THE FUTURE HOLDS NO BOUNDS
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
While only time will tell which of the six Yank teams currently battling relegation across England's professional leagues will survive, perhaps it is time to forget some current worries and look ahead to what may be in store for the Americans playing in England next season.

The last time that I wrote about the Americans in England, I was reversing optimism about the upcoming season. After only a few weeks, it was already clear how the season would progress: Everton and Reading came out of the gate firing all cylinders, while virtually all other American teams languished and looked uninspired.

Poor performance by so many of the Yank teams leaves the majority of Americans plying their trade in England at a crossroads. The sight of relegation, contracts ending, loans finishing, and guys suddenly playing under a new coach - all factors that could prompt a move for the majority of Yanks in England.

Of course, some players are in great shape. Bobby Convey, Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, Zak Whitbread and Frankie Simek are secure in their futures thanks to their success on the field and the stability of their teams.

Simek, of course, could be coaxed into a Premiership move, but his stock is rising at Wednesday and he has already stated his desire to stay there, so speculating on this is not worthwhile.

Cory Gibbs

Gibbs is in a tough spot. When he joined Charlton, the Addicks seemed like they might have enough sticking power to stay in the Premiership and his presence in the backline would be a fundamental part of that challenge.

Instead, Gibbs has been stuck nursing an injury and has been forced to watch from the sidelines as Charlton have been sinking towards relegation. Management changes as a reaction to the poor play really compound the issue as the man that brought Gibbs is now totally out of the picture.

No matter what happens to the Addicks, Gibbs should stick with his job at the Valley at the end of the season. The fan support there is good, he should be able to get a starting place easily and depending on personnel moves (i.e. not losing Darren Bent), Charlton could easily find themselves back up sooner than later if they do drop.

To pick up and start all over again somewhere else would be a negative move for Gibbs.

Oguchi Onyewu

Onyewu will have a tough time figuring things out this off season. Standard want to sell him after the season, and to be honest, he has not played with the Magpies like someone aiming for a transfer.

The big man hasn't been abhorrent, but in the games that I have watched his partner in the middle has had to clean up for multiple errors on his part.

He cannot be blamed for every defensive misfortune of Newcastle, but it is apparent that he has had a hard time adjusting to the fast-paced style of play in England.

Onyewu should nonetheless have options because he will be openly on the block at the end of the season, giving teams a little more leverage to gamble on a player that still needs polishing. So long as Onyewu does not overstep his bounds signing for a G14 club, given time he should make the impression that is expected.

Eddie Lewis

Lewis is a valuable veteran on any team, and with Leeds looking likely to take the plunge even with their recent resurgence in form, here is another difficult decision for a American facing relegation.

While it might be a nice thing to stick it out with Leeds to bring them back to the level where they belong, despite his age, Lewis could do a lot of good for either a Championship side looking to make the final push to the Premiership or back in the US in MLS.

Perhaps more than any of the marquee signings that have been talked about recently, I would like to see Lewis come home. MLS could use a high quality winger like Lewis to take the game off the ground a little more and his experience would be a benefit to the league.

DaMarcus Beasley

Beasley has been showing promise of late and one hopes that City will keep him, but it is very important for him to keep up the good work.

Stuart Pearce has recently revealed that Beasley's future in Manchester is in the balance because of both injuries sustained during his stay limiting his playing time and performance. While he came up with a little niggle again last weekend, he has affirmed his desire to end his relationship with PSV and earn Pearce's nod to stick around.

It seems, however, that Beasley has responded well to the urgency of his future - with two goals in the last four games played for the Citizens, his is making his case in excellent style.

If Beasley can earn the right to stay in Manchester, it would be great for his future. With Ronald Koeman as the new manager, the young winger seems to be locked out of any future at PSV.

While Citeh is a small step down from Eindhoven, it will be a better platform for Beasley to display his talents and grow.

Johann Smith

I was really pulling for Smith to get a spot in the Wanderers line-up, or at least a regular spot on the bench, but that dream was quickly lost with the arrival of Nicolas Anelka. His only appearances came in garbage time of games already won or lost.

The move down to Carlisle, however, has done good for the youngster as he has been very influential when on the field. The only problem is the lack of a regular place in the starting 11 when the full team is healthy.

