Transfer window could prove quiet for Americans playing overseas
Many core national-team veterans are in favorable situations for playing time
Ricardo Clark, Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson are candidates for transfers
Tim Howard became the fourth goalkeeper to score a goal in the Premier League
With the European transfer window back open, there's no better time for the annual tradition of taking inventory of which Americans could be on the move over the next month.
The only thing is, there's not really that many that need to go anywhere at all.
In contrast to last year at this time, most top-tier American players find themselves situated in favorable and productive club situations, and instead of using the winter months to plot moves for more playing time, they're preparing for the next phase of their respective seasons.
Take this core group of national-team veterans for example:
Jozy Altidore is no longer in purgatory with Villarreal or fighting for time on loan at Bursaspor after the 22-year-old striker's emergence in his first season at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
Oguchi Onyewu is far removed from his AC Milan headache and playing fullback while on loan at FC Twente, and instead he is now a fixture at center back for Portuguese power Sporting Lisbon.
Midfield rock Michael Bradley is an entrenched starter in Serie A's Chievo Verona after falling out of favor at Borussia Monchengladbach and mainly watching from the sidelines while on loan at Aston Villa a year ago.
Bradley's then-Villa teammate, Brad Guzan, had the chips fall his way for once with Shay Given's monthlong injury allowing him the chance to prove his worth in the Premier League for the first time in three years.
Winger DaMarcus Beasley was an afterthought at Hannover 96 in Germany, but with one transfer to Puebla in Mexico, he found himself rejuvenated and back in the international picture.
As for players on the fringe of the first-choice, national-team fold, midfielders Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber both left the depths of second-division soccer (Adu in Turkey, Feilhaber in Denmark) to come home and join MLS, and each prepares for his first full season since returning to the United States.
And a rung further down the ladder, 25-year-old goalkeeper Dominic Cervi is getting the first first-team playing time of his career in Scotland's second tier after languishing on Celtic's bench for more than three years.
While the overall survey of Americans finds most right where they need to be, there remains a few non-MLS-based Americans who could benefit from some transfer action this month.
Ricardo Clark is at the top of the list. With just one appearance for Eintracht Frankfurt all season and his name not anywhere near the team sheet in general, it's safe to say the one-time World Cup starting midfielder could use a change of scenery. A call-up to the U.S. national team's January camp will have Clark surrounded by familiar faces, and weeks of consistent training followed by friendlies against Venezuela and Panama should set Clark right in his quest for a new club.
Edson Buddle is another one in an odd spot in Germany's second tier. Despite being FC Ingolstadt's leading scorer in league play, Buddle was sent away from the team before the league's monthlong winter break, and he used the freedom to train with West Ham. A November coaching change has Buddle's situation in the balance even with his level of productivity.
Fullback Eric Lichaj has just started to return to training with Aston Villa, but he's still a few weeks away from regaining full fitness after a four-month layoff with a hip injury. After his successful loan to Leeds United last year, he was a candidate to return to Elland Road again during the summer, only to get injured at the most inconvenient of times. A loan at the end of the month would hardly be a surprise, considering his role with Aston Villa likely lies as a backup.
Jonathan Bornstein's move to Tigres UANL might have included a recent Mexican Apertura championship, but he didn't see a single minute of playing time during the title run. A loan to another club in Mexico or a return to MLS would certainly serve the 27-year-old Bornstein well if he has any hope of a return to the national team setup in the future.
Finally, there's the curious case of Eddie Johnson. The one-time can't-miss striker had secured a move to join Beasley at Puebla only to fail a physical and have the deal get called off. After an apparent deal with MLS fell apart last summer and now this, the well-traveled 27-year-old Johnson's options are extremely limited. He is in dire need of a place where he can get the minutes necessary to prove whether he has anything left in his tank, no matter what the level of play. If Adu, a former teammate of Johnson's at Greece's Aris FC, taught us anything over the last year, it's that sometimes it's best to swallow your pride and head to the Turkish second division.
