With the transfer window closing, many transfers and loans have been made to strengthen teams. In Turkey, teams have scrambled to strengthen their rosters in the four weeks of the winter transfer window. Two loan moves have particularly piqued the interest of American soccer fans. Before these loan moves, Brad Freidel was the only American soccer player that had played in Turkey, playing for Galatasaray for the 1995-96 season. In this transfer window, two more Americans will make their way to Turkey, but playing for two clubs in completely different positions. Freddy Adu will play for Rizespor in the Bank Asya 1st division, and Jozy Altidore was loaned out to defending champions Bursaspor in the Spor Toto Super League.
It's rare to see American players to come to Turkey. Other than Freidel and the two players now mentioned, no other American soccer player have made their way over to Turkey in order to ply their trade. It is interesting to see Adu and Altidore get loaned out to Turkey to continue their careers. Turkey can be a placed where upcoming players can try to get noticed or where veterans can have an Indian summer for their careers. A recent example of the latter is Ricardo Quaresma of Beşiktaş. Quaresma has become really popular with Beşiktaş fans, but he has shown glimpses of the potential he had earlier in his career, where he was considered more technically gifted than Cristiano Ronaldo. Whether Altidore or Adu can continue or resurrect their careers will depend on whether they can get playing time.
Freddy Adu is a curious case. Once considered the savior of American soccer at the ripe age of 14, he has had problems in his career ever since leaving DC United. Spells in such countries as Portugal and Greece has not worked out for him well, although he showed glimpses of his talent during his career. Adu now heads on loan to Rizespor, in the northeast of Turkey near the Black Sea. Rizespor is currently second in the Bank Asya 1st division after this week's matches. This seems like a step down for Adu. Then again, considering he has never lived up to the tremendous hype that was placed on him, this may actually be beneficial for him. He won't have a huge spotlight on him, considering Rizespor is in the second tier of the Turkish soccer pyramid. Rize is certainly not Istanbul, so outside distractions shouldn't be a problem for Adu as it may be if he was loaned out to an Istanbul based team. Should he contribute to a promotion to the Super League for Rizespor, he might be able to be signed on a permanent transfer and play in a league where his profile will be raised and other clubs, whether in continental Europe or Major League Soccer, can pay attention to his progress. Adu will have to work hard to get his profile raised. Another stop in his ever evolving career, Adu may have taken a step down. However, sometimes it is best to try out a club that isn't as well known so that Adu can work on his game and eventually get transferred to a better club.
Jozy Altidore, on the other hand, is going to a major club in Turkey. Confirming through his Twitter account, Altidore will play on loan for the rest of the season, and ply his trade for the defending Turkish Super League champions. He will be the first American to play for the club. Heath Pearce, currently of FC Dallas, would have been the first. But when he had signed for Bursaspor before the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the signing had occurred after the transfer deadline had passed. There had been interest from Bursaspor manager Ertugrul Saglam a few months ago, with Saglam even admitting that he had an interest in acquiring Altidore's services. Altidore isn't going to a major Istanbul club, but Bursaspor is now a club with ambition. With their league championship last season, Bursaspor is now looking to repeat as champions, and be known as the fifth biggest team in Turkey. But Altidore's move to Turkey raises a particular question that many American soccer fans have pondered.
That question is whether Altidore will get playing time while at Bursaspor. Bursaspor recently acquired Kenny Miller from Rangers, and is paying him about 50,000 quid per week. For a club like Bursaspor, that salary is steep, so Miller will almost have to start every match for the rest of the season. Also, Altidore will have to compete for the starting forward spot with not only Miller, but with Turgay Bahadir and Sercan Yildirim as well. Considering the foreigner cap the Turkish Football Federation implements, with a club can have up to six foreigners on the pitch at one time, Altidore will not be starting every game. It seems that Altidore is going from a situation where he was riding the bench for Villareal, to riding the bench for Bursaspor. Altidore is going to have to work hard in order to crack the starting lineup. He might be best suited at this point coming off the bench should Bursaspor be behind in a match, or to seal a win. He won't be starting right away, but if anybody can figure out a way to incorporate Altidore within Bursaspor, it will be manager Ertugrul Saglam. Saglam will have to make due with a wide variety of forwards. Altidore may be going into a situation where he will ride the bench again. But unlike at Villareal, Altidore will have a better chance at getting playing time at Bursaspor. Playing time will be crucial for Altidore's development, and benefit the United States national team should he get that playing time at Bursaspor.
These two loan moves are interesting moves due to the fact that it is extremely rare for American soccer players to play in Turkey. Both will have the opportunity to get time playing on the field, which can only benefit them and the United States national soccer team. But they will have to work for their playing time. Playing in Turkey may revitalize both of the careers of Altidore and for Adu. The question is, will they be able to play, and if so, can they be able to have consistent playing time?