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!
With Friedel retiring, that means DaMarcus Beasley is the only player left from the 2002 US World Cup roster still playing. And his Houston Dynamo did a nice prank this week.
The US U-20 team is headed to Australia to train before the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. In case you were living under a rock this week, Gedion Zelalem was cleared by FIFA to play for the US.
If you follow the U-20ers on a regular basis, you have probably noticed that Shaquell Moore has been listed as “unattached” for a while. Tab Ramos said in a chat last week that the defender had been training with Huracan in Spain’s third division followed by Moore signing a professional deal with the club.
CONCACAF announced some Olympic qualifying details yesterday. The US will have two games in Kansas City and one in Commerce City, Colorado. If they advance out of the group, they would be playing in Sandy, Utah at Rio Tinto.
Three Americans (Oguchi Onyewu, Zak Whitbread and Jay Denny) were released by their clubs in England in the last week.
Sebastian Lletget left England last week and his agent decided to fill us in on how complicated it was to get Lletget to LA. Yay MLS roster rules!
According to Grant Wahl, Alejandro Bedoya could have some suitors in Germany and England, while Perry Kitchen is being looked at by teams in Germany, Belgium and Denmark.
Wahl is also hearing that Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood could be looking into getting a new goalkeeper, which wouldn’t be great news for Brad Guzan.
A lot of American greatness going on in Norway. Bob Bradley has led Stabæk to a tie for first on points in Norway’s Tippeligaen. The Fighting Bob Bradleys have won eight straight games across all competitions, including six straight shutout victories in league play, which is apparently a league record. Also, ESPN FC took a look this week at the various players who have become coaches after playing for Bob.
That is not the only greatness in Norway. Rhett Bernstein has had consecutive games with scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals. His four goals are tied for the eighth most in Norway and the most among defenders. Why the sudden outburst in scoring? Having his dad in town to watch him play this week probably helped.
One thing that has been overlooked by many, myself included, until the guys over at Total Soccer Show (I’m guessing Daryl?) pointed out that Jozy Altidore will have to miss the Mexico friendly due to his red card against Switzerland. I’m guessing most forgot about this since we haven’t had a red card in a friendly since January of 2012. While I thought it was stupid on Jozy’s part and also pretty harsh by the ref, Alejandro Bedoya told Doug McIntyre after the game that the ref had warned Jozy at halftime about the language.
Who wants some Freddy Adu hot links? He was introduced to the press yesterday and you can watch it here. One of the interesting tidbits to come from it (and not that shocking with some of the lower leagues), he hasn’t been paid his salary by FK Jagodina in Serbia. And I am doing my best from buying his jersey, but think about all the soccer hipster points you would get for it.
Roderick covered these in The OT Report, but a couple injury updates. Zak Whitbread is one of a few injured Derby County players the team is hoping to get back on the field following the international break. He has been out for a while with back and hamstring issues.
Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN’s Doug McIntyre that he plans on calling in the Euro-based players for the June friendlies against Germany and Netherlands even though most of the European seasons end in early May and the Gold Cup is not until July. So much for any vacation.
Normally a wing player for the US but he plays centrally at the club level, Alejandro Bedoya is willing to play wherever on the field for the USMNT.
The US finally found out its first opponent of the Gold Cup as Honduras overcame a 3-1 first leg deficit to beat French Guiana 4-3 aggregate. The US will face Honduras at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on July 7.
Here are highlights of the US U-23’s 5-2 win over Bosnia from Friday. And here are some photos from training with the U-23ers.
The US U-23 team will be taking on Mexico’s U-23 team at the StubHub Center on Wednesday, April 22. Tickets will go on sale this Thursday. I might have to pick up a ticket for this.
The U-20 team lost their game against England’s U-21 team, 2-1, on Sunday. Here is the game report. Hopefully the highlights will become available in the next couple of days.
In case you missed it, Freddy Adu signed with Finnish side KuPS. He won’t be the only American at the club as former New England Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy signed with the club in January.
Bobby Wood left the USMNT camp so he could sign with FC Erzgebirge Aue. There seems to be some confusion among the American folk (thanks to trying to translate German reports) on whether he signed a permanent deal or if it is a loan deal (I think it is a permanent deal). I think the confusion comes from most articles talking about Erzgebirge Aue bringing in two players, Wood and Román Golobart, with Golobart coming on loan while Wood signed a contract through 2016-17.
We had some goals this weekend. Aron Johannsson scored his first goal of 2015 in AZ’s 3-1 win over Heracles (highlights). In Scottish League One action, Kevin Dzierzawski scored a goal in Peterhead’s 2-0 win over Stenhousemuir (highlights). And while it wasn’t a goal, Tim Ream was credited with an assist in Bolton’s 2-2 draw to Wolves on Saturday (highlights).
And we had a few goals in friendly action this weekend. Alfredo Morales scored a goal in Ingolstadt’s 2-0 win over Shawn Barry and LASK Linz. As for Shawn Barry, he scored a goal in LASK Linz’s 2-1 win over Trnava. Babajide Ogunbiyi scored a goal in Viborg’s 4-2 win over OB. And Paul Arriola scored a goal in Tijuana U-20’s 4-1 win over Morelia on Friday. Jon Arnold was there and got some quotes from Arriola.
Staying at Tijuana, Greg Garza had to be subbed out of Tijuana’s senior team’s win over Morelia after taking on a hard tackle. He tried to play through it, but it was bothering him too much.
Alex De John is now with IK Start in Norway’s Tippeligaen. De John has made a nice jump from Ekenäs IF (Finnish third division) to TPS (Finnish first division) to IK Start (Norway first division) in three seasons.
We posted yesterday in the US-Chile pre-game primer about how Gedion Zelalem is currently ineligible to play for the US, but Grant Wahl/Sunil Gulati are making it sound like the FIFA exception will go through and he will be eligible later this spring.
Also in the link above, Wahl is hearing that US U-20 center back Cameron Carter-Vickers could be training with Tottenham’s first team in the coming weeks.
The US U-20 team picked up a 2-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday (highlights). They just need a win or a tie on Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago to advance to the playoff round. It was announced during the broadcast that Kellyn Acosta will miss the rest of the tournament due to a knee injury, while Junior Flores came off the bench and played after missing a game with an ankle injury.
Also over the weekend, Herculez Gomez scored his first goal for Puebla since returning to La Franja (highlights).
As MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke explained to the Toronto Sun on Friday, sacrifice for the crest is certainly one of those principles.
The club’s head honcho told me Bradley restructured part of his deal with the Reds to help bring Altidore back to MLS. The prospects of playing alongside Altidore brought back memories that made it an easy decision.
“I think about what it has been like to play on so many big days with Jozy,” Bradley said. “We’d be standing in the tunnel and you’ll look over at him and he’ll give you a little wink.
Now that numerous teams in MLS are interested in Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht general manager Herman Van Holsbeeckwants Kljestan to stay for at least a couple months since Anderlecht has lost a couple players due to injury and the African Cup of Nations. Greg Seltzer is also hearing that some European teams are interested in him along with various MLS clubs.
We did have some other goals this past weekend that came in some friendlies. Fabian Johnson scored a goal in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 1-0 win over Rot-Weiss Essen (photo). And Andrew Wooten scored a goal in Sandhausen’s 4-2 win over Jahn Regensburg.