THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD!
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Thursday, February 1, 2007
Yes, that's correct. I am comparing the winter transfer window to a spiteful old hag with a skill for sorcery. Think about it: it's ugly, it's merciless and it gleefully messes with your mind.

You've got talk going one way, innuendo going the other and hearsay constantly swirling... crap... now it sounds more like a tornado.

In any event, we know the house has now dropped and we can come out of the cellar because the key players have either moved or they haven't - that and the fact that I watched The Wizard of Oz the other night.

Now, we can confine all of our transfer murmurings to MLS, Norway, Sweden and a few other leagues running schedules that oppose the UEFA norm. There won't be any cows flying around from that relatively small amount of bluster.

Since there is so much to discuss (and because my attention span gets shorter when the weather gets cold), I will dish out my thoughts on a wild January as if I was catering the back lot of MGM Studios in the winter of 1938: buffet style.

Oguchi Onyewu

I'm not much for Newcastle, but I will say this: Gooch has the perfect stage to show how much he is worth to potential summer suitors. Mainly due to injuries and inexperience (not to mention the mere existence of Titus Bramble), the Magpie backline has been a world of adventure for a few seasons.

If Onyewu can pull on his Indiana Jones hat (note to self: you watch too many movies) and navigate the Toon Army back into Europe, the likes of AC Milan, Lyon and Porto will again be lining up to see you this summer.

The big man could also end up dodging offers from some familiar YA clubs. If Alex leaves PSV Eindhoven as expected, Ronald Koeman will probably chase Onyewu.

In the meantime, Onyewu will play in front of over 50,000 rabid Geordies at St. James Park every other game. Newcastle fans may not quite share the exact same definition of "big club" that I do, but they are definitely some of the world's most demanding, faithful and optimistic supporters.

The move is definitely good news for Onyewu fans in the States, as he will now feature regularly on American cable television.

Benny Feilhaber

The AOL wiz kid didn't go anywhere this month, but as mentioned above, he will be working under new management. It's tough to say how often former Roda JC and Schalke 04tatician Huub Stevens would use Benny in the immediate future as the club should see a formation change.

Trust me, YA followers need no lesson in the pitfalls of a coaching change, especially when the departed was the guy who brought the American onboard (just ask Lee Nguyen, Feilhaber's former US Under-20 teammate, how quickly pecking orders can change).

On the other hand, HSV still have their own injury woes and Stevens is no dummy. He likes to put pressure on the opposition and Benny's style may just be his cup of tea. Besides, what took place before Thomas Doll's removal clearly wasn't working and the new man in charge is going to make some alterations.

With Piotr Trochowski hurt, is it possible we will see the energetic Yank in a more advanced midfield position than he worked for the departed Doll? We will find out when the cellar dwellers visit Hertha Berlin this weekend.

Either way, I am confident Benny will continue finding a place on this team and not face a banishment to HSV II simply because a new boss is in town.

Heath Pearce

The most shocking non-move of the silly season. I don't know a simpler way to put it.

The SAS Liga Defender of 2006 (according to Danish daily Bold) had as many as eight suitors in the Bundesliga, Eredivisie and Ligue 1 over the last six months, with two of them in talks down to the wire.

Danish rivals Brøndby and Copenhagen were reportedly interested, but FC Nordsjælland were never going to sell the league's best left back to them.

Apparently, the Wild Tigers felt he was worth more as a player chasing Europe for a half season than any cut rate transfer fee they were gonna get from Europe.

They may be right; FCN stand seven points behind second place FC Midtjylland and only trail third place Odense BK by five. Pearce could stick around and help them earn UEFA Cup and Royal League involvement (and the relative windfall that comes with such berths) before going free this summer.

Don't cry for Heath, he won't sulk and he will continue to evolve into a real, live natural American left back. Come summer, he can pick a transfer destination with few obstacles.

