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.
Will did a real cool interview with former USMNT goalkeeper Victor Gerley. He played for the US in the 1960s. He was also nice enough to scan some old newspapers from his playing days. So go check it out.
As always, Roderick keeps you updated with games at the club level from the past week.
There were conflicting reports online whether Bobby Warshaw scored in his team’s season opener two weeks ago so I decided to go to the best source to figure this out and he told me that he did.
I meant to post this before the Mexico friendly, but Jeff Carlisle talked to various US players past and present about playing in this rivalry. It is also your monthly reminder that Franke Hejduk is awesome.
Earlier this week, Canada manager Benito Floro claimed that Tesho Akindele is “99.9 percent” committed to Canada’s national team. But Akindele pumped the brakes a little on that statement later in the week.
Kristan Heneage wrote some words for The Guardian on everyone’s favorite NASL/USMNT player Miguel Ibarra. He didn’t do much on Wednesday, but he did have a nice little run on Juan Agudelo’s goal which freed up some space.
The New York Times decided to look at the current status of the goalkeeper position for the USMNT.
Want some more goalkeeper talk? Will has your monthly roundup of news and whatnot for April.
Granted you can’t believe about anything he says, Sepp Blatter is now in favor of CONCACAF getting another automatic spot for the World Cup. And not shocking, UEFA president Michel Platini doesn’t agree.
The US U-20 team will have a camp in Austria with games against Qatar and Croatia next week. While they haven’t announced a roster yet to the public to my knowledge, Seattle’s Cristian Roldan is one of the players making the trip.
And for you few yearning to follow an American in Portugal. It looks like Maryland product Matt Oduaran has been with Tirsense in Portugal’s Campeonato Nacional (third tier) since last summer.
Brad Guzan and Aston Villa got the 1-0 win, but the bigger story for USMNT fans was that DeAndre Yedlin made his Tottenham debut. He came off the bench and played 11 minutes. Here is an every touch video courtesy of @RobUsry.
Julian Green’s situation with Hamburg is odd. Bild reported last week that Green could possibly get fined for refusing to play with the U-23 team. And now it looks like Green is supposed to meet with the team today to discuss whether he will or will not play with the U-23 team.
The FA Cup quarterfinal draw was held yesterday and a couple Americans are still left in the competition. Brad Guzan and Aston Villa will be facing West Brom, while Danny Williams and Reading will take on Bradford City.
The US will host CONCACAF qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. It will take place October 1-13, although the host cities are unknown at this time. The top two teams qualify for the Olympics while the third place team will face Colombia in March of 2016 for a spot. The FIFA international window in October is between 5-13, so getting releases for some of the “better” players could happen for the second half of the tournament.
Brad Guzan wrote some words for The Players’ Tribune about life as a Premier League goalkeeper.
LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho would be interested in playing for the US, but he would have to wait a few more years to apply for citizenship since he just got his green card in July of 2013. So basically it would be a while.
The Irish Times has a story up about Ireland likely missing out on Shane O’Neill.
And finally, if you are a US Soccer twitter hipster, you are probably aware of @RobUsry. He makes a lot of fun videos of US players and his latest is on new Borussia Dortmund youngster Christian Pulisic.
One of the “hot” stories from Wednesday was how Julian Green was demoted to Hamburg’s U-23 team. But according to the club, that is not fully true.
“He’s not moving to the Under-23 team,” HSV press officer Lars Wegener told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “Our sport director said that maybe he could play for the U-23s a couple times when he is not in the first-team squad. The reason is to get him some matches and more practice. He is still with the first team in training.”
A.J. Soares started for Stabæk in a friendly against Strommen and scored a goal yesterday. But Bob Bradley confirmed to The Bent Musket that it is just a training stint and that Soares would be leaving the club this week for another trial elsewhere.
The US tends to be a more stat-driven country when it comes to soccer compared to England, but The Birmingham Mail used some stats to compare Jonathan Spector’s recent play at center back while filling in for injured Michael Morrison.
Jake Keegan officially signed a new contract with Galway United FC (that is their new name for this season after being called Galway FC the last few seasons after replacing the dissolved Galway United).
Some reading material as you countdown until the weekend.
Coming off a 1-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday (highlights), the US U-20 team found out that it will be playing El Salvador on Saturday in the win-or-go-home playoff match to determine who will go to this summer’s U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. The game will be on Fox Sports 2 at 5:00 PM Eastern. The US will have a chance to get some revenge on El Salvador as they knocked out the 2012 U-23 team from qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. (UPDATE – Looks like the game is now on Fox Soccer Plus).
Speaking of the U-23 team, Ives Galarcep decided to guess at a possible Olympic qualifying team of MLS players since some of the European-based played might not get released for qualification.
Joe Corona returned from his broken foot to score in Tijuana’s Copa MX match on Wednesday (highlights). Jon Arnold (who has been everywhere this week) was at Estadio Caliente on Wednesday and got some post-game quotes from Corona. Tijuana’s website also got some words from Corona following the game.
For those of you with a Darlington Nagbe-to-USMNT countdown clock, you can probably move the time up a bit. Most people thought he would become a US citizen at the end of 2015 but it now looks like it could be September according to Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson.
With all this movement from Europe to MLS, Grant Wahl talked to Jurgen Klinsmann to see his thoughts on the moves of Diskerud, Altidore, Brek Shea and Jermaine Jones.
The USMNT continues training in Carson and Clint Dempsey apparently took over the homeless man beard look with Tim Howard not in camp. And Mix Diskerud likes Brad Evans’ hair. This is why you come to this site, for the hard-hitting journalism.
According to the San Antonio Business Journal, the US-Mexico friendly for April will take place at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The US has only played one game before in San Antonio, a 1-0 win over Costa Rica on June 14, 1988.
Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers. Sorry for the lack of updates the last two weeks but some stuff has gone down at work recently which has caused me to focus most, if not all, of my attention on it. Hopefully it should clear up after next week.
In the meantime, enjoy this video of Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Guzan, DaMarcus Beasley and Geoff Cameron attempting to make half court basketball shots. Who knew Geoff Cameron was a lefty shooter?