While one certain aspirant for the U.S. World Cup squad -- Landon Donovan -- is set to join Everton on loan, the next move in the career of another player with hopes to be on the plane to South Africa is less clear-cut.
Stuart Holden is being courted by a number of European clubs, including Rangers and Aberdeen in Scotland, the land of his birth. However, MLS is fighting hard to retain him, with reports suggesting that Holden, 24, has been offered a new deal by the league that would increase his current salary tenfold.
Holden said he is torn between heading to Europe and staying in MLS to help the league grow. His anxiety is understandable, especially if the best offers are from Scotland. The standard of play in its Premier League is good but not great, with even Rangers and Celtic having regressed in recent times. On the flip side, if an Auld Firm move is in the cards, the opportunity to play European football every year is an attraction.
Meanwhile, it isn't hard to see why MLS is so keen to keep Holden. Aside from his obvious talents on the pitch, he has been a prolific contributor to charitable causes in the Houston community and could be a highly marketable player. Signing him to a long-term deal would help establish Holden as one of the faces of the sport in this country for years to come.
From a soccer point of view, the time is right for Holden -- who spent time at Sunderland before joining Houston -- to move back to Europe. His reluctance to commit indicates he may be waiting for other offers, but sooner or later I expect him to make the jump across the Atlantic.
Bradley hits form in Germany
Holden's international teammate, Michael Bradley, is in a rich vein of form for Borussia Monchengladbach -- a welcome return to his best for the midfielder who struggled to earn playing time in the Bundesliga in the early part of the season. Bradley has started nine straight games and, having registered an assist a week earlier versus Bayern Munich, got back on the goal trail in Saturday's win against Hannover when he rattled home a 20-yard effort.
Monchengladbach has won four of its last six and currently sits 11th in Germany's top flight, a league that has yet to see Jermaine Jones in action this season. However, the good news is that the would-be U.S. international recently returned to training with Schalke 04, as did Maurice Edu with Rangers. Competition for spots in the national team's midfield appears set to heat up at just the right time.
Well-played, forgotten man
Another man who may force his way back into U.S. coach Bob Bradley's thoughts is DaMarcus Beasley, who has taken advantage of recent opportunities to impress at Rangers by logging a goal and three assists in his last three Scottish Premier League games.
It has been speculated that the initial reason for Beasley's recall to the Gers side was to showcase him to potential buyers, but his recent production appears to have convinced Rangers coach Walter Smith -- who said of Beasley on Wednesday, "There's no reason for him to move" -- that he is worth hanging on to.
Whatever the motives, the important thing from a national-team perspective is that Beasley is playing. He may have fallen out of favor on the U.S. squad in recent times, but a fit and firing Beasley offers a naturally left-footed option that Bradley certainly could use.
A thing that made me go hmmm ...
The U.S.'s pre-World Cup schedule continued to take shape this week as friendlies against Honduras and the Netherlands were announced for Jan. 23 and March 3, respectively. Furthermore, if published reports are accurate, a game against Northern Ireland could be added in May.
The proposed fixture list represents a solid group of tests that will help Bradley's side prepare for its campaign in South Africa. More games are likely to be added to the schedule, with an opponent from Africa the most obvious pressing need.
The Honduras game likely will provide a number of MLS players on the fringes of the first-choice squad the chance to impress. Those who do shine figure to be retained for the visit to Amsterdam, which will pit the U.S. against the first European country to qualify for the World Cup. Meanwhile, although Northern Ireland hasn't reached a major tournament since 1986, it impressed in qualifying, finishing fourth in a group that included Slovenia, the Americans' second opponent next summer.
Another thing that made me go hmmm ...
From the Twitter account of Henry Winter, an excellent football writer for The Telegraph in England:
Even if Becks leaves MLS for good, it looks like Thierry Henry will keep up the star-dust count, heading to New York after the World Cup.
The Henry-to-Red Bulls rumors aren't new, and this nugget of information will only add to the speculation. Perhaps a more pertinent question might be: Who will be Henry's coach if and when he arrives in The Big Apple? Whoever it is will be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of an Henry-Angel forward line.