With Benny Feilhaber returning to America to play in Major League Soccer, the question as always has to be asked, who is next? Who is the next Jay DeMerit, Charlie Davies or Kenny Cooper that went to Europe to play and decided it was time to come back home and play in MLS.
The question really got brought up Tuesday because there was talk that Chivas USA could pass on Feilhaber and retain their top spot in the allocation order, the system used to place USMNT players like Feilhaber with a MLS club. Passing would mean they have their eye set on someone listed below that could be returning to MLS this summer.
The pool of possible players returning isn't that big and it includes the usual names. I've thrown a couple out there that could happen down the road too, and a couple just for fun.
Contracts expiring soon
It has been no secret that Hahnemann wants to come back to MLS and play in one of the Pacific Northwest clubs. Most believe he'd like to end up with the Seattle Sounders FC to replace the retiring Kasey Keller. But can he wait until the end of the season to do that? I doubt it. Plus, I doubt Seattle will be able to snag him this summer should he decide to come home unless they make a move up the allocation order to get him.
Eddie Johnson (Preston North End via Fulham; contract expires summer of 2011)
The "Grown-Ass Man" has bounced around since leaving Kansas City a couple years ago. He falls in that Kenny Cooper class of players that just never banned out in Europe for various reasons. We know he can be a quality striker in MLS, it is just a matter of finding a coach willing to put up with him and a system that fits his style of play properly. He will finish his contract with Fulham without scoring a single goal for the Cottagers, while scoring just seven total during loan stints with Cardiff, Aris, and Preston.
His time in Greece with Aris may have been his best while in Europe. He could still have some interest from teams in Greece or from other smaller leagues across the pond. But I'd imagine there are a couple MLS clubs that would be willing to put up with him in hopes that he cashes in for them on the pitch.
Demarcus Beasley (Hannover 96; contract expires summer of 2012)
His contract may have a little more time than others listed here but DMB has hinted numerous times that he'd return to MLS before long. With the number of injuries he's picked up over the years and the fact that he hasn't been getting any quality playing time at Hannover. Like Feilhaber, he'll likely have to take a considerable pay cut to return here but he may be up for it if he really wants to play.
Long shots for August but could be possible
Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne)
A couple folks out there believe that should Chivas pass it is because they believe they can bring in Bocanegra this summer. Crazy thought but its a "ya-never-know" kind of one. Bocanegra would certainly be a big signing for any MLS club, especially one like Chivas that still need some defensive work. Fraser knows how to build a defense as we saw during his time in Salt Lake. A backline of Bocaengra, Jimmy Conrad, Zarek Valentin, and Heath Pearce seems nice to me.
Freddy Adu (Rizespor via Benfica)
You can't tell me that playing in a second division in Turkey is better than playing in MLS. Adu may be finally getting some decent playing time there but at some point he has to just suck it up and face the facts that he is no longer the prodigy son to American soccer. Benfica hasn't had him in the cards for their first team pretty much since the day they bought him. He probably needs to return to MLS the most of any American abroad at the moment, just in terms of getting his career back on track. He may be a headache to deal with in terms of coaching too but there are plenty of quality coaches in MLS that would be good enough to put up with him.
Herculez Gomez (Pachuca)
He'll be back in MLS, he's even said so but it won't be for a couple years at least at this point. I put him here in this list just because you never know what will happen with him or his club between now and the next transfer window. He could get home sick, his playing time may decrease too much to his liking or Pachuca could find someone else that better plays his position leaving him out of their plans for the next season.
Zak Whitebread (Norwich City, contract runs out next winter)
He signed with Norwich last year on a two and a half year deal. So far he's played in 22 games since signing with them but has also been hit by the injury bug too. He's finally worked himself into fitness and has even done well recently. He's a long shot for plenty of reasons being he's a quality defender that plenty of clubs in Europe could be interested in; he's still relatively young at the age of 27; and he'd likely be too pricy at the moment for a MLS club. But he is a name to consider down the road just like Jay DeMerit was.
Not anytime soon but why not for fun?
Edson Buddle - He'll be back one day, make no mistake about it he will.
Tim Howard - Yeah, ol' Timmy will one day return home, just as all the other past keepers have done before him.
Jonathan Spector - I nearly put him in the long shot list but he's a decent bet for the "some day" list I suppose.
Clarence Goodson - He's on a new deal with Brondby but down the road in a couple years it wouldn't shock me to see him leading a MLS defense again.
Jose Torres - He says he'd be open to playing in MLS, just not too soon.