Los Angeles Soccer: Halesowen Town
There were a lot of clubs looking closely at Michael Bradley, but as soon as the U.S. national team midfielder got word that Aston Villa was interested, his departure from Borussia Moenchengladbach was a done deal.
The 23-year-old midfielder, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, on Monday joined Villa, arriving on loan until summer.
The Birmingham-based club, mired in a disappointing English Premier League campaign, has an option to purchase Bradley's contract, which runs until summer 2012. The announcement follows by days Pasadena's Yura Movsisyan's move from Danish club Randers to Russian Premier League side FC Krasnodar.
Bradley, whose family lives in Manhattan Beach, won't be cleared to play in Villa's game Tuesday against Manchester United, but he could debut Saturday against U.S. teammate Clint Dempsey and Fulham.
“Within the last week or so I heard that the manager [Gerard Houllier] was interested in bringing me here,” Bradley told Aston Villa's Web site. “From the moment I heard that, I was really excited and really just hoping that everything could get done. For me, the Premier League is the best league in the world. You watch a game in the Premier League, and the speed of the game, the pace and the power all stand out.
“To have the opportunity to come here and test myself at the highest level, week in and week out, is incredible, and to try to take the things I do as a player and make them count at the highest level -- it's a great challenge.”
Bradley's father was linked to the Aston Villa managerial job until Houllier, a former French national team coach, was hired in early September. The club is owned by Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner and features three other Americans: goalkeepers Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan and defender Eric Lichaj.
Bradley, who signed with MLS's MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) at 16, moved to Holland's Heerenveen at 18 and joined Gladbach in 2008 on a $3.43 million transfer, has quickly risen in international soccer. He enjoyed a breakthrough World Cup in South Africa and was one of few pluses this season for the German club, which sits at the bottom of the Bundesliga standings.
Bradley's representatives asked for a transfer during the Bundesliga's winter break, Gladbach technical director Max Eberl told German newspaper Express, and there was immediate interest from England's Sunderland, Turkey's Galatasaray, Italy's Palermo and several Bundesliga clubs.
Reports Friday had Bradley headed to Galatasaray on a $6.8 million transfer, but he spent the weekend in England finalizing details and taking a medical exam.
Bobby Wood's climb from the youth teams at Germany's TSV 1860 Munich has reached the club's top side, and he's hoping to make his first-team debut this weekend.
The 19-year-old forward from Irvine, who was just out of eighth grade when he joined 1860 at 14, was called up last week after strong performances for the club's under-19 and under-23 teams, with seven goals in 18 appearances.
He didn't suit up for Friday's victory at VfL Osnabrueck but could play Saturday against MSV Duisburg. 1860 is 8-5-6 and sits eighth in the second-tier 2. Bundesliga.
“I usually play on the right or left side or as a forward,” the versatile Wood told the Yanks Abroad Web site last summer. “I like to get the ball into space and try to use my speed as an advantage. I also like to take players on and create chances.”
Wood, who attended Lakeside Middle School in Irvine and developed through the Irvine Strikers, one of the area's elite youth soccer clubs, also is among the top forwards for the U.S. under-20 team . He is expected to be in the Americans' starting lineup when CONCACAF qualifying for next summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup begins in April.
“Before I moved to Munich, I was never good enough for the national team,” Wood aaid. “I was never called up or I was not even known, but now it seems like the sacrifices are paying off. Ever since I have moved to Munich, I have developed so much as a player and person.”
Americans who have played for 1860 include Galaxy defender/assistant coach Gregg Berhalter, former U.S. forwards Josh Wolff and Taylor Twellman, and, until earlier this month, forward Kenny Cooper, who has joined the Portland Timbers.
ANOTHER GOAL: Matt Taylor's sizzling form for Germany's Rot Weiss Ahlen returned intact from winter break. The former UCLA and Chivas USA forward scored his eighth goal in 12 league appearances in the third-tier side's 3-2 loss Saturday to TuS Koblenz.
Edu (Etiwanda HS), who missed two months with a knee injury, was again a second-half substitute, coming on in the 62nd minute for Steven Davis. He scored in the 82nd -- his third goal of the season -- taking a throw-in from Steven Whitaker, then half-volleying it from the top of the box into the lower-left corner.
