Trio of EPL goalies see their teams flourish
It was a good couple of weeks for keepers Brad Friedel and Marcus Hahnemann, while Michael Bradley inflicted some misery on Steve Cherundolo's Hannover. Here's a brief roundup of notable Americans plying their trade in Europe.
GK, Brad Friedel, Aston Villa: After not collecting a shutout since the middle of September, Friedel registered two in a row as Villa marched to fourth in the table.
The highlight, of course, was Saturday's 1-0 win at Old Trafford, Villa's first at the Theater of Dreams since 1983. Friedel really only needed to make one good save, pushing aside Dimitar Berbatov's low effort late in the second half.
Friedel had a largely quiet day in a 3-0 win over Hull on Dec. 5, although the post helped him out on Craig Fagan's 25-yard shot.
Villa hopes to maintain the momentum again inconsistent Sunderland on Tuesday.
Season: 16 games played (0 substitute appearances): 0 goals
GK, Tim Howard, Everton: Everton's season is turning around -- for the better.
Still hard hit by injuries, the Toffees built on a morale boosting 2-2 tie against Tottenham a week ago by earning a point at suddenly slumping league leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
Everton rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 down to make it 3-3, Howard preserving the point by keeping out Michael Ballack's free kick. The German captain missed a golden chance to win it in the dying seconds, sending his shot from the edge of the box wide.
|The EPL on ESPN|
Portsmouth vs. Liverpool
7:45 a.m. ET, ESPN2
Howard starred against Spurs in a match with World Cup overtones, saving Jermain Defoe's penalty with his legs in injury time. Everton appeared down and out, trailing 2-0 midway in the second half.
"There's so much video footage around now there isn't a penalty you can't have a look at and my goalkeeping coach and I try to do our best to leave no stone unturned," Howard told Sky. "I hope that's a good omen when the USA plays England next summer."
Howard and Everton advanced to the knockout stage of the Europa League by winning in Athens, never easy. Howard earned a shutout in a 1-0 triumph over AEK on Dec. 2.
Season: 25 (0): 0
M, Clint Dempsey, Fulham: Dempsey failed to add to his goal tally in the fortnight, although he still impressed.
He set up Erik Nevland with a great chance early in Saturday's 1-1 tie at Burnley, but the Norwegian couldn't beat imposing Dane Brian Jensen. Dempsey had his well-struck header cleared off the line with Fulham leading 1-0 and earlier tried his luck from long distance.
He also missed on two long-range shots in Fulham's 1-0 win over Sunderland on Dec. 6.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson elected to rest some of his regulars Dec. 3 against CSKA Sofia, which meant Dempsey only got 20 minutes of action. The Cottagers prevailed 1-0 to keep alive their chances of progressing in Europe. They need to beat Basel on Wednesday to advance.
Season: 19 (1): 6
GK, Brad Guzan, Aston Villa: Guzan's sojourn to Wembley continues.
Villa boss Martin O'Neill stuck with his policy and used Guzan in the Carling Cup quarterfinals, where Villa beat Portsmouth 4-2 away Dec. 1.
Even better for Villa, it drew Blackburn -- which toppled Chelsea on penalties -- in the semifinals, avoiding Manchester United and Manchester City.
O'Neill continues to lavish praise on the 25-year-old, Villa's penalty hero in the previous round.
"My own view is I wouldn't want to be having anyone else other than Brad Guzan at this minute," O'Neill told reporters before the Portsmouth game. "I know it is an old cliché, but if you wanted someone in the trenches with you, Guzan would be the man. In time I see no reason why he shouldn't be our keeper for a long, long time if everything works out."
The two-leg semifinals begin Jan. 5.
Season: 5 (0): 0
D, Jonathan Spector, West Ham: West Ham returned to the relegation zone Saturday, falling 1-0 at surging Birmingham City. It should have been much more comfortable for City, which spurned at least two great opportunities. Spector was an unused sub.
The versatile defender played all 90 minutes against former club Manchester United on Dec. 5. The Hammers were pounded 4-0, crucially allowing the opener in first-half injury time.
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola still hasn't sorted out the defense -- it's now no clean sheets since early September and an average of almost 2.5 goals conceded in the past 13 games.
West Ham travels to Bolton on Tuesday. Expect more goals.
Season: 9 (2): 0
F, Eddie Johnson, Fulham: Johnson is for sale, according to English tabloid reports.
No surprise, given he wasn't in the squad against CSKA, Sunderland and Burnley. Johnson needs to get some playing time to have any chance of cracking the World Cup squad.
