American Exports: Jonathan Spector's first-team return delayed by bad weather in Birmingham
AMSTERDAM – Birmingham handyman Jonathan Spector is nearing a first-team return from a thigh injury, but his comeback was delayed Wednesday by the cancellation of Wednesday friendly arranged to get him game time.
The 27-year-old was set to play in a closed-session match at the club's Wast Hills training ground, only to have it wiped out by rain and high winds. Though Spector has been in full training since last week, Brums manager Lee Clark wants the US international to see live action for the first time in more than four months before fitting him back into the first-team puzzle.
"I suspect now that [Spector's chance to play a fitness match] will be delayed," Birmingham press officer Andy Walker told MLSsoccer.com following the friendly cancellation. "The Under-21s have a game on Monday. If he sees some game time then, he could be back with the first team the following week for the game against Blackpool."
Spector has not suited up for the Brums since an Oct. 5 home loss to Tim Ream's Bolton. While injury woes have contributed in limiting him to nine caps during this World Cup cycle and none since the United States' February 2012 friendly victory at Italy, Spector could be hopping off Birmingham's shelf at just the right time.
Though often used in midfield for his club, the veteran of 34 international appearances has spent almost the entirety of his US national team playing time at one of the four backline positions. Several defenders vying to make Jurgen Klinsmann's World Cup squad this summer are battling injuries, including outside-back options such as DaMarcus Beasley, Timothy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo and Eric Lichaj.
While the March 5 friendly with Ukraine may come too soon for Spector to earn a call-up, he could rise up the US depth chart in the following months while some currently above him are recovering.
Compatriot Will Packwood, who made his long-awaited return from a broken leg and resulting loan spell a month ago, should start his fifth straight game in central defense when Birmingham host Huddersfield Town on Saturday. The home side will start the match in 18th place, nine points above the trap door.