Smith is getting to the age where he will either break into the first team at Bolton or go the route of Simek, Johnson, Spector, Karbassiyoon, etc., opting out to another team to get more first team action.

This is probably Smith's best move for the coming season if time on the field at Bolton will seem limited - a move down to the Championship might be in order.

Jemal Johnson

What happened here? Johnson made a huge splash when he arrived at Wolves this season, scoring goals immediately and helping Wolverhampton to a great start, but he quickly found himself marginalized and loaned out to sinking Leeds.

Even at United, he has not been able to find regular action even despite Leeds needing some answer, any answer, to lift their sinking ship.

While I have no real evidence of this, I am worried that Johnson has some sort of problem getting along with his coaches and/or in putting out the effort required every week to be successful.

It seems that Johnson should look inside himself and get his act together somewhere, but to be honest, he may have to do that in League One next season.

Jonathan Spector

When news came that Alan Curbishley was to be the new manager at West Ham, I was a little concerned for Spector. Usually one is concerned about a new coach because he has no history or knowledge of a young player like Spector and may not appreciate his talent.

On the contrary, Curbishley watched over Spector all last year at Charlton, opting to play Methuselah of the Premiership Chris Powell more often than not. Even with the Hammers continued under-performance under the new boss, young Spector is finding more time polishing cheerleading skills than gaining experience.

To be honest a move down to the Championship with West Ham would be in Spector's best interest. It might clear out some deadwood in his way to cementing starting position and give the opportunity for a regular place in the line-up.

West Ham won't stay down for long, so there is no worry about needing to find another team in the future if a place in the backline is solidified.

Brian McBride

With a new manager in town, one has to wonder a bit about Brian McBride's future. While he is the best likened to fine wine, one has to wonder when the taste of vinegar will begin to seep in and a change in atmosphere can be detrimental to even the best vintages.

McBride is still the Cottagers' best option in the attack and should be guaranteed a spot for the time being. The question is how much new blood will Lawrie Sanchez (or whomever might replace him) be bringing in this coming summer.

It is undeniable that goal scoring is Fulham's biggest problem, and perhaps the new manager will start to look at other options.

Even with the potential of a replacement coming, McBride has at least one more good year in him before he should look at packing up his boots for good in the Cottage locker room. Even if Fulham manage to get relegated, he should stick around.

Carlos Bocanegra

Say hello to the #2 scorer for Fulham. As unbelievable as it is, Bocanegra has managed to outscore all other Cottagers besides his compatriot, which speaks volumes of the quality that surrounds him.

New manager and all, Bocanegra should never see too much competition for a spot in the starting eleven at Fulham given the current direction of the team.

While Bocanegra does not have the age issue to worry about, a move down to the Championship would be pointless for his stay in England.

If Fulham do go down, he needs to leave, perhaps jump on one of the teams going the other direction, If Fulham stays up, there is no reason to make a move away from West London.

Clint Dempsey

Dempsey is the most vulnerable of the Americans at Fulham because of his new status and unproven reputation in England so far. This makes jumping ship in the case of relegation that much more difficult, so sticking at Craven Cottage is the only option available.

Nonetheless, I can't imagine that his talents will not shine through eventually. The slow start can be chalked up to a lack of fitness, compounded by acclimation to the English game.

Unlike Onyewu, who was already fit, those two hurdles are invertible mountains to climb when coupled together and next season will really be the time for Dempsey to shine - whether it is in the Premiership or the Championship.

Jay DeMerit

DeMerit's position is one of the most difficult to consider because of his debt to Watford. Were it not for Aidy Boothroyd's predecessor Ray Lewington picking DeMerit out of semi-professional mire and giving him a chance, no one would know his name.

That said, DeMerit should try and stick to the Premiership and not sink back down with Watford. The Hornets do not have the personnel or money to make an immediate move back to the Premiership, so the only option at this juncture is a move away.

Watford's defense has not been great this past season, but it is not the worst in the Premiership. The current position they are in is much more the fault of the attacking side of the field.

DeMerit has play fairly well, although most of the credit has been going to Ben Foster for some miraculous play in the Hornets success. The question is who would be the best suitor for American soccer's Horatio Alger story?

DeMerit's position is perhaps best likened to Bocanegra if Fulham go down: linking up with a team going in the other direction would be the easiest move to guarantee a spot in the first team.
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