For Michael Bradley and AS Roma, the most important part of the second half of the Serie A season will be trying to catch first-place Juventus in the standings. They won’t have to wait long for a chance to close the five-point gap as they kick off 2014 with a showdown against Juve on Sunday.
Bradley closed out the year earning a string of starts for Roma, but his status at the club remains a question mark as he battles for regular minutes among a midfield group that includes the likes of Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Miralem Pjanic. Reports in Italy suggest Bradley is preparing for talks with Roma about his future, with German club Bayer Leverkusen identified as a potential suitor for the U.S. national team midfielder’s services.
The Mexican League also returns to action this weekend, with several Americans ready for fresh starts after disappointing Apertura campaigns. The Club Tijuana contingent starts the Clausura under a new manager Cesar Farias after the firing of Jorge Almiron, which has to be welcome news for Joe Corona and Herculez Gomez. Neither player saw regular playing time during the Apertura campaign, but both should play key roles under Farias, who begins his tenure as manager on Saturday against Atlas.
Jonathan Bornstein begins his loan move to Atlante on Sunday with a match against defending Liga MX champions Club Leon. Bornstein never could break through with UANL Tigres, but the former U.S. World Cup player could find some sorely-needed playing time with his new club.
One American who stayed at Tigres is Jose Torres, and the U.S. World Cup veteran will look to try and take a step closer to a U.S. national team return with a good showing against Club America on Saturday.
In England, FA Cup action begins and should offer playing opportunities for several Americans. Clint Dempsey could make his return to Fulham in Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Norwich City. Brek Shea will look to build on his impressive debut for League Championship side Barnsley by appearing in Saturday’s FA Cup clash against Coventry City.
Jozy Altidore will try to add to his total of two goals in all competitions for Sunderland when the Black Cats take on Carlisle United on Sunday. Geoff Cameron and Stoke City play Leicester City in Saturday’s FA Cup clash. Eric Lichaj and Nottingham Forest meet West Ham United on Saturday.
The early rounds of FA Cup play usually mean a rest for starting goalkeepers like Aston Villa’s and Brad Guzan and Everton’s Tim Howard, but Everton’s FA Cup match could be a chance for another American to make his club debut as the Toffees take on Oguchi Onyewu and Queens Park Rangers. Onyewu has yet to play for QPR, but Saturday’s match could be his chance to take the field.
Though Guzan and Howard are probably not going to play, one American goalkeeper who could see a start is Tottenham backup Brad Friedel, in a crucial FA Cup clash against Arsenal on Saturday. New Spurs manager Tim Sherwood could give the 42-year-old goalkeeper a start in the London Derby.
Tim Ream and Bolton will also be in FA Cup action this weekend, taking on Blackpool on Saturday. Danny Williams and Reading meet Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, and teenage midfielder Duane Holmes and Huddersfield Town play Grimsby Town on Saturday in other FA Cup tilts featuring Americans.
In France, Alejandro Bedoya and Nantes will look to halt their recent slide with a win against Nice in Coupe de France action on Sunday. Nantes ended 2013 in disappointing fashion, going 2-3 in its final five league matches of the year to fall to seventh in Ligue 1. Beating Nice won’t halt the league struggles, but could give Bedoya and the team some confidence to start 2014.