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!
It’s time for the not-quite-annual USA-Mexico out-of-window cash grab friendly (Wednesday, 7:30 PM CT, Fox Sports 1/UniMas/Univision Deportes). The US released its roster today. It consists of 13 MLS players, 5 Liga MX guys, an NASL guy, a college guy, a guy who finally made his EPL debut, and whatever we classify Julian Green as these days.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Julian Green (Hamburg), Jordan Morris (Stanford University), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Notable absences are Clint Dempsey (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended). Juan Agudelo makes his triumphant return. Brad Evans also returns after a lengthy absence.
The US U-23 team won its game against Bosnia U-23s, 5-2, on Friday. The US goals were scored by Jordan Morris, Mario Rodriguez, Benji Joya, Alonso Hernandez and Fatai Alashe. Here was the starting lineup.
The U-23ers will next play Denmark’s U-23 team on Tuesday at Lyngby Stadion in Copenhagen.
US Soccer is about to have a busy next couple of weeks with the USMNT, U-23 and U-20 teams all having camps and friendlies throughout Europe. It looks like we should expect to see the various rosters over the weekend.
While we wait for the rosters, a bunch of names are kind of leaking out. Thanks to Birmingham City’s site, we know that Will Packwood is going to be with the U-23 team. Brian Sciaretta is also hearing that Jerome Kiesewetter will be with the U-23s, while Andrija Novakovich will be with the U-20s. And while there has been speculation that Jurgen Klinsmann is going to call in Ventura Alvarado with the MNTers, there is at least one report of Leon goalkeeper William Yarbrough being called in as well.
Will Packwood scored his first professional goal yesterday in Cheltenham Town’s 2-2 draw to Portsmouth (highlights). He had to be subbed out due to some kind of injury, but he tweeted after the game that he is “feeling groggy” but is OK.
DeAndre Yedlin is back on the field and played with Tottenham’s U-21 team on Monday. Here is a photo of him in action.
Andrija Novakovich made his debut with Reading’s senior team over the weekend in Reading’s 4-1 loss at Watford. Here is a photo of Novakovich about to come onto the field.
Reading and Danny Williams (went the full 90) won their FA Cup 6th round replay over Bradford City on Monday. Reading is headed to the FA Cup semis for the first time since 1927.
And finally, FIFA announced the stadiums that will be used at the 2016 Olympics and somehow Arena da Amazônia in Manaus made the cut as one of the seven stadiums. I still remember drinking two full glasses of water while just walking to my seat in the upper deck. It was such a furnace. I did snap this nice photo.
The US U-17 team won their third straight game of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship over Guatemala yesterday. Here are some highlights while here are some photos. With nine points through three games, the US can clinch the group and a spot at the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a win over Honduras on Sunday even though they have one more group stage game after that.
We didn’t have any injuries this week, but we had a few goals from some not-so-usual suspects during the midweek games. As always, Roderick has you covered on what happened with The OT Report.
As for some highlights from the past week. Adam Henley scored his first professional goal (highlights). Amando Moreno scored another goal in Copa MX action (highlights). And fresh off his USMNT call-up in January, Julio Morales scored in Copa MX action (highlights).
Conor O’Brien was also credited with an assist this week, but the site that I have been able to get Austrian highlights in the past changed their settings and won’t allow the video player to start for people outside Austria. We also had some other goals this week that don’t have highlights yet, but you can always follow along with our goal tracker.
Speaking of Copa MX, the group stage finished up this past week and the quarterfinals have been figured out. The Tijuana contingent earned the #1 seed and will take on Gabriel Farfan and Chiapas. Everyone’s favorite left back Jonathan Bornstein and Queretaro are the #4 seed and will take on Chivas. Herculez Gomez, Michael Orozco and Puebla are the #2 seed and take on Merida. And Alonso Hernandez and Monterrey (#3 seed) will face UAT.
In his second game since going out on loan, Lynden Gooch scored a goal and was named Man of the Match in Gateshead’s 3-1 win over Wrexham earlier this week.
Friend of the site Jon Arnold was in Mexico City this week for Club America’s CONCACAF Champions League win over Saprissa. After seeing Ventura Alvarado in the flesh, he wrote some words on the centerback.
Björn Maars Johnsen had scored 14 goals in 27 games for Atlético CP in Portugal this season, but he appears to be with Lovech in Bulgaria now. For those out of the loop, he was born in North Carolina but grew up in Norway.
“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.
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.
One player at this month’s camp that you probably don’t know that much about is Julio Morales. Brian Sciaretta gets you caught up to date on Mr. Morales. It looks like Morales might not be able to play in the friendlies just yet (although he can still participate in the camp) as he has to file a one-time switch with FIFA since he played with Mexico at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.
Much like Brad Friedel with the U-20 team, another former player, Carlos Bocanegra, is helping out as a coach this month.
Kyle McCarthy takes a look at the mixture of vets and youth as camp begins.
In other USMNT news, CONCACAF has moved up the start of the final round of World Cup qualifying (a.k.a. The Hex) by three months to November of 2016 due to FIFA eliminating some international fixture dates in 2017. The draw for the first round will take place on Thursday, but the US won’t enter qualification until the fourth round, beginning in November of 2015. Yes, the whole cycle is about to start up again.
And we might know about two more friendlies for this year as Fox Sports ran this graphic during Friday’s U-20 game, which shows games against Australia and Ghana for later this year.
Speaking of Mr. Zelalem, the guys over at The Short Fuse have a little write- up on the savoir of American soccer Arsenal prospect.
Moving onto some club news.
All signs are pointingtowards Mix Diskerud signing with NYCFC later today (or this week).
There was some more Jozy Altidore-to-MLS chatter over the weekend and Toronto FC appears to have the edge at the moment. If this were to go down, I am just going to pretend that this was some mastermind of Klinsi to get Michael Bradley and Jozy practicing together everyday.
Heath Pearce didn’t come to terms with Orlando City after being taken in the expansion draft, so he might be looking to take his talents to Europe. Pearce began his professional career in Denmark with FC Nordsjælland and also played with Hansa Rostock in Germany so he does have experience abroad.
I can’t find much more on this, but Frank Simek’s wikipedia page has been updated that he is now with Sông Lam Nghệ An in Vietnam. As one would expect, it is not easy to find solid information on this team or league.
A bunch of stuff from this week and other stuff from last week that I meant to post but didn’t, so let’s get after it.
Yesterday was a good day for Americans in Europe. John Brooks continued his recent strong play by scoring his first goal since THAT goal against Ghana (highlights from yesterday). Over in Belgium, Sacha Kljestan came off the bench and scored a goal in Anderlecht’s 3-0 win in the Belgian Cup (highlights). Also in the Belgian Cup, Kenny Saief scored for Gent in their 4-1 win (no highlights found yet). And back in Germany, Alfredo Morales was credited with an assist in Ingolstadt’s 2-1 win, but his teammate did most of the dirty work (highlights).
Howie posted some links about Brek Shea heading back to the US and Orlando City, but Greg Seltzer is hearing that some other Championship teams might be still interested in his services.
Herculez Gomez is headed back to Puebla. This will be his seventh different stint with a Liga MX team in the last five seasons, but he would be returning to his original stint/team where he won his scoring title in 2010.
Ventura Alvarado and Club America won the Apertura title this past fall so here are two interviews for you, one in English and one in Spanish.
Dom Dwyer signed a new contract with Sporting Kansas City which will keep him in the US for a while longer. Since he received his green card in 2012, he would be eligible to apply for citizenship in 2017.