Fatih Karagumruk (Super Lig)
#44 | Defender
November 11, 1988 (Age: 32)
Downers Grove, Illinois
5' 11", 175 lbs (1.8 m, 80 kg)
Eric Lichaj's journey across the Atlantic is quite a bit different than most Americans playing in Europe. He did not play professionally, and had only just completed his freshman year at the University of North Carolina when Europe came calling. The Chicago native was spotted by Aston Villa on their summer tour in 2007, and the English club did not hesitate in offering the Chicago Magic standout a two year deal.
Unlike the majority of American players hoping to play in England, Lichaj did not have to deal with the sometimes impossible task of obtaining a work permit. The young defenders parents are Polish immigrants, and therefore he holds a Polish passport.
When Lichaj arrived at Aston Villa in 2007 he started out with the club's Academy, but after proving himself at that level, he was promoted to the reserve team for the 2008 campaign. He played a major role with the reserves, as he saw minutes in all but two games during a season in which the reserves captured the Premier Reserve League title.
During the 2009 preseason, Lichaj saw a substantial amount of first team time. He saw some of his best time at the Peace Cup in Spain. At the Peace Cup, he gained valuable experience with the first team, starting in two of the four matches. Perhaps the greatest showing of his growth as a player was in the game against Italian giant Juventus, in which he played the full 90 minutes and helped Aston Villa claim the Cup in penalty kicks.
Despite his preseason success, Lichaj was unable to break into the first team for the 2009-10 season. Instead of spending another year in reserves, Villa sent him on loan to League Two club Lincoln City and then to League One club Leyton Orient. Lichaj was an instant starter in both places and earned rave reviews for his play at right back.
Lichaj finally broke into Aston Villa's first team in the 2010-11 season. He made his debut in a Europa League match against Rapid Vienna and continued to make sporadic appearances in the League Cup and eventually in the Premier League.
After Gerard Houllier took the reins at Villa, Lichaj dropped out of the regular 18 and in February 2011, he went on loan to Leeds United in search of playing time.
Lichaj was a strong youth prospect, but injuries prevented him from taking part in the 2007 U-20 World Cup.
Lichaj was called into a training camp prior to the 2010 World Cup, but strictly as a practice player. He received an official call up in October 2010, when he earned his first cap against Colombia.