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USMNT – Leaving West Ham United, Jonathan Spector at a crossroads. What’s next for Arlington Heights, IL native?

USMNT – Leaving West Ham United, Jonathan Spector at a crossroads. What’s next for Arlington Heights, IL native?

Jonathan Spector leaves West Ham United, what is next for American midfielder. PHOTO Joe Toth / ISIPhotos.com

Jonathan Spector leaves West Ham United, what is next for American midfielder. PHOTO Joe Toth / ISIPhotos.com

By Tobias Robinson

At 25, Jonathan Spector has reached a key moment in his career. He has spent the last 5 seasons at West Ham United, but following their relegation to the Championship (The second tier of English club football) from the EPL, he has left the East London club and will be looking for pastures new.

A product of the US Soccer Federation Academy in Florida, Spector left the US and moved to England in 2003, aged 17. He signed for one of the biggest club sides in the world, Manchester United, and made his debut in the summer of 2004, in the traditional season curtain raiser in England, the Charity Shield.

His career at Manchester United stalled however, and the club felt he would benefit from a loan spell to gain valuable experience. One proposed loan to Blackburn Rovers fell through, but the next season, Spector joined Charlton Athletic in London and made 24 appearances for them in total that year.

On his return to Old Trafford, first team opportunities were still limited, and in 2006 he was sold to West Ham United having played just 8 times for the Red Devils. His second move to London coincided with a turbulent period in his new club’s history; there was a desperate change of ownership, financial woes and numerous different coaches came and went.

Partly due to this turmoil, the US international was never able to claim a regular starting position, his final season being a case in point – Spector won the annual “Individual Performance of the Season” award, for his sensational appearance in the Carling Cup quarter final against his old club, Manchester United, scoring two goals. [View them here] Within a few weeks however, he was back on the bench, frustrated at his lack of game time. Those have been his only goals in English football, and in 5 seasons with ‘The Hammers’ as they are known, he made a total of just 101 appearances.

This lack of regular football never stopped Spector getting the call for his National side, and to date, he has played over 30 times for the US, as well as representing his country before that at under-17 and under-20 level. He also holds a Gold Cup winners medal from 2007.

Jonathan Spector has 31 caps for USMNT, on this photo trying to stop Lionel Messi in USA vs Argentina 1-1 game. PHOTO Brad Smith / ISIPhotos.com

Jonathan Spector has 31 caps for USMNT, on this photo trying to stop Lionel Messi in USA vs Argentina 1-1 game. PHOTO Brad Smith / ISIPhotos.com

An accomplished defender, and latterly at West Ham, a midfielder too, Spector’s versatility is both a blessing and a curse. The ability to play in many positions makes him a valuable member of any squad, but it has led to him failing to nail down a starting place in the first team at any of his clubs. His adaptability means he is easily moved around to plug gaps or fill in during injuries or suspensions to others.

It is for this reason that Jonathan Spector will need to think long and hard about his next move. Which club offers him the best prospects for getting a starting spot and then staking a claim to it long-term? He has been linked with a move away from England – there has been talk of clubs in Germany, Italy or even a return to the US to try and force his way into an MLS team.

The key for Jonathan Spector will be regular first team football. At 25, he has experienced a great deal in both club football in Europe, and also international football, but he can longer bide his time or wait to fulfil his potential. He must make the right choice of destination and try and give himself the best chance of being a first team regular.

A player of doubtless quality, Spector knows the next few years should see him reach the peak of his powers, so he will be anxious to ensure he does not spend too much of that time sat on the bench or not in the squad at all. His attitude during these difficult seasons has been first rate, he has knuckled down and worked hard to make sure he is ready when called upon. Now he is at a crossroads, and needs a coach who will repay that level of commitment and professionalism.

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