Edu returned to action last Monday, playing the final 24 minutes in a Scottish Cup triumph over Kilmarnock, then was in the starting lineup for a friendly Tuesday against Carlisle, a 2-0 victory. The Blues (14-2-2) are five points behind hated rival Celtic (15-2-4) but has three games in hand.
"I'm hoping to play a lot more now that I'm back ...," Edu told Rangers' club Web site. "I want to ease my way back into things and get into the team every week again. Things have dragged on quite a bit, but I'm back now, and that's the main thing."
Edu said he knew he was back after a tough challenge by Kilmarnock's Garry Hay left him prone on the field -- but able to play on.
"Those are the kind of tackles you don't want, but when you get through them and realize you are OK, it does a lot for your confidence," Edu said. "To get through that tackle was good for me, and it gives me a lift in terms of working through the next few weeks."
Fontana's Maurice Edu finally returned to the field after two months on the sidelines with a knee injury, coming on as second half substitute in Rangers FC's 3-0 romp Monday over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup.
Edu (Etiwanda HS) entered in the 67th minute for Jamie Ness with the Glasgow giant holding a 2-0 edge.
His left knee was hurt Nov. 10 from a lunging tackle by Hibernian's John Rankin, and he missed seven matches while recuperating. Manager Walter Smith and assistant coach Ally McCoist had predicted returns last month, but Edu wasn't able to return to full training last week.
After the game, Edu tweeted: “Good win today n good to be back on the pitch! Missed the game too much when I was injured! N again, thank u for your continued support!”
Rangers advanced to the fifth round of Scotland's top cup competition. The draw will be held Tuesday.
FADING AWAY: Brad Friedel's Aston Villa is in trouble, and so is manager Gerard Houllier. The Villans (5-10-6) slipped into the relegation zone for the first time in seven years, falling to 16th with a 1-0 midweek loss to Sunderland. They are just one point ahead of last-place West Ham United.
Rangers FC twice has said Maurice Edu is on the verge of returning to action from a knee injury suffered in November, even listing target games for his comeback. The second date passed Sunday, and still no Edu.
When will he be ready to play? No clue. Turns out the midfielder from Fontana hasn't returned yet to full training. “He's doing his workouts in the gym,” a club spokesman told Major League Soccer last week.
Edu was hurt during a 3-0 loss to Hibernian on Nov. 10 and has missed seven games. Another five matches have been pushed back by poor weather.
Rangers lost, 2-0, in Sunday'sshowdown with archrival Celtic FC and finds itself four points behind the Bhoys-- but with two games in hand.
FEILHABER ON THE MOVE?: Benny Feilhaber'sDanish team doesn't return to action until late March, but he could be on the field well before then. The U.S. national-teamer's agent says he is considering three offers.
“There's a few different things on the table,” Lyle Yorks, the agent, told Major League Soccer's Web site last week. “There's a European club, a team in Mexico and one in South America.”
Mexican media have reported that Cruz Azul is interested in the 25-year-old midfielder from Irvine, and the SouthAmerican team is understood to be from Brazil, where the former UCLA standout was born. Yorkshas said there has been contact with clubs in Denmark, Netherlands and Spain.
Rangers FC finally got a game in, after four postponements because of horrid winter weather, but something was missing from the Scottish champions' 4-1 Boxing Day romp at Motherwell.Maurice Edu.
The central midfielder from Fontana, out since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 10, had been pegged by manager Walter Smith to make his return in the traditional post-Christmas match. He wasn't deemed fit enough to make the bench.
Rangers assistant coach Ally McCoist, the former Blues striker, told The Herald Scotland that Edu ought to be ready for the Jan. 2 showdown with Old Firm rival Celtic.
Rangers (13-1-2), which leads Celtic (12-2-3) by two points atop the Scottish Premier League standings, first has a date Wednesday at St. Johnstone.
Rangers FC has finally set a solid target for Maurice Edu's return: Boxing Day.
The midfielder from Fontana, out since sustaining a knee injury Nov. 10, could be back on the field when the Scottish Premier League leader takes on Motherwell next Sunday in the traditional day-after-Christmas match.
