Over the last year, Major League Soccer has made some major moves to both re-acquire and re-sign American talent.
Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra, both nearing the end of their professional and international careers, came home this summer. Over the past year, MLS has also re-signed Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi to new contracts, proving their seriousness about keeping young American talent at home.
And, of course, the big signing this summer was bringing home Clint Dempsey, who was two seasons removed from being the fourth-highest goal scorer in the English Premier League.
With MLS more intent than ever on getting the best Americans to play in MLS, here are 10 more realistic targets they should shoot for.
Many people may consider Oguchi Onyewu to be washed up, and certainly his best days are behind him, but it is easy to forget that Onyewu was playing regularly in the Europa League in 2012 for Sporting Lisbon and in 2011 for FC Twente.
Now 31, Onyewu still has a lot to offer, if he can stay healthy and if he can find an MLS club willing to take a chance on him. He was also recently released from his contract with Sporting and is a free agent.
Since the financial collapse of Rangers, Maurice Edu’s footballing career has been in a tailspin. Edu played 81 matches for Rangers in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, but has only played 14 games since while battling injury and form issues.
It was recently announced that Edu will be staying with Stoke this season to fight for his place, but should that not work out, a short-term move back to MLS could help rekindle his career. Edu was the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2007 and could certainly become a regular with a midlevel European team if he can prove his form has returned.
No other player in the United States men’s national team pool has had as dramatic a fall in the last few months as Michael Parkhurst. Late last year, Parkhurst was on top of the world, competing in the Champions League and even being named to the tournament’s Team of the Week at one point.
Then, after a move to Augsburg in the Bundesliga during the January transfer window, Parkhurst fell into the abyss, playing two matches for his new club in the last nine months.
Parkhurst was once one of the best defenders in Major League Soccer, winning Defender of the Year honors in 2007, and could drastically improve his USMNT chances with more regular playing time.
Parkhurst was added to the USMNT's World Cup qualifying roster after the injury to Brad Evans and has a great opportunity to show what he can do.
Conor O’Brien is still a relative unknown among many U.S. soccer fans, but has made a name for himself in Denmark over the past three years after going undrafted by MLS after college.
O’Brien was recently playing for FC Nordsjaelland, dubbed by some as the Barcelona of the Danish league for their attractive playing style. Now he plays for OB.
While O’Brien was once unwanted in MLS, he has surely proved his ability as a professional in Denmark, and many MLS clubs would be lucky to have him.
Many American soccer fans probably still don’t know who Steve Clark is, but he was named the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012 for the Norwegian Tippeligaen.
Clark played collegiately for Oakland University, a small Division I school in southeast Michigan. Afterward, unable to get a contract here in America, he went overseas to get his shot at playing professionally. He eventually settled in with Honefoss, his current club, but they are in relegation danger this season, meaning another move might be in the cards.
Clark also indicated recently on Twitter that he was open to a move to MLS.
DaMarcus Beasley was once one of the most feared attacking players in Major League Soccer when he was rampaging up and down the flanks for the Chicago Fire in the early 2000s.
Since then, Beasley has played in Scotland, the Netherlands, England, Germany and Mexico and is now enjoying a national team renaissance as a left-back. After the World Cup next summer, it would be a fitting end to the 31-year-old’s career to come home to MLS to finish out his playing days.
While Tim Howard is still playing at an extremely high level in one of the, if not the, best league in the world, he is nearing the end of both his international and club career. At 34 years old, Howard probably still has another two or three good years in him and, after the World Cup next summer in Brazil, should consider coming back to MLS.
Howard began his professional career with the NY/NJ MetroStars, where he played for six seasons before moving to Manchester United. With Major League Soccer, Howard won Goalkeeper of the Year in 2001 and was twice named to MLS’ Best XI.
Like many Americans abroad, Howard has spoken in the past about a return to play in the United States.
As with Tim Howard, a “homecoming” for Jermaine Jones should only happen after the 2014 World Cup. It will be the last go-round for the 31-year-old midfielder with the USMNT, and Jones already owns a home in Los Angeles that he purchased so he could help rekindle his relationship with his once estranged father.
Jones’ Champions League experience and quality would be an almost automatic upgrade for any MLS team; Jones has mentioned coming to play in the U.S. as soon as next summer.
Since moving to Birmingham City in the English Championship in 2011, Jonathan Spector has been a regular fixture in their lineup.
But while he plays regularly for the club, now in his third season of the second tier of English football, Spector's hopes of finding a place back in the EPL are not what they once were.
Spector's versatility would make him an important commodity to any MLS side as he can play centrally or wide in either the midfield or back line. A move back to MLS might also put him in the spotlight enough to rekindle his USMNT career.
Herculez Gomez is another American at the end of his international career. At 31 years old, Gomez will surely be done with the USMNT after next summer, if not sooner considering his recent knee issues.
Assuming he can get healthy, Gomez’s work rate and poaching instincts would be a benefit to many MLS squads, and Gomez has spoken repeatedly about coming back to MLS, despite struggling in the league when he was younger.
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