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Thursday, May 25, 2006
We Americans are not known as a subtle people. History shows that when we decide to export something – action movies, fast food, watery beer, democracy, or whatever – it is rarely done quietly. Usually, governments or the intellectual elite, especially in Europe (and even more so in France), rise up to decry the fact that America is in some way, shape or form destroying the world with its influence.

Maybe then, we should consider it a good thing that as Americans quietly invade the European game, it's the Russians (or rather one Russian) that are being blamed for ruining the game at a macro level. Regardless, Europe, and England specifically, had better get ready for the fact that Americans are becoming a bigger and bigger presence.

There have been Americans in the Premiership for quite some time. Brad Friedel has been hanging around the Premiership so long he sounds English despite Ohio roots. Kasey Keller was there for a long while too. Various Americans from John Harkes to Ian Feuer to Ben Olsen have been, but on the whole, there was never really a feeling that America was a place to come looking for talent. It always seemed to be more a case of a few random good players with the right connections. It was never a trend… until now.

With the arrival of Tim Howard, Brian McBride, and Carlos Bocanegra in the Premiership over the last couple years, you got the feeling that perceptions were starting to change and that the Americans were starting to get a chance. The wave of young Americans on the periphery of "big clubs" such as Zak Whitbread at Liverpool, Jonathan Spector and Kenny Cooper at Manchester United, and Danny Karbassiyoon and Frankie Simek at Arsenal gave even more credence to the notion.

To the skeptic, this past year could be seen as a bit of a step back. Tim Howard barely saw the field. Cooper, Karbassiyoon and Simek were released by their "big club" employers. Spector was loaned out with a chance at a full year of first team football, but injuries disrupted the flow of his season.

However, by the end of the year, it turned out that old hands and lesser known players ended up providing a tremendous upswing in the profile of Americans in the Premiership.

Brian McBride was named player of the year at Fulham. Bobby Convey and Marcus Hahnemann played major roles in Reading's record-setting promotion campaign. Jay DeMerit scored the game-winning goal in Watford's promotion final win, while Eddie Lewis may have been the best player on the pitch for Leeds in that same match.

Throw in Charlton's acquisition of Cory Gibbs immediately following the close of the season and 2006 has been an excellent year to be an American in England so far.

Even more impressive is the fact that nearly all of those players will start and play a meaningful role in their squads' respective success. The only exceptions are Spector, Johnson and Whitbread, who are also a little young to feature for their current squads but could be factors if he is loaned out again.

What's Next?

The best part is that unless our boys have a catastrophic meltdown in Germany, there are more Americans likely to follow. At the risk of stealing thunder from our Matchmaker feature, here's a brief rundown of the likely candidates for Premiership interest in the next couple years:

Eddie Johnson – he needs a big World Cup performance to recapture interest, but his speed and athleticism will have mid-table Premiership clubs drooling over thoughts of a relatively inexpensive Louis Saha-like player. A Fulham pairing with Brian McBride, anyone?

Landon Donovan – if he can prove himself a leader and pry himself from the SoCal beaches, his speed and newfound interest in being a playmaker will make him interesting to Premiership clubs that need a pacy string puller. He might just be the right straw to stir the drink at Ewood Park – Tugay certainly wasn't the answer and Rovers need to find a player to link the impressive talents of Bellamy, Pedersen, Emerton, and Bentley as they head for UEFA Cup.

Eddie Lewis – OK, technically, he's already in England, but someone looking for help on the left – and who outside the Top 4 isn't? – might start sniffing around the Leeds man. Newcastle could use an excellent crosser of the ball if they manage to bring Dirk Kuyt to St. James Park this summer.

Josh Wolff – Josh needs to figure out what position he plays and stay healthy, but the Wolff-to-Everton rumors just won't go away. If he has a big World Cup, and all indications are that he will be given the chance, the list of suitors will increase.

Clint Dempsey – A great package of speed, skill, and aerial ability that will just get better as he fills out a bit more and adds strength to the equation. Wigan would be wise to add Dempsey to the mix with their current (Henri Camara) and rumored (Andy Johnson) speed forwards.

Oguchi Onyewu – If ever there was a central defender built for England, Gooch is the guy. With Newcastle and Middlesbrough both in dire need at the position, he will be a popular man come late July.

Freddie Adu – OK, it won't be until 2007 but he's going…and he's going to Chelsea…who knows where he'll be loaned out after that.

Marvell Wynne – He may be stuck in MLS purgatory, but he has too many physical tools to stay under the radar of Premiership scouts. If Pascal Chimbonda is capable of being a Best XI right back in England, Marvell will be a superstar by 2009.

US v. Morocco

Just a few notes on Tuesday night's match with Morocco… Honestly, it felt like a MLB spring training game to me.

It was choppy. The players seemed to be feeling their way back to competence. There was uneven effort. There's a reason that MLB doesn't spend a lot of time televising Grapefruit League games, and performances like last night's are the reason.

Convey was a huge positive. Eddie Johnson and O'Brien, perhaps the two biggest wildcards right now, showed some positive signs. Beasley was really bad. Josh Wolff still doesn't have a position. Brian McBride didn't make much of an impact.

Am I worried about any of this? Not really.

Will I be worried about it if we do this two more times before we pack up and head for Germany? Yes, yes I will.
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A big question for U.S. fans heading into the World Cup is surely on Jozy Altidore and just what is plaguing the young striker at Sunderland.
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