With clubs in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia all on break, here is how the Americans playing in England, Portugal and Scotland -- including Landon Donovan in his return to Everton and goal-scoring goalkeeper Tim Howard -- fared over the past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham - Started, played 90 minutes in Fulham's 1-1 draw with Norwich City on Saturday and in Fulham's 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Monday. SEASON: 27 games, 27 starts, 9 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton - Started, played 90 minutes in Everton's 2-1 loss to Bolton on Wednesday. The match was the first of nine that Donovan is eligible for while on loan with the Toffees. The Los Angeles Galaxy captain turned in an extremely active first half and almost drew a penalty at the end of the half as he was contacted by Samuel Ricketts just inside the area after receiving a pass in stride; however, there was not enough evidence to warrant a call for the spot kick. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham - Started, played 90 minutes and made three saves in Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Swansea City on Saturday. Friedel also started, played 90 minutes, made one save and earned the clean sheet in Tottenham's 1-0 victory over West Brom on Tuesday. SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts, 80 saves, 20 goals allowed, 7 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa - Started, played 90 minutes and made one save in Villa's 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Saturday. Guzan also started, played 90 minutes and made three saves in Villa's 2-0 loss to Swansea City on Monday. SEASON: 8 games, 7 starts, 24 saves, 7 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton - Not in the 18 for Everton's 1-0 victory over West Brom on Sunday or for Everton's 2-1 loss to Bolton on Wednesday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton - Started, played 90 minutes, did not make a save and earned the clean sheet in Everton's 1-0 victory over West Brom on Sunday. Howard also started, played 90 minutes, made five saves and scored a goal in open play in Everton's 2-1 loss to Bolton on Wednesday. Howard boomed a long kick from his own box after taking a backpass, and his ball sailed about 70 yards before taking a hop 25 yards from goal and getting caught in the wind. The ball drifted over outstretched Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and into the vacated goal to break a 0-0 deadlock at the time. Howard became the fourth goalkeeper to score in the Premier League and the second American to accomplish the feat. Friedel did so while playing for Blackburn in 2004. SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts, 40 saves, 21 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa - Not in the 18 for Villa's 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Saturday or for Villa's 2-0 loss to Swansea City on Monday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City - Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 1-1 draw with Fulham on Saturday and in Norwich City's 2-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers on Monday. SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County - Not in the 18 for Derby County's 2-1 victory over West Ham on Saturday. Doyle was in the 18 but did not play in Derby County's 1-0 victory over Hull City on Monday. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest - Started, played six minutes in Nottingham Forest's 1-0 loss to Cardiff City on Saturday before exiting with a shoulder injury. Findley was not in the 18 for Nottingham Forest's 3-1 victory over Ipswich Town on Monday. SEASON: 20 games, 12 starts, 5 goals
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham - Started, played 90 minutes in West Ham's 2-1 loss to Derby County on Saturday. Potts was not in the 18 for West Ham's 1-0 victory over Coventry City on Monday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City - Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 3-0 victory over Blackpool on Saturday. Spector also started, played 86 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Birmingham's 1-1 draw with Peterborough United on Monday. SEASON: 28 games, 28 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford - In the 18, did not play in Brentford's 3-3 draw with Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday. Grella was not in the 18 for Brentford's 2-0 loss to Charlton Athletic on Monday. SEASON: 15 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United - Not in the 18 for Carlisle's 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town on Friday or for Carlisle's 3-2 victory over Sheffield United on Monday. Simek's injury-riddled season continues after he was forced to miss both matches with an ankle injury. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall - Started, played 90 minutes in Walsall's 0-0 draw with Rochdale on Saturday. Peterlin started and played 61 minutes in Walsall's 2-1 victory over Bury on Monday. SEASON: 22 games, 16 starts
Jemal Johnson, F, Southend United - Not in the 18 for Southend's 4-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon on Saturday or for Southend's 1-1 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge on Monday. Johnson is having his contract terminated by the club in the aftermath of his recent suspension, stemming from an October incident outside a nightclub that ended in his arrest. SEASON: 7 games, 2 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United - In the 18, came on as a 57th-minute substitute in Oxford's 0-0 draw with Torquay United on Saturday. Pittman was also in the 18 and came on as a 52nd-minute substitute and scored a goal three minutes later in Oxford's 1-1 draw with Crawley Town on Monday. SEASON: 13 games, 1 start, 2 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon - Started, played 90 minutes and scored a late equalizer in Sporting's 1-1 draw with Rio Ave in their opening game of the League Cup group stage on Monday. With Sporting pushing numbers forward, Onyewu made a well-timed run into the area and converted off a low cross -- displaying uncharacteristically smooth footwork -- in the 88th minute to salvage the point. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 3 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC - Not in the 18 for Rangers' 3-0 victory over Motherwell on Monday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC - Started, played 90 minutes in Rangers' 3-0 victory over Motherwell on Monday. SEASON: 20 games, 20 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC - Started, played 76 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Rangers' 3-0 victory over Motherwell on Monday. SEASON: 25 games, 23 starts, 2 goals
Dominic Cervi, GK, Greenock Morton - Started, played 90 minutes and made five saves in Greenock Morton's 3-1 victory over Ayr United on Monday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets