HOLLAND SEASON PREVIEW
With five Americans spread across three teams in the top two flights, YA has attempted to get a glimpse into what's in store for our Netherlands-based Yanks.
The Jupiler League (formerly Gouden Gids Divisie) season is already underway, and the Eredivsie will kick off this weekend.
We had our say too, though, and as we've done with our 23 Tickets and other features, we've made a prediction on each team as we see it happening over the next nine months...
Michael Bradley[endlink] and http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=0119
: Seventh place, Eredivisie
: Alfonso Alves (Malmö FF), Michael Dingsdag (Vitesse), Rob Friend (Molde FK), Gonzalo Garcia Garcia (AGOVV Apeldoorn), Robbie Rogers (University of Maryland), Bo Storm (youth), Danny Wintjens (FC Twente), Gianni Zuiverloon (Feyenoord)
: Arnold Bruggink (Hannover 96), Mark de Vries (Leicester City) Fernando Derveld (Esbjerg), Marcel Seip (unattached)
The Frisians have been busy rebuilding their squad after waving goodbye to the likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Georgios Samaras last winter. Canada striker Friend arrives to provide a banger at the #9 position, while Alves brings flank skills that allow Daniel Pranjic to slide back into a creative midfield position. These three players will team up with speed demon Lasse Nilsson to account for much of the Heerenveen attack.
Coach Gertjan Verbeek also did well to tinker with his backline, acquiring sturdy stopper Dingsdag and Young Oranje wingback Zuiverloon for the starting line-up. More importantly, captain and defensive lynchpin Petter Hansson was not able to secure a move abroad.
Bradley will most likely be the manager's first midfield choice off the bench this season. His preseason efforts showed him to be a smooth navigator, and he will likely get the odd start when either grizzled veteran Paul Bosvelt or Thomas Prager can't go.
Rogers has just arrived, so it is difficult to gauge his first team prospects. The multi-year deal he signed indicates that the club hold high hopes for the NCAA champion, but one would have to think he will require at least some Young Heerenveen seasoning before Verbeek dresses him.
The good news is that Rogers has a built-in Friesland welcome wagon in Bradley, who can help ease his new teammate's transition to Dutch living.
"I want to play as much as possible. I feel like I'm the type of player that can help our team out a lot and I feel like that when I'm out on the field, I bring things that other guys don't bring."
"This club has brought in some really good players. We want to be among the top two, three, four teams in the Eredivisie every year. The moves we've made this summer prove that."
All in all, management has done a masterful job of fitting the puzzle pieces together over the summer. Verbeek now has an offense eager to prove itself and suitable back-ups at every position on the field. Look for Heerenveen to finish no worse than fifth in league play and for them to make the UEFA Cup knockout stage.
DaMarcus Beasley[endlink] and http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=0107
: Eredivisie champions
: Manuel da Costa (AS Nancy), coach Ronald Koeman (Benfica), Oscar Moens (Willem II), Carlos Salcido (Chivas Guadalajara)
: Theo Lucius (Feyenoord), coach Guus Hiddink (Russia national team), Gerald Sibon (1. FC Nürnberg), Edwin Zoetebier (retired)
Of course, things change when a new coach arrives, but PSV didn't experience as much summer player turnover as expected. Key players André Ooijer and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink still could depart before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, but the Farmers were expected to lose Alex, Jefferson Farfán and perhaps even trusty netminder Gomes.
None of those transfers took place, leaving the Philips Stadion faithful more hopeful of a three-peat than they were in May. The pressure, however, will not only come from in town because PSV's two main title competitors have strengthened in the offseason.
Ajax, in particular, appear quite willing and able to win a title bout, and their capture of former PSV star Jaap Stam will not just hurt Eindhoven pride. AZ Alkmaar have also made some intriguing changes to their roster, but Feyenoord look set to have lose both Salomon Kalou and Dirk Kuijt to English giants by opening day.
Beasley will begin the season as a back-up, if only because he missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury. An American report recently revealed that Real Salt Lake are looking to bring the US international back to MLS, but PSV aren't simply going to hand him back for nothing. One may also recall that Koeman wanted to buy Beasley while at Ajax, so the Yank could very well make a needed fresh start in Eindhoven.
Koeman also seems to like Nguyen, who goes by "LEE" on the back of his PSV shirt. The former Indiana Hoosier is behind two players for both the right wing and midfield playmaker nods, but should be able to get some quality relief minutes from time to time.
"(New manager Ronald Koeman) plays in a little more attacking style (than Guus Hiddink), but we still play 4-3-3, and Phillip (Cocu) is still the captain. Everything's pretty much the same as we had last year, and the last two years from when I've been there, but I'm sure that when the season comes and we get into our own rhythm, he'll implement his own creativity."
"We've got as good a chance as anybody (to win the title). We've got the same team pretty much coming back from last year."
"Ajax have picked up a couple new players and I think Feyenoord did as well, so you know, it's always going to be a tough race between us. AZ lost a lot of players, so I don't think they're going to be as strong as they were last year."
"My goal is to play more this year and get more regular first team action for sure, but definitely looking to break into the roster for Champions League, that would really be cool."
"We definitely have a good chance, I think, to win the league again. I mean, we didn't really lose anybody and I think this year our team got a little stronger too."
After easy marches to the last two crowns, PSV appear to be in store for a season long knockdown drag-out with Ajax in 2006/07. It would be easy to pick the Amsterdammers, who have a bit of a chip on their shoulders these days. It would also be easy to pick against Koeman, who tends to become tactically timid when the pressure is on.
As things stand, this title race is too close to call, but any Farmer defections over the next two weeks could quickly make them the underdog incumbent. Either way, the PSV savvy factor should at least be good for another Champions League qualification.
As for this year's edition of the European Cup? To steal a bit from Shakespeare: the draw's the thing. Stay tuned...
: 11th place, Gouden Gids Divisie
: Wouter van den Herik (FC Emmen), Alexander Prent (NEC Nijmegen – season loan)
: Regilio Vrede (retired)
Apart from a couple of attack reinforcements, TOP boss Han de Koning will rule over a group that management wisely kept together from last season's stirring playoff run. If there's a lot to be said about roster continuity in today's game, the good folks of Oss best start to gabbing.
The backline is scrappy, the midfield well balanced and the offense aggressive about using their quickness. Most of the TOP players have had experience on Eredivisie books, but now realize that they can get back to the big time together. Once again, Marcel van der Sloot will be the string puller, with Reginald Faria supplying the home run threat.
Kazlauskas is the starting right back and, barring injuries, will probably be among the team leaders in minutes played. The position was new to him last year, but he has learned the trick to playing wingback in the Netherlands and looks ready to have his finest season to date.
"Our team goal is to play as well we did last year. Right now our goal is to finish 10th or higher and try and make the playoffs again, either through a period title or through the standings at the end of the season."
"We did it last year, why can't we do it another year? We have to show that we can continue to do it and that it wasn't luck. Everyone thinks it can be done because we have a lot of confidence from last year."
If the talented Prent scores in double figures and the returning stars don't get caught up in reading their press clippings, this team easily has the stuff to make another run at promotion. Look for TOP to finish sixth and earn another playoff trip.
[note]YA's Sara DeWitt, Michael Gatenby and Greg Seltzer compiled this feature[/note]