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!
One player who could see some more playing time with the US without Jozy in the upcoming friendlies is Aron Johannsson. He was named Eredivisie Player of the Week after his two goal/one assist performance over the weekend. Here is also a little video on ArJo.
Alfredo Morales helped Ingolstadt win promotion to the Bundesliga this past season. Kyle McCarthy wrote some words on Morales and his move to Ingolstadt. And according to Greg Seltzer, the club is currently working on a contract extension for Morales.
While Spector is staying at Birmingham City, Will Packwood is no longer with the club and was last seen training with the New England Revolution. But it doesn’t look like the Revs will be signing Packwood.
Grant Wahl is hearing that Rubio Rubin is drawing interest from other teams in Europe but he is staying at Utrecht.
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.
Aron Johannsson went the full 90 minutes and had another assist for the second straight game in AZ’s 3-1 win over ADO Den Haag on Saturday. For whatever reason, highlights of this game are not popping up much online except for some Vines/Instagrams videos which are quickly deleted so here is his assist in GIF form.
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.