Were I his agent, I would be burning up Dutch phone lines trying to place his wicked confidence and attack-from-the-back attitude into the Eredivisie, one of the finest leagues on earth for a wing defender.

A side note - it will be an utter crime if Bob Bradley does not bring this sparkplug back into US camp for the Mexico match.

Jonathan Bornstein is a good prospect and has the added delicious novelty of being half-Mexican, but his game is not as mature as Pearce's. Let's face it: debut goal and obvious attack acumen aside, slack defending against Denmark's B squad does not inspire confidence.

To cop from Spike Lee, do the right thing, coach.

Conor Casey

It also may be a big surprise to most that Casey is still cashing paychecks from Mainz, who don't seem to feel the need to play him. And yet, it's really not so shocking after all if you read the signs.

Conor seems to have his sights laser focused on Germany and MLS, which has squeezed his choices. He walked out on a chance to compete for a job with current Eredivisie bottom feeders RKC Waalwijk (if you ask me, a mistake because the club has made several strong winter additions) and has waffled on a fat offer from Norway's top flight.

Like Pearce, he will now travel unfettered when his contract expires after the season. The Rapids want him and he wants them... so much so that his insistence on playing close to his Colorado home could be a deal-killer.

That leaves Germany, and I'm sure he will have several teams dialing his number come June. Still, if he is so dead set on playing in the Bundesliga, it would have been nice if he could have joined up with a promotion chaser now so he'd have something to strive for as he works to regain his game.

DaMarcus Beasley

Speculation that da Bease was headed for MLS never really gained a foothold with me. Real Salt Lake - and more unrealistically, New York - were recently named as possible destinations, but the suggested $4-5 million fee made the story seem far-fetched.

There was an altogether different grapevine nugget here in the Netherlands: the word going around in Eredivisie tunnels last week was that Koeman was ready to bring Beasley back from his Manchester City loan during Tuesday's witching hour if the Farmers couldn't acquire Alberto Luque from Newcastle.

It didn't sound totally silly; the Dutch champs were trying to find an wing attacker with experience and the two protagonists have a bit of history. Some might forget that the PSV coach came within a whisker of landing the US international while in charge of Ajax back in 2002.

He opted for Victor Sikora at the last minute instead, and Amsterdam fans never let him forget it (especially after Beasley's impressive rookie term with their title rivals).

In the end, however, Beasley was not Koeman's midnight Plan B after all. It's just as well because the speedster is starting to come around with Citeh. Sometimes, the deal not made is the best of all.

Jeremiah White

Let's all hope that, in AGF, he finally has a place where he can fire cannon free kicks and pirate raid the right side like Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Of all the Yanks playing second flight ball, White might be the one most capable of raising his game to meet the international level of play.

Of course, he may not be a tier below for long because his promotion chasers have done some wheeling and dealing during the extended break. As well as picking up White for the offense, De Hvide have added Sweden veteran Olof Persson to the backline.

The fan support is second to none and Jerry will love the sea air, so the skies look pretty clear on this voyage.

Just to reiterate: please, PLEASE do not change coaches, AGF Aarhus.

Clint Dempsey

In the fast paced world of winter transfers, this move now seems ancient news, like it happened back when studios could still make a comedy as good as Stripes.

We're Americans! We've been kickin' ass for 200 years... we're 10-1!

This Yank has the attitude of a wisecracking anti-hero, and therefore should fare well at Craven Cottage. When he's not making big plays on the field, he can woo cosmopolitan ladies with his charm.

Dempsey also showed outstanding patience in clinching a deal to join countrymen Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride. Previously interested parties Charlton and West Ham would still be London, but considering where they stand, the Texan probably wouldn't have as much fun.

MC Deuce now has an attack scheme to invigorate, an instant support system, a coach who understands charisma and a chance to help his new team fight back to finish in the better half of the Premiership. All the ingredients are on hand for him to reach a new level.

Whoa... that would make a good movie.
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