A month ago, a rash of injuries and illness threatened to leave U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann with few options for an all-European based squad for next month’s friendly against Ukraine. This weekend, a plethora of those injured players returned to action, suddenly giving Klinsmann a wealth of players to consider for the March 5 friendly.
Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, John Brooks and Brek Shea returned to action this past weekend, and all four could wind up on the roster for the USA's match against Ukraine.
The return of Onyewu and Brooks is especially timely considering the limited number of central defender options Klinsmann had heading into the Ukraine match. Both could conceivably start assuming they stay healthy between now and March 5.
Onyewu returned to the starting lineup for Sheffield Wednesday, playing 68 minutes in a 2-0 win against Huddersfield Town on Saturday. Brooks only played five minutes as a late substitute in Hertha Berlin’s 2-1 win against Stuttgart on Saturday, his first playing time in more than two months.
Spector’s return comes after a lengthy injury layoff that cost him more than four months of action. He returned to a defensive midfield role and played the full 90 minutes in Birmingham City’s 2-1 win against Blackpool on Saturday. Young central defender Will Packwood also started and played 90 minutes for Birmingham City in a match attended by U.S. national team assistant coach Andi Herzog.
Shea played 27 minutes as a substitute in Barnsley’s 1-0 win against Millwall on Saturday, a victory that helped Barnsley climb to within two points of relegation safety.
Eric Lichaj is another player who appears to have overcome a recent injury. He didn’t return to action, but did dress for Nottingham Forest’s 3-1 loss to Burnley on Saturday.
It was a rough weekend for American goalkeepers, as Tim Howard and Brad Guzan surrendered stoppage-time goals in 1-0 losses. Howard’s defense came against Chelsea on Saturday, while Guzan’s setback came Sunday against Newcastle.
It wasn’t much better for the American field players in the English Premier League either. Jozy Altidore started for Sunderland on Saturday against Arsenal, but was pulled at halftime of a 4-1 loss. Geoff Cameron played 90 minutes in Stoke City’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City. Clint Dempsey’s disappointing loan stint at Fulham grew more frustrating as he failed to make the bench in the Cottagers’ 1-1 draw against West Brom on Saturday.
There were better results in the League Championship, where Tim Ream and Bolton halted a five-match winless skid by beating Watford 2-0 on Saturday. Ream went the full 90 for the Trotters. Duane Holmes tasted victory in his debut for Yeovil Town, starting and playing 76 minutes in Saturday’s 1-0 win against Doncaster Rovers.
In Germany, Fabian Johnson started another match at right back for Hoffenheim, playing the full 90 minutes in a 2-2 tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach, the same team he has been linked to joining this summer.
In the Netherlands, Juan Agudelo and Utrecht snapped an eight-match winless streak in Eredivisie action by beating Groningen 1-0 on Saturday. Agudelo played 90 minutes in the win, which helped Utrecht climb to 13th place in the Dutch League standings.
Aron Johannsson and AZ fared much worse Sunday, suffering a 4-0 loss to league-leading Ajax. Johannsson played the full match but was unable to add to his 24 goals in all competitions on the season.
In France, Alejandro Bedoya came off the bench and played 11 minutes in Nantes’ 3-0 loss to Rennes on Sunday. In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan started in Anderlecht’s 2-1 loss to Lokeren on Friday. In Austria, Terrence Boyd went 90 minutes in Rapid Vienna’s 0-0 tie with Grodig on Saturday.
In Mexico, Edgar Castillo was once again the only American to start for Club Tijuana, but a total of four Americans wound up playing in Friday’s 3-0 loss to Chiapas. Joe Corona (45 minutes), Paul Arriola (36 minutes) and Herculez Gomez (13 minutes) all came in as second-half substitutes, but the Xolos couldn’t avoid their first home loss of the season after surrendering three first-half goals.
DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco both started for Puebla in Sunday night’s 0-0 tie against Atlanta, a draw that helped Puebla snap a two-match losing streak.
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