This summer’s transfer market window will be an extremely important one for United States men’s national team players, as any failed move could have potentially serious consequences for a player’s chances of making the World Cup roster in 2014.
Rumors abound, as usual, but here are the potential transfers most likely to affect the U.S. squad heading into a World Cup year.
This will be a big summer for USMNT star Jozy Altidore, as he must make the all-important decision of whether to stay at AZ Alkmaar or, once again, test his ambitions in a bigger league.
If he stays with AZ, he can be reasonably assured of playing time, and if his current form holds, reasonably assured of a seat on the plane to Brazil next summer.
However, his 31 goals in all competitions this season will bring the suitors forward with a transfer value believed to be about $5 million. That being said, both Altidore and AZ have said Altidore could stay with the Dutch club. AZ general manager and former USMNT international Earnie Stewart recently said, "We hope Jozy stays here for another season." Altidore echoed similar thoughts saying on The Best Soccer Show:
I'm comfortable here. I'm happy here. I have a great life here. My family loves it here when they come visit. I'm in no rush to take off from Holland, I'm really enjoying it here. In terms of offers, if that does happen, it just has to be somewhere where it fits and somewhere I can develop and get better. I’m in no rush to jump into something that’s unsure. I think I still have time to keep improving as a player before I have to rush into any transfer…I'm not 18 anymore. I'm not going to just jump at something—I have experience now I know what I'm looking for in a club, I know what I'm looking for in an environment. If that doesn't feel right, I'm not going to make [a move].
With Altidore and Clint Dempsey the preferred combination up top in the U.S.’ most recent World Cup qualifiers, the other forwards in the player pool also have some big decisions to make.
Herculez Gomez has recently been linked with a move back to Major League Soccer with Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders rumored to be in the market. Gomez has been a solid option for the U.S. over the past two years as both a forward and, most recently, on the wing. He will have to decide whether staying with Santos or coming back to the States is better for his national team ambitions heading into 2014.
Juan Agudelo was transferred last week from Chivas USA to the New England Revolution. The promising young forward was off to a hot start with Chivas before injuring his hamstring. Now, he must start over with his third club in less than a year.
Terrence Boyd has quietly scored an impressive 16 goals this year in Europe with Rapid Vienna after transferring this past summer. There has been no notable speculation about Boyd moving this summer, but another solid year with Vienna could see him getting more and more playing time with the U.S.
While Jurgen Klinsmann has certainly made it clear that he does not see Carlos Bocanegra as one of the U.S.’ first choices any more at center back, the USMNT’s lack of depth at the position still makes Bocanegra an important piece of the puzzle.
Should Omar Gonzalez get hurt, Matt Besler suffer from a lack of form or Geoff Cameron be needed at outside back, the U.S. would still need another strong center back option.
Bocanegra is widely expected to leave relegation-threatened Racing Santander at the end of the season, either for a return to Rangers, who will be playing in the Scottish third division next season, or possibly even coming back to MLS—where he was a dominant defender for the Chicago Fire years ago.
Hoffenheim will need a minor miracle to avoid Bundesliga relegation this year—even a win on Saturday in their final game of the season against powerhouse Borussia Dortmund doesn’t guarantee Hoffenheim safety.
Johnson is too good of a player to spend a year squandering his talent in the Bundesliga 2 and needs to make a move should Hoffenheim drop. The talented defender/midfielder gives the U.S. much needed depth on the left side of the field and needs to be playing regularly at a top level over the next year.
His transfer value is believed to be around $5 million.
It has been a big week for American goalkeeper Brad Guzan. First, he won both of Aston Villa’s Player of the Year awards, one award selected by the fans and the other by the player’s themselves. Guzan and Villa also officially avoided relegation yesterday as Wigan’s loss to Arsenal assured Villa’s survival.
Rumors have also begun to circulate that Guzan’s big year with Villa is drawing the interest of other clubs. Last week, it was reported by The Sun that West Ham may be interested in signing Guzan for around $7.5 million.
A move to West Ham, however, is not necessarily a step up for Guzan. While West Ham has a great tradition in English football, they are only three points ahead of Villa in this year’s campaign and spent last year in the English Championship after being relegated in 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline