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5 MLS-Based Americans That Need To Test Themselves Abroad

The opening of the January transfer window provides MLS-based players an opportunity to test themselves in the top European leagues, if only for two-months on a loan deal. For the sake of the United States national team, these loan deals are instrumental in providing American players an opportunity to progress. 

Rather than taking three months off, a lengthy sabbatical that leaves players struggling for form and fitness come the start of the season in March, loan deals offer top MLS players a chance to make their names in Europe and continue their own personal progression as footballers.  

Landon Donovan was famously named Everton’s Player of the Month for his performances in January while on loan at the club in 2010. For Donovan, it served as the jumping off point for a year that included an excellent World Cup and a Supporters' Shield for the LA Galaxy. 

Former Fulham forward Clint Dempsey returned to Craven Cottage on loan in January of 2014 but was unable to make much of an impact, registering zero goals and zero assists in his seven appearances for the Cottagers. However, Dempsey attributed his quick start to the 2014 MLS season, in which he scored 8 goals in his first 7 games, to the hard work the he put in while at Fulham. 

The following five players have established themselves as stars of MLS and are all closely monitored by United States national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann. While the reasons for going abroad may differ from player to player, they all have the talent to make it work. Here are the five MLS-based Americans that should pursue a move in the January transfer window: 

Omar Gonzalez - Defender

Five MLS Players For Loan: Omar Gonzalez

Photo: @Mellie_Pora | Twitter

The 27-year-old center half is experienced, athletic and could make an immediate difference at the back for potential suitors. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, the defender has been playing for the LA Galaxy since 2009.

He was named the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year, the MVP of the 2012 MLS Cup final, Man of the Match in a 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in 2013 and represented the US at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Capped 30 times by his country, Gonzalez has recently seen his star fade due to some shaky play for both club and country. 

While Gonzalez won't have the greatest memories of playing club football in Europe (he tore his ACL after a collision with international teammate Timothy Chandler while on loan at FC Nurnberg in 2012), Gonzalez's hand may be forced in the matter. 

He was given a Designated Player contract by the Galaxy in 2013, the first ever granted to a center back in MLS, with an annual salary of more than $1.5 million. However, the Galaxy now have their allocated three designated players in Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Giovanni Dos Santos. Accordingly, the Galaxy will be unable to pay Gonzalez the same amount in 2016.

Either Gonzalez takes a pay cut to stick with Los Angeles or he seeks out a new club. The prospect of challenging himself in Europe should appeal to one of the most decorated defenders in MLS history.

Ethan Finlay - Midfielder 

Five MLS Players For January Loan: Ethan Finlay

Photo: @SInowLIVE | Twitter

Ethan Finlay was the breakout star of the 2015 MLS season. The Columbus Crew man was instrumental in helping his side reach the MLS Cup final. Featuring as a right-sided attacking midfielder, Finlay notched 13 goals and 11 assists while being named to the MLS Best XI. At 25, he's an incredibly bright attacking prospect for the United States.

Such was the influence and impact of Finlay throughout 2015 that MLS commissioner Don Garber labelled it "unfair and unwarranted" that he hadn't been selected for international duty. While Finlay's diminutive size and defensive liability may detract from would-be suitors, there's no denying Finlay's playmaking ability. For a team lacking goals and a creative edge, Finlay could provide the perfect respite.

Matt Hedges - Defender

Five MLS Players for January Loan: Matt Hedges

Photo: @FCDallas | Twitter

25-year-old Matt Hedges was a key component in FC Dallas' remarkable resurgence in 2015. The center-back played a key role in turning around the fortunes of a Dallas side that allowed only 39 goals in 34 regular season games. Hedges was justly awarded with an MLS Best XI selection and was voted the third-best defender in the league.

Capped by the US in February, Hedges displays a consistency and concentration that bodes well for such a young defender. While the technical side of his game needs more polish, there’s no reason to think that he can’t shore up the defense of a struggling European side.

Hedges has strength, size and a no nonsense approach to defending that would come in handy in an early relegation scrap.

Darlington Nagbe - Midfielder

Five MLS Players for January Loan: Darlington Nagbe

Photo: @HVAC_Plumbing_ | Twitter

Fresh off of bringing the MLS Cup to Portland, Darlington Nagbe displayed a consistency and maturity towards the end of the season that had been missing since his selection in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.

His ability to line up anywhere across the midfield would provide a versatility that would be useful to any manager. He’s an exciting prospect with speed, dribbling skills and a wide range of passing. While his final product can occasionally infuriate, he’s been developing at a rapid pace throughout 2015.

Finishing the season with 5 goals and 4 assists, Nagbe’s statistics don’t exactly catch the eye. However, this is a player who hasn’t nearly reached the full level of his potential. A stint in a more demanding atmosphere may be just what he needs to up his game. Having just broken into the US national team, this isn't the time for Nagbe to take it easy.

Michael Bradley - Midfielder

Five MLS Players for January Loan: Michael Bradley

Photo: @J_Cortinovis | Twitter

Michael Bradley is simply too good, too young and too important for the US national team to be resting on his laurels. While his time at A.S. Roma ended somewhat acrimoniously, Bradley is reportedly open to a return to Serie A. Bradley's experience and skill would make him an immediate asset for any team in the league.

Used primarily as a central midfielder or attacking midfielder for Toronto, Bradley registered 5 goals and 3 assists in 26 appearances for Toronto. He’s arguably the finest passer of the ball in MLS and his defensive contribution is immense. He’s cultured, possesses wonderful technique and is tactically astute.

For fans of the US national team, seeing Bradley playing abroad again would be a welcome sight.


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