American World Cup hopefuls have managed not to injure themselves in over two weeks; so with our fingers crossed, it’s time to check in with the walking wounded and take stock of where they stand.
Clint Dempsey (Knee) – Fulham FC
"Deuce" is officially back.
Being cautious to not re-aggravate his injured knee, Fulham boss Roy Hodgeson has employed Dempsey as a super-sub since his return and received all he could’ve hoped for in return and then some.
Dempsey has not missed a beat since his return to action; a fact that was highlighted by Fulham’s amazing come-from-behind victory over Italian powerhouse Juventus in the Europa League last week.
Dempsey’s impact on the match was realized immediately as he got himself involved in the flow of the game right away and narrowly missed scoring within seconds of taking the field. He appeared to be the final energy boost the Cottagers needed to do what very few could have foreseen: overcoming a daunting 3-1 aggregate margin heading into the game and then giving up a goal in the first few minutes.
His long range chip with less than 10 minutes to go was nothing short of spectacular and has already been hailed by many as perhaps the most memorable strike in the team’s 140-year history.
Oguchi Onyewu (Knee) — A.C. Milan
For once, there was an injury that may help the Americans. Defender Alessandro Nesta went down recently and will miss the rest of the Serie A season for AC Milan. This, along with several other dings to Milan’s squad leaves a potential opportunity for Onyewu when he returns to fitness.
Onyewu may very well find that he will have at least an opportunity to prove himself at San Siro in the twilight of what has been a frustrating season for both Onyewu and Milan in general.
However, no matter what happens with "Gooch" while trying to find the field for Milan, he is not realistically expected to be challenged for his starting spot with the U.S. and will anchor the American back line. How sharp he will be when that time comes is as important a question as the U.S. has while making its final preparations for England on June 12.
Ricardo Clark (Calf) — Eintracht Frankfurt
Clark has been on healthy and on the bench for Frankfurt for a few weeks now and despite rumors out of Germany last week that he was set to make his Bundesliga debut against Bayern Munich over the weekend, he again failed to make it onto the pitch.
With Maurice Edu finally healthy and working his way back into the starting mix at Rangers, Clark needs to start seeing the field if he wants the inside track at starting alongside Michael Bradley this summer.
Clark impressed at this past summer’s Confederation Cup and if he can find his way onto the field in the coming weeks and gain some experience and confidence heading into the U.S. send off tour, he could very well find himself playing a major role for the U.S.ƒ in this summer’s World Cup.
Stuart Holden (Broken Leg) — Bolton Wanderers FC
Holden no longer has a cast protecting his broken right leg and is said to be walking comfortably without crutches. If he continues to progress as expected, he should be able to resume training before too long, and hopefully is back in Botlon’s immediate plans by the end of April.
Holden’s injury was particularly frustrating as he had just broken into the starting XI with Bolton and earned a great deal of praise from both the English media and his manager, Owen Coyle, after his first two appearances with the club.
Fortunately for the young midfielder, he had apparently shown enough to that point to spark widely accepted rumors that an extension of his deal through next season is all but official.
Charlie Davies (Multiple Injuries) FC Sochaux
Davies is officially done with his rehab and is back as of today with his teammates at Sochaux. However, despite this news as well as my optimism from the beginning of his comeback attempt, I still see it as a long shot that Davies will be back in time to help the US in South Africa.
His progress to this point has been nothing short of amazing given the severity and sheer quantity of his injuries: two broken bones in his right leg, a broken and dislocated left elbow, a broken nose, forehead and eye socket, a fracture in his face, a ruptured bladder and bleeding on his brain.
Charlie is fortunate to be alive right now, let alone returning to his teammates in France.
The issue for Davies has been the same for a while now: No one can realistically speculate as to how these injuries will alter his game since they are not common soccer-related injuries.
It is possible that Davies resumes full training soon and after shaking off the rust and building back his stamina is the same guy that broke out in the Confederations Cup last summer.
However, it is also possible that he will never be the same, or at least not for a while. Given that he is a hard nosed player who relies on his speed and work rate to produce goals, it is very possible all of these injuries could have a negative impact to his flexibility and overall mobility.
From a mental aspect, he was in a horrific accident that required an airlift to the hospital and hours of emergency surgery to keep him alive. I don’t think anyone would be able to blame him if he initially shows signs of shying away from contact while protecting the many injuries his body has suffered.
One thing about Davies, however, is that he is overwhelmingly positive and willing to do anything and everything to prove his skeptics wrong. If he can come back and contribute this summer it would be an inspirational story for soccer fans around the world, as it already has been in the United States.
Benny Feilhaber (Ankle) — AGF Aarhus
Feilhaber is back with Dannish side Aarhus after spending several weeks in Brazil rehabbing from cartilage damage in his ankle. While more of a depth concern for the US team, Feilhaber brings a creative touch that few Americans possess and will be a nice option coming off the bench in South Africa.