On most Mondays, Page 2 of the Sports print section features a soccer centerpiece and several notebook items geared toward a broader audience than the blog does. Some material has appeared on the Insider previously. Here are this week’s contents:
August provides a pause for the U.S. men’s national team between an uneven summer and an eventful autumn. It also marks the return of players to their respective clubs abroad for the dawning of new seasons.
But with MLS offering competitive contracts and older players yearning to return home, the list of Americans reporting to top-tier leagues abroad has gotten shorter.
The Premier League season launched this weekend with only three American starters on the 20 clubs, and two are goalkeepers: Everton’s Tim Howard (on leave from the national team) and Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan. Geoff Cameron is a full-time defender with Stoke City.
DeAndre Yedlin, a breakout performer at the 2014 World Cup, enters his first full season with Tottenham Hotspur following last winter’s move from the Seattle Sounders. But the hybrid defender-winger will have a hard time cracking the game-day roster at White Hart Lane and probably need a loan to another European club to gain playing time.
The largest concentration of players in U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s top-shelf player pool is in Germany with four in the Bundesliga mix.
While defenders John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Fabian Johnson (Moenchengladbach) and Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) returned to their clubs, forward Aron Johannsson arrived at Werder Bremen from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar last week. It’s the second big jump in 2 ½ years for the Icelandic-American, whose previous transition — Denmark to the Netherlands – paid off handsomely with 39 goals in 84 appearances across all competitions.
Also joining the Bundesliga is midfielder Alfredo Morales with promoted Ingolstadt.
Johannsson hopes to have greater success at a higher level than American striker Jozy Altidore, a prime scorer at AZ and bust at Sunderland in the Premier League. Altidore was drawn back to MLS last January by Toronto FC’s $4.75 million annual contract.
Others have followed the money back across the Atlantic. Michael Bradley, who played in the Dutch Eredivisie, Bundesliga and Italian Serie A, earns $6.5 million with Toronto.
Clint Dempsey, a starter at Fulham and Tottenham in England, collects $4.6 million from the Seattle Sounders and longtime Bundesliga midfielder Jermaine Jones is making $3 million with the New England Revolution.
Just four years ago, Landon Donovan’s $2.3 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy was MLS’s most lucrative for a domestic player.
American midfielders Mix Diskerud (Norway) and Sacha Kljestan (Belgium) also moved to MLS before this season. And in the past two years, MLS has secured World Cup starters Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi with long-term contract upgrades.
There are no U.S. national team players in Serie A or Spain’s La Liga. Only World Cup midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes) competes in France’s Ligue 1. With Johannsson’s move, Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin, 19, is the lone American regular on the Dutch circuit.
In the German second tier, the current U.S. crop is led by Union Berlin forward Bobby Wood, 22, who in June scored late winning goals for the national team five days apart against the Netherlands and Germany on the road.
Klinsmann will also keep a close eye on England’s second level, called the Championship. Defender Tim Ream and midfielder Danny Williams are seasoned pros, while Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman, 19, will need regular assignments to rise.
Young Americans aligned with global brands are also on the radar: While Bayern Munich forward Julian Green’s trajectory has dived since scoring in the World Cup – he disappeared on loan with Hamburg last season – Gedion Zelalem, 18, is among Arsenal’s top prospects. The German-born, D.C.-groomed midfielder will probably have to prove his worth with the Gunners’ under-21 squad.
While dozens of Americans are employed in small leagues or lower divisions in Europe, Mexico remains a prime location for U.S. players, particularly those with mixed nationalities. Herculez Gomez, 33, returned to MLS after six clubs in six years, signing with Toronto last week, but seven Mexican-based players are in Klinsmann’s pool.
The Confederations Cup men’s playoff between the United States and Mexico at the Rose Bowl has been moved to Oct. 10, one day later than first announced.
With more than 90,000 expected, CONCACAF, the match organizer, realized playing on Saturday would be more suitable for traffic flow than Friday. TV details are being finalized. The winner will advance to the 2017 tournament in Russia, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup a year later.
Ticket sales for the next U.S. match, a Sept. 4 friendly against Peru at RFK Stadium, have reached 21,000. …
The venues for the U.S. women’s victory tour matches against Brazil in October appear to be set: The Brazilian federation announced Seattle’s CenturyLink Field on Oct. 21 and Orlando’s Citrus Bowl four days later. The U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to make it official this week.
The Americans will open the 10-game tour Sunday against Costa Rica at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field. More than 40,000 tickets have been sold.
After all the players’ complaints about the World Cup in Canada taking place on artificial turf, the USSF has scheduled five of the first six tour matches on fake grass. (Pittsburgh offers grass.) The sites of the last four games, all in December, are in the planning stages.
The Washington Spirit hit an unexpected bump during a smooth summer, falling to the last-place Boston Breakers, 2-1, on Saturday night in Allston, Mass.
Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was a late scratch because of illness and Crystal Dunn, the National Women’s Soccer League leader in goals, was held scoreless for just the second time in six matches. Washington entered on a 4-1-2 surge.
With her team trailing 2-0, Diana Matheson scored early in the second half for the third-place Spirit (7-5-3), who will welcome the Western New York Flash (5-8-3) to Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday.
Boston (4-10-3) ended a nine-game winless streak. Julie King scored on a header off a corner kick in the 12th minute and Kyah Simon tapped in from close range following Ali Krieger’s wayward touch in the 38th.
By the Numbers
Games coached by Olympique Marseille’s Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa before he resigned, fueling speculation he’ll become Mexico’s national team coach
“I am dumbfounded”
Marseille President Vincent Labrune