The return of foreign-based U.S. MNT players to their clubs following July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup always had the potential to present challenges for the players trying to win starting spots. Missing the full preseason on international duty puts their club teammates ahead of the curve, and so far results have been a mixed bag, with some players growing into new situations while others have work ahead to earn back their places in the first team.
“What we’ve seen after the Gold Cup is a little similar to what we saw after the World Cup last summer in Brazil,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann explained. “Some players struggle to get back into rhythm and get their starting spots right away.”
The time away with the National Team while clubs were going through their preseason paces has left the likes of John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Ventura Alvarado (Club America) – all starters for during last month’s Gold Cup – on the bench to begin their respective league campaigns.
“It’s kind of a consequence of maybe that they came late into the preseason of their club teams and the coaches gave the other players a head start first. They have to fight their way back; it’s as simple as that.”
On the positive side, the former Germany striker has seen forward Aron Johannsson make a summer transfer splash.
Having battled back from injury to help Dutch club AZ Alkmaar qualify for the UEFA Europa League last season, Johannsson secured the biggest summer move among his U.S. teammates, transferring to German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen earlier this month.
After seeing the 24-year-old striker score 29 goals in 58 appearances for the Dutch side, Klinsmann was pleased to see the budding striker rise to a bigger club challenge.
“I’ve spoken with Werder Bremen and I’ve also spoken to [former U.S. international] Earnie Stewart at Alkmaar about that big move for Aron,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. “He has to obviously step it up and make another big jump in his career, because the Bundesliga is rated a bit higher than the Dutch league and therefore it won’t be easy for Aron, but this is what he needs now.
“He needs to kind of confirm his qualities and confirm to the people in Bremen and in the Bundesliga that he’s an international-caliber player. I think it’s exciting. It gets him on his toes and he will respond positively, so it’s a big step.”
Elsewhere in Germany, forward Bobby Wood scored his first goal with 2.Bundesliga side FC Union Berlin in Sunday’s 2-2 home draw with FC Kaiserslautern. The game was Wood’s third straight league start for his team.
“I think it was super important for Bobby Wood that he scored this goal last weekend and that he got off to a good start with Union Berlin, which is the second team in Berlin and has fanatic supporters. It’s not an easy place, but his best response as a striker is to score and that’s what he did. It was a really nice goal that he scored and that gives us hope too.”
Having made his mark on the international stage with back-to-back game-winners in friendly victories against the Netherlands and Germany in June, Wood was left off the Gold Cup roster by Klinsmann to sort through his situation with former side 1860 Munich and focus on making a positive first impression with his new club.
“We gave him the summer off because he was in a situation with 1860 Munich where he was waiting to see what would happen,” Klinsmann said. “I didn’t want him to come into our group worried about what would happen next with his club situation. Now hopefully that gives him a lot of confidence and energy to come back into our group and to keep doing what he did just before the Gold Cup with the two friendlies in Europe.”
U.S. MNT striker Bobby Wood celebrates scoring the game winner in the USA's 2-1 win against Germany this past June.
Wood is with a new German club this season and looking to take the next step forward in his young career.
Along with center back Tim Ream’s transfer from Bolton Wanderers to Fulham, Klinsmann left open the possibility for more potential moves to occur for U.S. players, singling out wing back DeAndre Yedlin. The 22-year-old only joined Klinsmann’s old club Tottenham Hotspur earlier this year, but may be looking for a temporary move away from White Hart Lane.
“There are some rumors of DeAndre Yedlin possibly going on loan for a year to another good club where he’ll get playing time, which is very important for him and for us that he’s playing week in and week out. Maybe some other things will still happen because the deadline for the transfer window is August 31, so that will be interesting.”
As Klinsmann finalizes his roster for the early September friendlies against Peru and Brazil, a newcomer that could be in the mix is 25-year-old forward Andrew Wooten. Having formerly played for FC Kaiserslautern, the dual U.S. and German national is in his second season with 2.Bundesliga side SV Sandhausen, first joining them on loan in 2012 and then permanently last year.
“Andrew Wooten is definitely a kid we’ve been looking at for probably the last two-and-a-half years and how he’s worked his way through the German system. “He’s now at Sandhausen, one of the smaller clubs in the second Bundesliga, but a very ambitious club with a coach that has tremendous experience.
Wooten, who has been called into U.S. U-23 camp in the past, scored his second brace in three matches in Sandhausen’s 6-0 win away to Paderborn last Friday. He has 20 goals in 62 appearances for the club and currently leads the league with five goals this season.
“I spoke to the coach and I spoke to Andrew and told him that we’re watching him and that we want to see how he develops and his response has been goals. With every goal he scores he makes himself a bigger name and a bigger interest for the National Team as well, so we’ll keep watching him and we’ll decide if we’ll bring him in or not,” Klinsmann said.