Holy smokes. Can you believe that this is the sixth edition of the legendary OT XI? When we started this thing there were actually a ton of American players in Europe. Of the original OT XI, only two (Alejandro Bedoya and Jonathan Spector) are still playing abroad, and five (Ryan Guy, Landon Donovan, Brad Friedel, Eddie Johnson, and Carlos Bocanegra) are retired. Crazy times.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, Aston Villa (England) [2nd appearance]
If you want to talk about the decline of American players abroad, look no further than goalkeeper (and talk to our friend Will, who wrote this pick.) Even though he didn’t have the greatest of finishes, it was Brad Guzan who carried Aston Villa through the first half of the season, when they couldn’t buy a goal. Guzan carried his team out of the relegation zone so that when it came to the meaningless games in the season, his poor performance didn’t matter. Admittedly, it’s a weak pick without glamour but of all the overseas goalkeepers, Guzan helped his team the most.
Greg Garza, Tijuana (Mexico) [1st]
Tim Ream, Bolton Wanderers (England) [2nd]
Ventura Alvarado, Club America (Mexico) [1st]
Eric Lichaj, Nottingham Forest (England) [2nd]
Two from Liga MX and two from the Football League Championship make up the backline. Garza basically made Edgar Castillo, the 2013 honoree at leftback, expendable at Tijuana as he also established himself as the likely national team heir apparent to the internationally-retired Edgar Castillo. Ream played a little of everywhere defensively for Bolton and earned his second consecutive team MVP. After time on loan, Alvarado blossomed with the CONCACAF Champions League winners and broke into the national team. Meanwhile, back in England, Lichaj had his healthiest season and made 42 appearances, more than the previous two seasons combined (since they play like 800 games in the lower divisions of England).
Guys, guys! We had a guy qualify to the Champions League out of a top five league! Johnson stepped up his team quality and managed to break in and do his usual thing of being a solid contributor at multiple spots on the flank. His former teammate at Hoffenheim, Williams, makes his second consecutive appearance as he continues to play well for Reading. Morales, who looked somewhat out of his element in early caps with the Nats, has blossomed into an legit prospect and helped Ingolstadt earn promotion, meaning he’ll join Johnson in the Bundesliga next year. Bedoya, meanwhile, continued his strong form in Nantes. With Bedoya’s 4th OT XI appearance, he ties Sacha Kljestan and Clint Dempsey for the all-time lead and is a solid favorite to hold the title by his lonesome sooner rather than later.
Matt Taylor, 1. FC Saarbrücken (Germany) [3rd]
Cesar Romero, FC Pyunik (Armenia) [2nd]
Taylor is basically one of our favorite OT players ever. He is a mortal lock to bang in double digit goals in any season that ends in an odd-numbered year (2011- 17; 2013- 16; 2015- 13) and takes advantage of the lengthy injury absences to Terrence Boyd and Aron Jóhannsson, two of last year’s forward honorees. Meanwhile, another OT favorite completely dominated Armenia, scoring 20 goals as Pyunik won their first league title since 2010. He also inspired us to make a ton of The Joker references, although we probably should have made more, because that’s an awesome nickname.
Tim Ream, D, Bolton Wanderers
Ream has gone from MLS breakout prospect to national team disaster to Premier League overmatched to extremely useful Championship player. He has really excelled the last two years with Bolton, and he’s mostly a classic example of how a players can take a while to adjust to a new country.
Goal of the Year
Aron Jóhannsson really wanted to make this post despite missing so much time injured, so he won this late-season match against NAC Breda in the waning moments with this ridiculous strike from distance.
Performance of the Year
Seriously, Jóhannsson got healthy and just wanted OT honors. Plus he has a desire to spend his Thursdays traveling across Eastern Europe in Europa League. So Gunner Stahl (time to resurrect that nickname) decided to dump two goals and an assist on Excelsior (fantastic club name, I’m glad they managed to stay in the Eredivisie) in a match to clinch Europa League for AZ. Highlights!
Matt Taylor scored his team-leading 13th goal yesterday in Saarbrücken’s 4-2 win over Pirmasens. Here are a bunch of highlights with Taylor’s goal coming at the 8:10 mark (with the announcers losing their crap and singing after his goal).
Haven’t done some links in a while, but here are a bunch of random stuff from recently or two weeks ago (or sometime in the last little bit). Hopefully my workload will ease up after this week and I could do these more often again.
FIFA announced its finalists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or and for the FIFA World Coach of the Year. While no USMNT players made the Ballon d’Or list (how did Alan Gordon not get nominated?!), Jurgen Klinsmann is one of the 10 finalists for the Coach of the Year award.
FIFA also plans to show off its new logo for the 2018 World Cup later today.
It looks like the USMNT might play Switzerland in a friendly in Zurich in March.
Congrats to the US Women’s National Team for winning the CONCACAF Women’s Championship and clinching a spot in next summer’s World Cup. Since 1990, the US is one of three countries to qualify for every men’s and women’s World Cup (also Germany and Brazil).
Michael Bradley is going to have surgery this week to correct a lingering nerve issue in his foot. This is an injury that has been bugging him for most of the season. Jeff Carlisle asked him if it was an issue prior to the World Cup, which he said no, but I guess it got worse as the season wore on.
Jake Keegan went 90 minutes yesterday in Galway FC’s 2-1 win over UCD in the first leg of the Irish Premier Division promotion/relegation playoffs. Galway FC scored two late goals to steal the road win and now host UCD on Friday for a chance at promotion.
After scoring 12 goals in 14 games with the U-23 team, Jann George finally saw some first team action with Greuther Furth’s senior team in their 5-2 loss to FSV Frankfurt.
We had some goals this weekend. Matt Taylor scored twice in Saarbrücken’s 4-1 win over Pirmasens. Christian King scored twice in Ararat’s 3-2 loss to Ulisses in Armenian Premier League action. Jerome Kiesewetter scored his second goal of the season on Saturday in Stuttgart II’s 1-0 win over Unterhaching. And over Tigres’ last two games, we have had goals by Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez.
I saw a Clint Dempsey rumor (loan deal back to the Premier League) has been circulating the interwebs in the last 48 hours, but it all came from a short “story” from the Daily Mirror with no quotes (except for an out of context quote from Klinsmann). Come on people, I thought we were better than that.
And finally, no matter what happens with the rest of his career, Stuart Holden is still awesome.
Matt Taylor scored two goal on Saturday, giving him eight on the season, in Saarbrücken’s 4-1 win over Pirmasens in German Regionalliga action. Here are some highlights with Taylor’s goals coming at the 1:35 and 5:00 marks.