He did, though, score a late penalty in a reserve game against Arsenal on Dec. 8.
Season: 1 (2): 0
F, Jozy Altidore, Hull (loan from Villarreal): Altidore made it five straight starts by lining up against Villa, but he was taken off in the 54th minute with Hull behind 2-0. The loss was compounded by a knee injury to talismanic midfielder Jimmy Bullard.
Altidore didn't start Saturday in a 0-0 tie against Blackburn, coming on in the 66th minute.
The hulking striker thought he earned Hull a penalty when he was clearly tripped by defender Christopher Samba, although referee Chris Foy apparently didn't call it because of a push by Altidore seconds earlier.
"On a good day, you will certainly get that, but the referee had seen an infringement before making that decision," Hull manager Phil Brown told reporters. "He was hell bent today, the referee, on a clean sheet, probably more than the two defenses were."
Season: 7 (7): 1
GK, Marcus Hahnemann, Wolves: Hahnemann is now clearly the No. 1 at Wolves, taking over from Wayne Hennessey.
He's started three straight games -- with Wolves collecting back-to-back wins to escape the drop zone.
Wolves doubled fellow relegation contenders Bolton 2-1 on Dec. 5 and pulled off possibly the upset of the season, blanking free scoring Tottenham 1-0 at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Spurs thrashed Wigan 9-1 in their previous home game.
"Marcus hasn't been diving around making saves everywhere," Wolves boss Mick McCarthy told reporters. "I expect my keeper to have to make saves when we go to Spurs."
Hahnemann will be tested more severely when Wolves visit Manchester United on Tuesday.
Season: 5 (0): 0
D, Jay DeMerit, Watford: DeMerit made his long awaited return from an eye injury on Dec. 7, entering to start the second half in a 3-1 win over QPR. The longtime Hornet received a rousing ovation from the faithful at Vicarage Road.
"It's been a good few months [away], so the fans and myself were itching for me to get back out there," DeMerit told the AP. "It was a great feeling to get back out there."
DeMerit then started his first game since August, completing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 home loss to Derby.
Season: 6 (1): 0
D, Frankie Simek, Sheffield Wednesday: After starting four straight games to get his season on track, Simek took a step backward.
With manager Brian Laws making changes following a 4-0 drubbing to West Brom, the right back didn't make the squad against Reading, was an unused sub against Doncaster, and didn't make the squad versus Leicester on Saturday.
Laws and Wednesday parted company over the weekend in the wake of a fourth straight loss, which might help Simek, then.
Season: 6 (0): 0
F, Jemal Johnson, MK Dons: Recently recovered from a calf injury, the winger was left out of the squad against Millwall, Yeovil and Leyton Orient.
Season: 14 (5): 1
F, Mike Grella, Leeds: An inspired Grella and teammates are off to Old Trafford for the F.A. Cup next month after downing gallant Kettering 5-1 in a replay at Elland Road on Dec. 8.
The score was misleading. Grella entered to start the second half of extra time with it 1-1 and subsequently netted the winner before adding another, a wonderful curling effort.
"He's a clinical finisher," Leeds manager Simon Grayson told the club Web site. "We know that. We had to try and win the game, and he showed us what he showed in training. I'm delighted that he got the goals and we're through.''
Grella played the final four minutes against Oldham on Dec. 1 but didn't come off the bench against local rival Huddersfield on Dec. 5 and Brentford on Saturday.
Two straight league draws leaves Leeds just two points ahead of Charlton atop the table.
Season: 6 (9): 4
Italy, Serie A
D, Oguchi Onyewu, A.C. Milan: Onyewu continues to rehab his injured knee and hopes to be ready for the World Cup.
Season: 0 (1): 0
D, Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96: Cherundolo returned from a knee injury and played all 90 minutes in a commendable 0-0 draw against league leaders Bayer Leverkeusen on Dec. 5 -- Hannover's first point since the suicide death of standout keeper Robert Enke.
The defense, though, went missing against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday. Hannover lost 5-3 thanks in part to three own goals, with the right back substituted in the 69th minute in favor of a striker as the visitors trailed 4-1.
Only four points separate Hannover from the relegation zone.
Season: 16 (1): 0
M, Michael Bradley, Borussia Moenchengladbach: Unbeaten in five games, a confident Moenchengladbach almost took a point at Bayern Munich on Dec. 4. Bradley assisted on Roel Brouwers' 28th minute leveler and the away side kept it 1-1 until Holger Badstuder's winning free kick late in the second half. Bradley exited in the 79th minute.