Rangers is slated to play Tuesday at Dundee United, but three of its past four league matches have been postponed because of harsh weather. Saturday's clash with St. Mirren at Ibrox was called off when pipes burst during a post-snow and ice thaw.
“[Last] weekend would have been too soon for Maurice,” Rangers manager Walter Smith told the club's Web site. “But I would think he would start to get a run-out in training this weekend, and we'll see where we go from there.
“I don't think he'll be ready for the Dundee United match … but [next] weekend at Motherwell looks like a real possibility.”
Edu (Etiwanda HS) has missed only five games since he was hurt in a 3-0 loss to Hibernian, the Blues' only league defeat this season. He was out for Rangers' final two group-stage matches in the UEFA Champions League but can look forward to UEFA Europa League action in February.
Poor weather has impacted every club in Scotland. Rangers (12-1-2) maintains a three-point lead in the SPL over archrival Celtic FC (11-2-2), and the Glasgow powerhouses have two games in hand over their nearest rivals.
EUROPA, EUROPA: Belgian champion RSC Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach SH) now a regular contributor in midfield, booked its passage to the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 16 with a simple 2-0 triumph over Croatia's Hajduk Split in a Group G finale, getting the required aid from group winner Zenit St. Petersburg -- a 3-0 winner at AEK Athens -- to push ahead of the Greeks and into second place.
Their reward: a Low Countries showdown with Ajax Amsterdam, a former European powerhouse unable to compete with the big-country giants since the Bosman ruling brought a form of free agency to European soccer in 1995. The draw was held Friday in Nyon, Switzerland.
RSC Anderlecht is in a must-win situation Thursday, and its going to need a little help, too.
The Belgian champion will advance to the UEFA Europa League's round of 32 with a win Thursday over visiting Hajduk Split and a victory by Zenit St. Petersburg over AEK Athens.
Anderlecht, with former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) in midfield, is 1-3-1 in Group G of Europe's No. 2 club competition and sits three points behind AEK (2-2-1) in the battle for second place. RSCA holds the tiebreaker with the Greeks and will advance if they finish even on points.
The Mauves might seem to be in an advantageous position. Zenit (5-0-0) has won all but one of its group matches by two goals, and the Russian group leader romped to a three-goal lead in the other victory, a 3-2 decision over Hajduk Split in Croatia.
All AEK needs is a draw to advance, but if they lose, Anderlecht is ready to take advantage.
Scottish champion Rangers FC, with midfielder Maurice Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) expected back shortly from a knee injury, dropped into the round of 32 after finishing third in its group in the top-tier UEFA Champions League.
A draw Friday in Nyon, Switzerland, will set up eight four-team brackets for round-of-32 matches Feb. 17 and 24 and round-of-16 games March 10 and 17. The survivors will be drawn March 18 into an eight-team bracket. The final is May 18 in Dublin, Ireland.
Fontana's Maurice Edu didn't make the trek to Turkey for Rangers FC's UEFA Champions League finale Tuesday, but he's expected back soon -- possibly this weekend.
The former Etiwanda High School standout has been sidelined since going down with a knee injury in a Scottish Premier League match Nov. 10 against Hibernian, and the club's Web site reported that he "isn't far away from returning to the fray."
He won't play Tuesday in Rangers' meaningless clash with Bursaspor in Bursa, Turkey, but he might return for Saturday's league game at Inverness Caledonian Thistle -- if it goes off.
Tuesday's game counts for nothing: The Blues (1-2-2) have clinched third place in the four-team Group C -- and will drop into the second-tier UEFA Europa League's round of 32 -- and Bursaspor (0-5-0) is last. Edu, the Web site said, is building fitness and recovering from tonsillitis.
Edu has missed only three games, and he can thank the harsh weather that has hit Scotland the past month. Rangers hasn't played since it was eliminated from the Champions League by Manchester United on Nov. 24. Its last two Scottish Premier League matches were postponed because of icy conditions that left fields unplayable.ANDERLECHT, TOO?: Belgian champion Anderlecht, with Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan, also is hoping to be in the Europa League's knockout stage, which begins play in February. The Zebras are third in Group G of the Europa League with a 1-3-1 mark following last week's 3-1 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia and must finish in the top two.
