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!
The Bolton Wanderers Supporters Association held a end-of-the-year social event on Thursday and Tim Ream was named Player of the Year by the BWSA for the second straight season.
Versatile American Ream has featured in all but two of Bolton’s games so far this season, whilst Pratley has impressed and prior to a hamstring injury in January missed just one game under the guidance of manager Neil Lennon.
Ream said: “Of course it’s nice to be recognised by the fans with an award like this. It’s an honour to win the award again, though I’m just a small part of the whole team.
“Early on nobody could say that we were playing to the best of our abilities, but since the manager has come in we’ve been able to push on and I’m enjoying my football here at Bolton.”
Ream has put in another solid season for Bolton, leading the team in games played (41), minutes played (3475) and successful passes (1271).
As for the mid week so far, Gedion Zelalem help setup a goal for Arsenal’s U-21 team. Michael Orozco had an assist as Puebla won the Copa MX final over Chivas (Herculez Gomez watched from the bench). And Andrija Novakovich scored a goal for Reading’s U-21 team.
The US U-20 team is in Austria this week and here is their roster. They had a 2-2 draw against Qatar yesterday with the US goals coming from Amando Moreno and Conor Donovan.
The US U-23 team will take on Mexico later tonight at the StubHub Center. Here is their roster. Apparently manager Andi Herzog asked Hamburg permission for Julian Green to stay after last week’s friendly against Mexico for this game but they didn’t respond yes to him until Green was already on a plane back to Germany. Herzog also wants to create a pipeline to the USMNT with the U-23 team. And Liviu Bird’s random observation from training earlier this week, Jordan Morris has Type 1 diabetes and tests his blood sugar during training.
For those of you that miss watching grainy Youtube videos of Josh Gatt flying down the wings, we have some good news. He has been cleared to play again after a couple knee surgeries.
Hannover 96 did some shuffling around of their coaching staff and Steve Cherundolo has been promoted to an assistant.
This past weekend had some action on the field. Fabian Johnson scored his first goal with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Aron Johannsson and Tim Ream both returned from their injuries. Roderick has you covered with everyone in The OT Report.
The US U-17 team began play at the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship with a 5-0 win over Cuba on Friday (highlights) followed with a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago yesterday (highlights). Joe Gallardo (four goals) and Christian Pulisic have been the US’s two best players in my non-expert opinion so far.
According to one report out of Germany, Jurgen Klinsmann might call up Ashton Götz for the US friendlies and camp this month even though he doesn’t have his US passport yet (he wouldn’t be able to play in the games but he could train with the team).
It looks like Freddy Adu could be headed to Sweden to sign with a real team according to Ives Galarcep. If true, this would be his 11th different team in his eighth different country since becoming a pro in 2004. Over that same time, I have lived in two different apartments and have had the same job.
Continuing with the rumors, this report claims Fabian Johnson has been scouted recently by Barcelona as he is one of a few players on their list of potential fullbacks since Dani Alves’ contract ends this summer.
Barcelona youngster Ben Lederman is currently in playing purgatory as part of the team’s injunction that retroactively disqualified many academy players. Some guys just got cleared to play again but not Lederman.
And also thanks to Josh Deaver, I am now aware of a second American at Barcelona. Konrad de la Fuente is a U-14 forward and he scored a goal back in early February for Barca’s Infantil A.
“There were a lot of options,” Altidore said. “People were saying I was forced to Toronto or something like that. I just thought at this point in my life it was something that I was ready to do.
“I was ready for the public opinion and backlash. The project they have here excited me the most.”
Even more than the plethora of opportunities he had on Europe’s mainland.
Altidore explained why he chose Toronto FC over four German clubs, two French sides, two Italian teams and a potential loan move within the Premier League.
But there are a lot of goodies in that interview so go read it.
While he is not playing much for Hamburg, Bayern Munich is at least making money off Julian Green. According to one report out of Germany, Bayern Munich is getting paid each time Green doesn’t make Hamburg’s gameday roster. And that has happened a lot this season.
It’s almost the weekend, but here are a few things to check out.
First off, welcome Roderick MacNeil to the site. He is going to helping out now and bringing back The OT Report from the dead. He did a midweek edition last night. We are probably going to tweak the format around a little bit.
The Daily Mail (your first sign that it likely wasn’t true) had a report in January that Tim Howard was looking into a possible MLS move. Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez is expecting Howard to see out his contract at Everton and told the press that Howard is still his #1 keeper. Nothing to see here.
ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle talked to Tim Ream as he continues to put in solid efforts for Bolton.
Former USMNT goalkeeper Frank Borghi passed away this week. He will probably be remembered most for his performance against England in the US’s upset at the 1950 World Cup. Resident goalkeeper historian Will did a good job of collecting news/links/information on Borghi over the last week.
We have had a couple goals so far this week. Herculez Gomez scored yet another goal for Puebla in Copa MX action on Tuesday (highlights). Dating back to his first stint with Puebla, it was his 13th goal in 22 career games across all competitions with Puebla
Nermin Crnkic scored a goal yesterday in Jablonec’s 2-0 win over FC Copenhagen in something called the Atlantic Cup (highlights). It appears to be a friendly/winter break tournament that no one attends.
Heading back to Mexico last night, 20-year-old Jesus Vazquez scored a goal in Leones Negros’ 2-0 win over Necaxa. Looking at our goal tracker, that is already the fourth goal scored by an American against Necaxa since January 21.
Sticking with Copa MX, Joe Corona wore the arm band for Tijuana last night in their 3-2 win over Coras de Tepic. Fellow Americans Alejandro Guido, John Requejo Jr. and Paul Arriola also saw the field for the Xolos. Jon Arnold got some quotes from Arriola following the match.
Also in action on Wednesday, Rubio Rubin went the full 90 minutes in Utrecht’s 1-0 loss to Willem II. While Tim Ream went 90 minutes in Bolton’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool in their FA Cup fourth-round replay.
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.