and the Cottagers desperate need for goals (Clint Dempsey is their leading scorer with eight league goals, while no one else has more than three, and they have the fourth fewest goals scored with 29 from 25 matches.)

Preston are struggling at the foot of the table and may not be the best place for someone trying to revive a career, but Johnson desperately needs to start finding the back of the net in any league he possibly can.

Also finalizing a move on the final day of the transfer window was former Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley, who finally sealed a free transfer to English League Championship side Nottingham Forest.

The move would appear to position him well, with Forest currently in a promotion playoff spot in what is always a compelling race. Findley, who is very talented but lacks a fair amount of polish to his game, has the opportunity to play alongside English veterans such as Robert Earnshaw and Marcus Tudgay.

The move was dealt a blow Wednesday though when it was revealed that he injured his thigh in practice and could face up to 12 weeks on the sidelines.

Also injured is Oguchi Oneywu, who injured his back “lightly” in a Dutch Cup match Jan. 27 for Twente. He missed their match over the weekend, a 2-1 win over Feyenoord.

On a positive note, Edson Buddle scored on his debut with German 2.Bundesliga side Ingolstadt. It was a lovely volley from six yards out and may prove to inject new life into the struggling side.

Meanwhile, the Freddy Adu roller coaster meanders its way into yet another country with the announcement that parent club Benfica have loaned him to Turkish second division side Rizespor through May 2011.

Adu has now appeared in a grand total of 20 matches for Benfica in the three and a half years he has been under its ownership since he came over from Salt Lake. He’s been loaned out to Monaco in France, Belenenses in Portugal, and Aris Thessaloniki in Greece while also trialing unsuccessfully with Swiss side FC Sion, Denmark club Randers, and Ingolstadt.

In minor deals, 18-year-old Erik Opsahl signed a six-month deal with Reading, a team with a penchant for Americans like Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann. The club has the option to extend the deal at season’s end. Lugano in the Swiss second division has signed Italian-American forward Alex Cannas, and Norway’s Molde has inked defender Sean Cunningham.

Monday’s close to the transfer window brought the expected flurry of the unexpected, with tens of millions of dollars switching hands in frantic deadline deals to paper over cracks in relegation-threatened sides or solidify championship and/or European credentials.

But the closure of this year’s window had a decidedly American flavor to it with a couple of the Red, White, and Blue’s most integral members switching addresses.

The first and most notable is Michael Bradley, the heart and soul of the American midfield, sealing a somewhat surprising six-month loan move to Aston Villa and the biggest stage in club football in the English Premier League.

The official announcement Monday ended a protracted quandary as to where he would land, with the suddenly deep-pocketed Sunderland eager to land the American midfielder after cashing in striker Darren Bent to none other than Aston Villa. Bradley’s parent club, Borussia Moenchengladbach , also reportedly agreed a fee with Turkish club Galatasaray for a loan move.

Of the three potential destinations, Bradley lucked out by heading to Villa Park. Out of favor with relegation-threatened Moenchengladbach, Bradley now has the opportunity to ply his trade in the Premier League. Villa has struggled through the first part of the season, mainly because of the disappointing showing of central midfielders like Steve Sidwell and Stephen Ireland who have been jettisoned in favor of Bradley and newly-acquired Cameroonian Jean Makoun. They are too good of a team to be sitting 13th in the table and are due for a much stronger second half of the season, especially with the new names in the fold.

The Turkish Super Lig wouldn’t have been the worst destination in the world for Bradley, and at Gala, he would have had the opportunity to play in a talented midfield that included such mainstays as Arda Turan, Sabri Sarioglu, and Zvjezdan Misimovic. Gala also have a shot at European football next season though they sit ninth in the suddenly topsy-turvy Turkish top flight that once was among the most predictable leagues in Europe (Bursaspor’s became only the fifth different club to win it since its inception in 1959). But in terms of competition, Turkey is a step to the side if not a slight step back from the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, Villa presents a better situation than Sunderland for Bradley to test himself against the best competition in the world. He has the opportunity to make a difference. Villa has obviously struggled defensively, as evidenced in the loss to Manchester United Tuesday and the fact that they have conceded at least one goal in each league road tie this year despite having one of the top goalkeepers in Premier League history in Brad Friedel. He’s also going to be surrounded by better talent at Aston Villa than at Sunderland, due in large part due to Bent’s defection from the latter to the former. Plus he’s surrounded by countrymen, including Freidel, Eric Lichaj, and Brad Guzan, though he’s out on loan to Hull.

