Three for Thursday: Bringing the boys back home
Former US youth phenom Lee Nguyen will have a new — and hopefully, permanent — home by the end of Thursday. A weighted lottery will bring to a close a globe-trotting odyssey that saw the winger rise to prominence with the U-20 team back in 2005, then have subsequent stops at such far-flung places as Bloomington, Ind.; Randers, Denmark; and most recently, Thu Dau Mot, Vietnam.
So it's safe to say Nguyen went his own way. But like everyone from Benny Feilhaber to Freddy Adu, he's now made his way back to these shores and is looking to leave his mark in MLS.
And Nguyen isn't the only former US international out there who could find a home back in the league. Here are a few others:
Hill (above) hasn't been quite the globe-trotter that Nguyen was, confining his travels to Europe. He had a handful of appearances with VfL Wolfburg from 2006-09, then spent the last couple of years bouncing between a couple of different clubs in Portugal, but never winning a regular spot.
The 26-year old has just resurfaced as a target for Hammarby of the Swedish second flight — the club that just hired Gregg Berhalter, who knows a thing or two about succeeding in Europe.
It seems a good bet that Hill, who represented the US twice under Bob Bradley back in 2007, will get the chance to prove himself with Berhalter's side should he sign. Hammarby's a proud club that are obviously willing to take a chance on Yanks.
But he could be a pretty good fit here in MLS as well, especially with his versatility and comfort on the ball. Hill can play either side of the pitch, and should work up top in a 4-3-3. He's not much of a finisher, but he combines well in the final third and can be dangerous both with and without the ball.
The 6-foot-6 goalkeeper was taken by the Chicago Fire with the 12th pick in the 2008 SuperDraft, but decided to try his luck overseas instead.
He did well enough to land a contract with Celtic, but hasn't done enough to win playing time with the legendary Scottish side in the three years since. He's recently been loaned to Greenock Morton of the Scottish First Division (second level), finally earning some playing time.
And by all accounts, he's played very well. But let's face it: The Scottish second tier is not the place to make a name for yourself as a professional. And at 25, Cervi has already been lapped by the likes of Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson — both several years younger than he is — in the race to win a spot in the US player pool.
It's quite a fall from grace for a guy who made Bradley's game-day roster twice in 2008 and was considered, at the time, second only to Brad Guzan among young US goalkeeper prospects.
There aren't a ton of MLS sides in need of a 'keeper these days, but there are some. And given Jurgen Klinsmann's willingness to look to the league, Cervi could hardly do better than returning Stateside.
Vidal is one of the multitude of Mexican-Americans who have made the journey south to seek his fate in the ranks of Mexican professional soccer.
And the former US U-15 midfielder has done well for himself, helping lead Indios de Ciudad Juárez to promotion in 2009, before seeing the team fall back to the Liga de Ascenso a year later. Since then, he spent a year with Pachuca, but failed to earn a spot with the perennial title contenders before dropping back down a level to become an integral part of Club León.
Vidal, who was born in Dallas, is small but sturdy and smart on the ball, which means he can fill in ably all over midfield. Think Ned Grabavoy, if you need a comparison.
And really, which team in MLS couldn't use a guy like that in their ranks? Vidal won't be a star, but he's a no-nonsense, solid pro and, at just 25, has plenty of good years ahead of him.