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!
Fabian Johnson got the start and was involved in the build up of the last goal (he had the last pass before Traoré’s goal) in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. With the win, Mönchengladbach has won nine straight home games in league play for the first time since 1984 and inch closer to earning an automatic Champions League place. Here is Johnson’s assist in GIF form since the video has already been pulled since I first started typing up this post.
Had one too many margaritas last night? Nothing a few links can’t help.
As Howie posted yesterday, Birmingham City is letting Will Packwood go while offering Jonathan Spector a new contract.
I posted a couple tidbits on the USMNT, U-23 and U-17 teams earlier this week but I also forgot to include that the U-23 team will be holding a camp in England in September. They will play friendlies against England and Qatar during the camp.
J.R. Eskilson spoke to Sam Strong about how an encounter with Jurgen Klinsmann in an airport helped him get his US U-23 call-up last month.
Steven Goff is hearing that Duke product Jeremy Ebobisse and Virginia’s Jake Rozhansky are headed to Europe for some trials.
I recently learned of another former US Soccer Development Academy player in Germany. Faisal Almubaslat is a 17-year-old winger at Tennis Borussia Berlin playing with their U-17 team in the B-Junioren Bundesliga Nord/Nordost. He had a few goals and assists in April as you can see in these highlights against RB Leipzig and Concordia Hamburg.
And finally, a little plug for our goal tracker. There have been a lot of goals, especially in lower leagues, as of late and it will keep you up to date with who is scoring (and links to highlights when available).
In case you missed it on Monday, Bobby Wood went all Hawaiian Messi on us and scored a really nice goal (highlights). And now there are reports out of Germany that 1860 Munich might want him back this summer.
Luca de la Torre had an assist with Fulham’s U-21 team yesterday in a 4-1 loss to Manchester United.
For the second straight week, Andrija Novakovich has scored a goal with Reading’s U-21 team.
Will Reno wrote some words on Cody Cropper’s performance against Mexico for the guys over at Northern Pitch. He also has his April update on US goalkeepers on his site.
And for the four others that care about these things like I do, I haven’t posted leaked kits for next season much like I have in the past. But here are a few of them so far for the Premier League (courtesy of Footy Headlines).
* While we wait for Gedion Zelalem to be cleared by FIFA, here are Arsenal’s home and third shirts for next season.
* Marc Pelosi is starting to play again for Liverpool’s U-21 team and here are their home, away and third kits.
* Cody Cropper won’t be wearing a Southampton non-goalkeeper jersey, but here are Southampton’s home and away shirts.
* And finally, here is what Geoff Cameron and Stoke City will be wearing at home, while the away jersey almost looks like Southampton’s but the sash is going the other way and an inverse in colors.
Fabian Johnson came off the bench and played 21 minutes in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 1-1 (5-4 on PKs) loss to Arminia Bielefeld in the quarterfinals of the DFB Pokal. Johnson made his PK attempt and here are all of the PKs (Johnson’s is at the 6:05 mark).
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.