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!
Greg Garza got the start and scored his first league goal since November 15, 2012 in Tijuana’s 2-1 loss to Atlas. Edgar Castillo went 90 and picked up a yellow card for Atlas, while Joe Corona played 20 minutes off the bench for Tijuana. Here is Garza’s goal.
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.
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.
Herculez Gomez likes scoring goals for Puebla and he scored another one last night in a 2-1 win in Copa MX action (highlights). I was also able to find some highlights of Devann Yao’s goal from the weekend (highlights).
Also scoring earlier this week was Jake Keegan in Galway United’s win in Irish League Cup action (highlights). Here is the post-game press conference with Keegan and his manager. Around the 2:50 mark, his manager talks about Kevin Garcia joining the team soon. I am guessing he is waiting for a work permit as I believe it took Keegan a while to get a new one for this season.
Staying in Ireland, St Patrick’s Athletic has signed midfielder Morgan Langley. Langley played in one game for the Philadelphia Union in 2011, but has mainly played his professional soccer with the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Like many American soccer fans over the last couple seasons, Club Tijuana has slowly become my favorite Liga MX side, especially living in Southern California and having games on TV at reasonable times (Friday at 7:30 PM) instead of setting an alarm for 4 AM in order to watch an English Premier League match.
It also doesn’t hurt when the team boasts Americans Joe Corona, Greg Garza, Paul Arriola, a treasure trove of US U-20 players and have featured other Americans in the past (Edgar Castillo and Herculez Gomez).
With the weekend free, I decided to finally make the three hour trek south to Tijuana to check out the Xolos experience in person in their Friday game against Pumas.
Speaking of the US U-20 team, in case you missed it, here are highlights of their 2-0 win over El Salvador to qualify for New Zealand. Romain Gall shared the Golden Boot with Mexico’s Hirving Lozano with each scoring five goals throughout the tournament.
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.
FIFA announced its finalists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or and for the FIFA World Coach of the Year. While no USMNT players made the Ballon d’Or list (how did Alan Gordon not get nominated?!), Jurgen Klinsmann is one of the 10 finalists for the Coach of the Year award.
FIFA also plans to show off its new logo for the 2018 World Cup later today.
It looks like the USMNT might play Switzerland in a friendly in Zurich in March.
Congrats to the US Women’s National Team for winning the CONCACAF Women’s Championship and clinching a spot in next summer’s World Cup. Since 1990, the US is one of three countries to qualify for every men’s and women’s World Cup (also Germany and Brazil).
Michael Bradley is going to have surgery this week to correct a lingering nerve issue in his foot. This is an injury that has been bugging him for most of the season. Jeff Carlisle asked him if it was an issue prior to the World Cup, which he said no, but I guess it got worse as the season wore on.
Jake Keegan went 90 minutes yesterday in Galway FC’s 2-1 win over UCD in the first leg of the Irish Premier Division promotion/relegation playoffs. Galway FC scored two late goals to steal the road win and now host UCD on Friday for a chance at promotion.
After scoring 12 goals in 14 games with the U-23 team, Jann George finally saw some first team action with Greuther Furth’s senior team in their 5-2 loss to FSV Frankfurt.
We had some goals this weekend. Matt Taylor scored twice in Saarbrücken’s 4-1 win over Pirmasens. Christian King scored twice in Ararat’s 3-2 loss to Ulisses in Armenian Premier League action. Jerome Kiesewetter scored his second goal of the season on Saturday in Stuttgart II’s 1-0 win over Unterhaching. And over Tigres’ last two games, we have had goals by Jose Torres and Herculez Gomez.
I saw a Clint Dempsey rumor (loan deal back to the Premier League) has been circulating the interwebs in the last 48 hours, but it all came from a short “story” from the Daily Mirror with no quotes (except for an out of context quote from Klinsmann). Come on people, I thought we were better than that.
And finally, no matter what happens with the rest of his career, Stuart Holden is still awesome.