Bradley scored his second goal of the season by delivering an 18-yard free kick over the wall against Hannover in the second half. Earlier he hit the post with a chip.
Season: 13 (1): 2
M, Sal Zizzo, Hannover 96: The midfielder is out long-term with a knee injury.
Season: 0 (1): 0
F, Kenny Cooper, 1860 Munich: Cooper, in his first season at 1860, missed Saturday's 1-0 win against FC Augsburg with a knee injury. He's been sidelined since early November.
Season: 10 (4): 3
France, Ligue 1
F, Charlie Davies, Sochaux: All but ruled out of the World Cup after suffering serious injuries in a car accident in October, Davies is targeting the Cup for a comeback.
Season: 6 (2): 2
D, Carlos Bocanegra, Rennes: Rennes made it back-to-back wins to pull within eight points of leaders Bordeaux.
Bocanegra went the distance in a 1-0 win against Lorient on Dec. 5, hitting the post with a header deep into the second half. Suspended, he missed a 2-1 win at Nancy on Saturday.
Beaten finalists last season, Rennes face a tricky foe in the French Cup's round of 64, pitted against Ligue 2 standouts Caen following Monday's draw.
Season: 12 (2): 0
M, Freddy Adu, Belenenses (loan from Benfica): Adu tweeted this upon hearing the U.S.'s pairing with England, among others, at the World Cup: "i have never wanted to be a part of something as bad as i wanna be in this world cup."
He won't get picked unless he starts playing, so sitting on the bench against Rio Ave on Dec. 9 and Guimares on Monday won't help.
Season: 1 (3): 0
F, Kamani Hill, Vitoria Guimaraes: Hill didn't make the squad against Porto on Dec. 4 and Belenenses.
Season: No appearances
Scotland, Premier League
M, DaMarcus Beasley, Rangers: Three appearances, including two starts, made it a fruitful stretch for the winger.
In a 3-1 win at Falkirk on Dec. 5, Beasley earned a penalty when he was kicked in the chest by Darren Barr. Then in Saturday's 3-0 win over St. Johnstone, Beasley capitalized on a defensive blunder to feed the ball to prolific hit man Kris Boyd for the opener. He was also involved in the buildup for the third goal.
Beasley was taken off at halftime in a lethargic 1-0 Champions League loss at Sevilla on Dec. 9. Rangers didn't win a game in the group stage, easily finishing last following four losses and two draws.
Despite the increased playing time, Beasley said he still wants to leave Rangers in the January transfer window.
"It's not that I'm not happy with the club," Beasley told Yanks Abroad. "It's just that I want to play. I'm only 27 and I feel like I have another six, seven or eight years left."
Beasley suggested he might return to the Netherlands or move to Spain.
Season: 3 (3): 0
M, Maurice Edu, Rangers: Edu is itching to return to the team following a knee injury that required surgery.
"Hopefully I'm playing soon," he told the club Web site the first week of December. "I have been back involved with the team in training recently so that's promising. It's a matter of not looking too far forward and taking it day by day.
"I need to get my sharpness back and get up to speed with training. Right now the knee is feeling pretty good and let's hope it continues that way."
Season: No appearances
D, Danny Califf, FC Midtjylland: Califf, trying to boost his World Cup chances, is on his way back to the MLS with expansion side Philadelphia.
He didn't dress in a 3-0 loss to Nordsjaelland on Dec. 6, the final round of games before Denmark's three-month winter break. A central figure last season, he's been used sparingly this campaign.
League: 4 (1): 0
M, Jeremiah White, Aarhus: White didn't dress in a 1-1 home tie against third-place Esbjerg on Dec. 7.
Aarhus took an early lead, then had to hang on after Alexander Moller was shown a red card in the 73rd minute.
League: 6 (7): 0
M, Benny Feilhaber, Aarhus: Feilhaber played all 90 minutes against Esbjerg. Aarhus sits sixth, 10 points behind a Europa League spot.
League: 16 (1): 1
D, Michael Parkhurst, Nordsjaelland: Parkhurst featured for all 90 minutes in the win versus Midtjylland that sent Nordsjaelland up to eighth.
League: 14 (0): 0
F, Marcus Tracy, Aalborg: Tracy probably wishes there was no winter break -- he's been seeing plenty of action.
Tracy started and played 77 minutes in a 2-0 loss at Sonderjyske on Dec. 5.
League: 3 (3): 1
Ravi Ubha is a London-based freelance journalist covering Americans abroad for ESPNsoccernet. He also covers tennis for ESPN.com.