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.
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.
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.
Fresh off his loan extension with Charlton Athletic, Oguchi Onyewu got injured while warming up and did not play yesterday while it was announced that he was going to start in Charlton’s 3-0 loss to Ipswich Town.
Haven’t done some links in a while, but here are a bunch of random stuff from recently or two weeks ago (or sometime in the last little bit). Hopefully my workload will ease up after this week and I could do these more often again.
Here are a bunch of things from the last couple of days.
Joe Gyau made his first team debut with Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. He came off the bench and played the last 16 minutes. Here are some highlights and an every touch video of his performance. As for that hugging photo with Jurgen Klopp, that came right after Dortmund scored their first goal right as Gyau was about to sub into the game.
Robbie Keane thinks Robbie Rogers should get a look at left back for the USMNT (No Gregory, I am not posting this as a shot at Timmy Chandler. Just wanted to get that out there in advance. 😉 ).
MLSsoccer.com posted their Top 24 players under 24 yesterday. A few USMNT players (DeAndre Yedlin, Bill Hamid, Luis Gil) on there as well as some possible USMNT hopefuls in the near future (Gyasi Zardes, Wil Trapp).
It might be tough for some of the MLS players to play for the USMNT in the October 10 friendly due to the MLS schedule that week.
And finally, we are nearly out of our OT/Sacha Mustache t-shirts, but here is your last chance to get your hands on one. Some of the ones listed in that post have already been claimed, waiting to hear back from some others, but send me an e-mail if you are interested.
Jurgen Klinsmann wants competition between Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando for the #1 goalkeeper spot. OT resident goalkeeper guru Will has a couple words on Guzan/Rimando (plus a lot other information on everything US goalkeepers).
Baltimore is in talks with CONCACAF to host some Gold Cup games next summer. We should know the final stadiums/locations in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The US U-20 team takes on the Argentina U-20 team later today. They are 2-0-0 on their trip so far with wins over Racing Club Reserves and Defensa y Justicia Reserves. Bradford Jamieson IV has the best name ever. I want him to make it to the USMNT so I can get his jersey someday.
As I promised last week, we are starting to add new content to the site aside from links and RJ DeMello started us off last week with an interview with Joe Gyau. There should also be something else USMNT-centric from another new contributor today.
Of course the weekend that I am gone has 12 goals scored by various Americans throughout Europe, so here are a bunch of GIFs of about half of those goals. The goal tracker has also been updated with all the goals.
The US U-23 and U-17 teams have been busy lately. The U-23 team defeated the Bahamas national team 5-1 (highlights). And the U-17 team are in the semifinals of a tournament in Mexico after winning their first four games (highlights).
In Europa League action yesterday, Pablo Punyed and Stjarnan are advancing to the playoff round, while Mix Diskerud/Rosenborg, Ethan Horvath/Molde and Sean Reynolds/FH have all been eliminated.
Here are some highlights of Ethan Horvath in action between the sticks for Molde II in a recent game.
The US U-20 team opened up the 2014 NTC Invitational with a 2-1 win over Chile. The goals were scored by Andrija Novakovich and Zach Pfeffer. Here is who started and this is what they looked like. Next up is Bermuda on Wednesday at 4 PM Pacific.
Jozy Altidore and Jermaine Jones made the rounds at FOX on Sunday. They were on Fox Sports Live and did this podcast (which randomly features a Iowa Hawkeye helmet!). Jermaine also threw out the first pitch at the Dodgers game on Friday.
Jose Torres, Herculez Gomez and Tigres did not qualify for Copa Libertadores after losing to Morelia in the two-legged SuperCopa MX.
Sebastian Lletget had an assist in West Ham’s Development Squad’s 2-2 draw to AFC Hornchurch on Sunday. Lletget is in an interesting spot. He is probably getting too old for regular development squad minutes, but West Ham won’t play him with the first team or loan him out to get minutes.
We had tons of goals this weekend as you can see from all the highlight posts I made over the weekend. You can also see the non-highlights goals on our goal tracker. We also had some youth team/friendly goals this weekend with Danny Barbir scoring with West Brom’s U-18 team and Rubio Rubin scoring twice with Utrecht’s reserve team.
Remember when David Yelldell was a thing and looked like he might be the #3 goalkeeper for the USMNT? Well, he has been hiding on Bayer Leverkusen’s bench the last couple seasons, but he made a nice double save off a penalty kick in a friendly over the weekend.
I made a post about two things yesterday. I have heard from one of our Brazil Bracket Challenge winners, but still waiting to hear back from dmlacey. I also asked for help trying to find the video that they played in the stadiums before the World Cup games. Brian Straus then tweeted it out later in the afternoon and it was on FIFA’s own Youtube channel. Apparently I can find Icelandic third division highlights, but not something this simple on FIFA’s own channel. That said, enjoy the video. I like it.