Ricardo Clark returns to training

Ricardo Clark returned to training for Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday. Hopefully, we’ll see him in a match in a couple of weeks. Does this mean he’ll make the roster for the friendly with the Netherlands?

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U.S. transfer updates: Clark, Holden, Bocanegra, Feilhaber, Johnson

Lots of American transfer updates this morning, so I’m lumping them all together. I’m pulling most of this from the excellent Soccer By Ives

• In Germany, Kicker is reporting that Ricardo Clark has signed with Eintracht Frankfurt until the end of the season, with the club having the option to extend the deal for another three years.

• An article yesterday from the Mirror claimed that Stuart Holden had been passed over by Bolton and was set to sign with Portuguese club Sporting Braga has yet to be confirmed by basically anyone (shocker). And now the Telegraph quotes Bolton boss Owen Coyle saying that Holden could still sign for Bolton. Does this mean that the whole Sporting Braga thing that popped up out of nowhere was completely made up? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Carlos Bocanegra’s loan to St. Etienne could turn out to be a sale because Rennes have already loaned out the maximum number of players.

• There are rumors of Benny Feilhaber drawing interest interest from clubs in Spain.

Jemal Johnson is heading to Stockport County on loan, after struggling for time at MK Dons.

Ricardo Clark to Livorno UPDATE

Corriere di Livorno is quoting the club president as saying that the deal for Ricardo Clark is done.  He claims that Clark will be staying with Houston because of their league position and their inability to cope with the loss of their star player, so he will be joining Livorno in January, during the winter transfer window.  Personally, I think it’d be better for Clark to go now–I think it will be significantly harder to crack the first team coming in during mid-season.  Here’s the Google translation of the text in the linked article:

Ricardo Clark, the American player who has shown in the Confederations Cup, was acquired from Livorno. ‘It is true – says Aldo Spinelli, president of the Tuscan club before entering the Football League in Milan – but only to arrive in January because the club in Houston is first in the standings in the championship and can not deprive the first player. ”

Seems legit, but the Italian soccer media is a different beast…what do I know?

Clark to Livorno?

Landon Donovan Ricardo Clark seems to be Livorno’s newest target.  The Houston Chronicle has confirmed with Dynamo officials that a Livorno bid is expected to be forthcoming.

I like this move for Clark more than I did for Donovan.  This move also seems significantly more likely (Clark doesn’t have Donovan’s pricetag, after all).  If this move happens, we’ll have two holding mids playing in the German Bundesliga, one in Serie A, and one for a Scottish giant–even if injuries strike, we should be fielding a very talented center-mid tandem in WC2010.  Despite yesterday’s thrashing, it’s a good time to be an American soccer fan.

Confederations Cup: What We Learned

Sorry–this is a little late, but I think it’s an important discussion to have…

We’ve all read plenty of articles praising the Nats for their improbably run to the Cup finals, so we’ll spare you the discussion of their “grit” and “heart.”  (Funny–I was always led to believe that  Frankie Hejduk was our sole source of these invaluable commodities.)  This is not to diminish the accomplishments of our team, but the Confederations Cup is ultimately a learning experience and we are going to treat it as such.  Here is a look at the lessons learned from South Africa:

POSITIVES

-Landon Donovan seems more comfortable in his role as playmaker than ever before.  He looked fantastic throughout the tournament, even in the games where the rest of the team didn’t.

-Tim Howard is looking better than ever.  His back-up Brad Guzan looked good against Egypt.  The steadiest position in American soccer looks to stay just that going into 2010.

-The defense is really beginning to take shape.  Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, and Jonathan Spector all had fantastic tournaments.  Our worries about left back have been eased since Bradley has finally given Bocanegra a shot at his natural position.  With a healthy Cherundolo, the US will also have the option to move Spector to the left and Bocanegra to the center.  Hopefully this means the end of Hejduk for the national team–even his strongest supporters have to admit he’s no higher than third-best at right back at the moment.

-Central midfield is looking good.  Michael Bradley enjoyed a good tournament.  Ricardo Clark looked good defensively and more comfortable on the ball than in past appearances.  Benny Feilhaber is starting to look like his old self.  With a healthy Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones in the mix, this might be our deepest position.

-Clint Dempsey recovered from a slow start to bag three goals and Bronze Ball honors.  Fantastic turnaround.

-We’ve found a formation that allows us to score goals from the run of play.  In our first seven halves using this formation, we beat Egypt, Spain, and Brazil by a total of 7-0.  Yes, we gave up three in the eighth half, but we looked far more productive and dangerous than we ever did in the 4-5-1 (in which we were outscored 1-6, by the way).

-Altidore looked a little rusty and Davies has a ways to go, but our forwards actually looked dangerous when paired together.  Give these two another year to develop and we could have a very good striking tandem going into the World Cup.

NEGATIVES

-Bob Bradley should be credited for turning this team around.  But the man still manages the game as if it were Football Manager 2009.  Is no one else disturbed that he tends to make similar subs at the same time every game, regardless of what’s happening?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  But if we just surrendered a 2-goal lead to Brazil, why are we bringing on an out-of-form Kljestan and Bornstein for Altidore and Feilhaber?  His in-game management and negative style continue to frustrate me.

-Three red cards.  As much as we love to claim the ref is out to get us, we can only blame ourselves for getting into these situations.  When it comes down to it, as a team, we tackle too hard and too late.  We’re going to continue to have discipline problems if we don’t address this soon.

-Michael Bradley is too aggressive for his own good.  Not only is he a yellow-card machine, destined to receive at least one ban per tournament, but he’s starting to carry it off the pitch.  He went on an angry rant about USMNT critics.  He confronted the referee who issued his red card against Spain after the game.  In the end, he left the tournament with an additional four-game ban.

-The 4-5-1 continues to be a nightmare and, even with the success of our two-striker formation, I worry that it will still be Bradley’s go-to formation for important matches against top competition (especially when we have a healthy Brian Ching back).  I hope I’m wrong.

-When our players are in front of goal, too often they are looking to lay it off for a teammate instead of taking their chance.  There are times for that, and there are times to take the shot.  A lot of golden opportunities we blown because of this timid play.

-Bornstein is not the answer at left back.  He’s just not good enough defensively.

-Kljestan looks horrible.  He has become a liability.  He can’t pass.  He can’t hold.  He shouldn’t play again until he gets things in order.

-Beasley.  This one is just depressing.

-How the two previously mentioned players have found the field as much as they have while Torres and Adu sat on the bench is a little frustrating.  Yes, they’re young.  No, they don’t have much experience.  But age and experience weren’t helping DaMarcus and Sacha–you have to draw the line at some point.  Let the youngsters have their opportunities.

-Vuvuzelas.  My proposal: let South African fans bring the monotone horns to their team’s matches, but ban them from all others.  I’d hate to have to watch next summer’s tournament on mute.

OVERALL

A good showing for our boys.  We played our best soccer in the end.  Even though we finished 2-0-3, if you break that down into halves, we were 6-0-4–not bad considering who we played.  There are a lot of lessons to take away–both positive and negative–and if our coach and team are willing to learn from this experience, we could set ourselves up for a successful campaign in next summer’s World Cup.

30-man Gold Cup roster completed

US Soccer has announced the addition of  Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein and Brad Guzan to the Gold Cup roster. Rumors we were hearing about Troy Dayak getting called up proved to be unfounded.

US Soccer has stated that these seven players will not necessarily be traveling to each match.

Ricardo Clark linked with Rennes

Sky Sports is reporting that French side Rennes are interested in Ricardo Clark. If the move were completed, the 26-year-old midfielder would joing fellow American Carlos Bocanegra.