RSC Anderlecht grabbed the top spot in Belgium's Jupiler League on Saturday, and now the Brussels-based club aims for something bigger -- and in uncompromising conditions.
The Zebras are in Russia, for Wednesday's UEFA Europa League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg, and a victory will all but assure them a spot in next year's knockout phase.
Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS) was back in the starting lineup for Anderlecht's 4-1 victory over last-place Royal Charleroi, and he's in the 20-man traveling party for Wednesday's game, which will be played in temperatures hovering just above zero.
"It will be a tough match, in exceptional weather conditions that we are not used to," Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeck said, according to British website SportingLife.com. "In normal circumstances, Zenit has a very strong team, and that has been seen in this Europa League campaign, when they have not dropped a single point in their games so far. It's also a team which has the qualities that you need to play in the Champions League."
Zenit (4-0-0), which on Sunday completed its title run in Russia's Premier League, already has clinched one of Group G's two slots in the round of 32. Anderlecht (1-2-1), Greece's AEK Athens (1-2-1) and Croatia's Hajduk Split (1-3-0) are battling for the last. The Belgians own the tiebreaker with AEK and can claim a knockout-phase berth with an upset over Zenit.
Still nothing official from Rangers FC on midfielder Maurice Edu, who went down with a knee injury Nov. 10 and hasn't been seen since.
Initial word was the knock was “minor,” but he's undergone two scans and missed three games -- including this week's UEFA Champions League loss to Manchester United -- and it's uncertain when he'll be back.
Don't expect him for Sunday's Scottish Premier League clash at Dundee United, and we'll see about next week's game against Hearts.
“Sucks being injured,” Edu tweeted earlier this week.
Edu (Fontana/Etiwanda HS) missed last weekend's 3-2 win over Kilmarnock -- Kenny Miller scored a hat trick, giving him 18 goals this season -- as Rangers (12-1-1) maintained a three-point lead on Celtic atop the SPL standings, and he was merely a spectator as Wayne Rooney's late penalty kick lifted Man United to a 1-0 triumph Wednesday.
It could lead to another move, to a bigger club.
Taylor (Irvine HS/UCLA), who joined the third-tier 3.Bundesliga club in the traditional Muenster region of western Germany at the end of August, has scored four goals in his last three games as Rot Weiss has quickly climbed from 16th to ninth in the standings.
He netted the 81st-minute winner Saturday in a 2-1 victory at SV Jahn Regensburg, the Red and Whites' third successive victory after winning just once in their first 12 matches.
Taylor has six goals in nine games -- when he scores, Rot Weiss (4-4-7) is 4-0-0.
He tallied twice in a 3-0 win Sept. 18 over Carl Zeiss Jena, then started on his current streak two weeks ago with the second goal in a 3-2 triumph over Bayern Munich's second team. He scored two more last week in a 4-1 romp over SV Weben Wiesbaden.
Virginie Lefour-Bruno Fahy/AFP/Getty Images
Sacha Kljestan took some time to adjust in Belgium but now appears to be contributing again.
Poor form and injury kept Huntington Beach’s Sacha Kljestan out of RSC Anderlecht’s lineup for two months, but the former Chivas USA midfielder made the most of his return to the field.
Kljestan (Huntington Beach HS), who left Chivas to join the Belgian champion in June, went the full 90 in Les Mauves et Blancs’ 3-0 triumph Thursday over AEK Athens in the UEFA Europa League and 2-0 league victory Sunday against Westerlo. It was his first action for the Brussels-based club since he scored in a 3-0 league win at Lokeren on Aug. 21.
“It took me some time to adapt to Belgium,” Kljestan told Belgian Flemish-language newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “At the start of the season, I did play, but I didn't do enough. Now I'm no longer afraid to try things.”
Kljestan started three of Anderlecht’s first four games, scoring a goal in his debut, a 3-1 win over Wales’ The New Saints in a UEFA Champions League qualifier, but the appearance against Lokeren was it since -- until Thursday.