When you look at the projected starters for the U.S. national team, you will find that two of them are currently enduring struggles for regular playing time. One is Jozy Altidore, who is enduring his well-publicized issues with Sunderland. The other is Jermaine Jones, who has yet to establish himself as a regular starter.
Jones started two matches for Besiktas, but was an early second-half substitute in both matches. He failed to see the field in his new team’s most recent 2-2 tie with Rizespor, raising questions about just how manager Slaven Bilic intends to use the U.S. midfielder. With Besiktas set to face Akhisar Belediye on Saturday, Jones should find out just where he stands with the club that brought him on loan from Schalke.
Jones isn’t the only player fighting for regular minutes. Alejandro Bedoya has started just one of Nantes past four matches, and failed to make it off the bench in his team’s 0-0 tie against Lille last week. Though he has had a solid first season with the French club, Nantes is mired in a 10-match winless skid that has the team just five points clear of the relegation zone.
In England, U.S. teammates Brad Guzan and Geoff Cameron face off as Aston Villa meets Stoke City in a battle of mid-table clubs. Guzan and Villa are coming off their shock shutout win against Chelsea, while Cameron and Stoke are on a three-match unbeaten run.
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Altidore will look to find that elusive first goal of 2014 when Sunderland takes on Norwich City on Saturday. Tim Howard and Everton face Swansea with a chance to catch Tottenham for fifth place in the Premier League standings. Villa and Stoke are even on points, with their recent surges steering them clear of the relegation fight,
In the League Championship, Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday are on a roll, having won consecutive matches by a combined score of 7-1. The club has all but secure safety from relegation, and will look to make it three wins in a row against relegation-threatened Doncaster Rovers.
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An important clash for several Americans will take place in Birmingham, where struggling Birmingham City will play host to fellow struggler Reading on Saturday. Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector will look to lead Birmingham City to its first win in four matches by beating Danny Williams and Reading, a side which has fallen out of the playoff places after a recent stretch of five matches with just one win.
Tim Ream and Bolton can take a major step toward securing safety from relegation with a win on Saturday against Yeovil Town.
In Germany, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim face a tough test against Bayer Leverkusen, while John Brooks looks to climb out of the doghouse at Hertha Berlin on Saturday against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
In the Netherlands, Aron Johannsson will try to move closer to Jozy Altidore’s record for goals in a season for an American Abroad when AZ takes on PEC Zwolle on Sunday. Both teams are currently in the Europa League playoff zone in the Eredivisie and an AZ win could push the club into sixth place in the Dutch League.
In Mexico, we could see the most Americans on the field in any match outside MLS when Club Tijuana takes on Puebla on Friday night. Regular Puebla starters DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco could face as many as four or five Americans in the Club Tijuana lineup, with Paul Arriola, Herculez Gomez and Edgar Castillo all good possibilities to play.
Jose Torres will look to continue his recent surge in form as he and UANL Tigres face Queretaro on Saturday. Torres scored a beautiful goal during his team’s recent Copa MX triumph and he has established himself as a regular starter in recent weeks, which should bode well for a U.S. national team call-up for the upcoming friendly against Mexico.
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- Jozy Altidore
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