But Bradley wasn’t the only American on the move late in the transfer window in an unusually active day for the Red, White, and Blue.

Jozy Altidore, he of the European futility, also submitted a change of address form that sees him headed to Turkey with defending Super Lig champs Bursaspor. Despite almost unquestionably leading the line for Team USA, Altidore’s production has been notoriously scarce at the club level, yielding a mere five goals in 50 total appearances in Spain and England, including only two from 37 league appearances. He’s in desperate need of a jump-start to his career as he’s approaching some dangerously familiar territory for bright, talented U.S. striking talent.

While a move to Turkey wasn’t best for Bradley, it suits Altidore. It’s a relatively free-wheeling league that thrives on creativity without the astronomical demands placed on the Spanish game by the incredibly high caliber of talent. Altidore may suffer from the pressure of a title race—Bursaspor currently sits second in the table—or he might thrive in the spotlight. Either way, he needs match fitness which he won’t be getting at Villareal. It’s not slight on him, since there are very few players who would be able to get regular time in a forward line featuring Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar, and Marco Ruben. He was making most squads for the Yellow Submarine but not getting match action.

There’s an immediate need for offense for the Green Crocodiles. They sit second in the table largely due to a defense that has allowed a league-low 12 goals in 19 matches. But they’ve struggled offensively, especially at home, where they’ve been able to manage just 13 goals in nine matches. Sercan Yildirim has led the way with six goals this term, but production is down from joint-leading scorers of last year, Pablo Batalla and Ozan Ipek. The team has made a concerted effort to fix the offensive problem by also bringing in Scottish striker Kenny Miller, who the pried away from Rangers despite him bagging 21 goals in 18 league matches in the fall. Both Miller and Altidore have experience in the English style, so they could help each other acclimate to the new surroundings. But this move is looking increasingly like a make-or-break six months already for the 21-year-old.

Also finalizing a move on the final day of the transfer window was Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley, who finally sealed a free transfer to English League Championship side Nottingham Forest.

The move would appear to position him well, with Forest currently in a promotion playoff spot in what is always a compelling race. Findley, who is very talented but lacks a fair amount of polish to his game, has the opportunity to play alongside English veterans such as Robert Earnshaw and Marcus Tudgay.

The move was dealt a blow Wednesday though when it was revealed that he had injured his thigh in practice and could face up to 12 weeks on the sidelines.

Also injured is Oguchi Oneywu, who injured his back “lightly” in a Dutch Cup match Jan. 27 for Twente. He missed their match over the weekend, a 2-1 win over Feyenoord.

On a positive note, Edson Buddle scored on his debut with German 2.Bundesliga side Ingolstadt. It was a lovely volley from six yards out and may prove to inject new life into the struggling side.

Meanwhile, the Freddy Adu roller coaster meanders its way into yet another country with the announcement that parent club Benfica have loaned him to Turkish second division side Rizespor through May 2011.

Adu has now appeared in a grand total of 20 matches for Benfica in the three and a half years he has been under its ownership since he came over from Salt Lake. He’s been loaned out to Monaco in France, Belenenses in Portugal, and Aris Thessaloniki in Greece while also trialing unsuccessfully with Swiss side FC Sion, Denmark club Randers, and Ingolstadt.

In minor deals, 18-year-old Erik Opsahl signed a six-month deal with Reading, a team with a penchant for Americans like Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann. The club has the option to extend the deal at season’s end. Lugano in the Swiss second division has signed Italian-American forward Alex Cannas, and Norway’s Molde has defender Sean Cunningham.

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