Still Waiting On Some Crucial Transfer News

As the first week of January comes to a close, we are still awaiting news on two of the more important US transfer targets: Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark.
While Donovan has gotten most of the attention, the moves of Holden and Clark are more critical for the US national team. Both of these guys look likely to be apart of the US World Cup squad and it is hugely important for the US that these two land well and get playing time.

It seems pretty clear that both will head to Europe. Both are out of contract with MLS and can therefore sign a free transfer, meaning that European interest ought to be high. Moreover, work permits won’t be a problem – definitely not for Holden (he has a UK passport) and Clark has been a national team regular.

Stuart Holden: He was linked to Blackburn in December, but now it looks like it was another Premier League side Burnley. Holden is apparently going to Burnley for a trial. Yet it is a question if this move is still possible, given Burnley manager Owen Coyle’s departure for Bolton. With Burnley in flux, I think this would be a very risky move for Holden – unless he is interested in playing in the Championship next year. Burnley is currently just two points clear of the drop zone and with the loss of their manager and their frugal ways one has to think they are likely to go down. However, the one major advantage of moving to Burnley is that Holden would be pretty assured to get a lot of playing time between now and the World Cup.
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Filling out the WC roster: Strikers/Wingers

We don’t need a target man, we need attacking players. The major challenge for the US over the next six months is to identify a couple of additional dangerous attacking players that can change a game.

My assessment of the current state of the US 23-man world cup squad is that there is currently competition for 2 or 3 spots at striker and outside midfield. This assumes that there are 8 defenders, 3 goalkeepers, and 4-5 central midfielders (Bradley, Edu, Jones, Feilhaber, Clark), leaving 7 spots for outside midfielders and strikers. Assuming that Altidore, Donovan, Dempsey, Holden and Torres are in the squad – that leaves just two or three spots left for additional attacking players.

While Davies is retaining hope of returning, I think the probability of him making the squad are very slim, and for the sake of this piece and for Bob Bradley’s approach to the World Cup he must assume Davies won’t be available. Davies is pretty much irreplaceable. It was not just his speed and knack for goal, but that he had in 2009 moved beyond his developmental stage as a player and had become a dangerous striker in an elite league. That makes him irreplaceable over the short term, since even promising players are not that far along.

However, the situation at striker is not as dire as it may have seemed after Davies went down. Due to the versatility of Donovan and Dempsey – either of whom could play up top – and the emergence of Holden/Torres, Bradley has some flexibility. He doesn’t need to find a starter to play 75 minutes against England. Furthermore, while Jozy has not set the Premier League ablaze, he has emerged as a legitimate target man, playing at Hull and doesn’t need to play alongside another target striker like Brian Ching or Conor Casey. In fact, I would argue that with Dempsey the US in effect already has two target strikers on the roster. Instead, of wasting a spot on a redundant target man, what we need is speed to make up for the loss of Davies and that could be made up for at two different positions striker or as a winger.

In other words, Bradley should be looking for difference makers offensively. Players who he can put in when we are down 1-0 to Slovenia or deadlocked 0-0 with Algeria that can help change a game. I think this means that Bradley can take a few more risks with these final roster spots, as these players don’t have to be a boring but trusted veterans.

Who are the candidates for those final roster spots?

Damarcus Beasley – I have to say I haven’t been impressed with Beasley for about five years. He was plain bad in 06 and his career has struggled since. However finally healthy (actually he did just suffer a slight knock) he is turning the SPL a blaze. I think if Beasley is starting he is a lock for a spot and right now would probably start against England at left midfield to neutralize Aaron Lennon. Chance at WC210: strong
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