D-Wreck's Blog
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All and all, it was a tough year for a number of Americans in the EPL. Astonishingly, Fulham FC, the team populated with the most Americans battled to win their last 4 of 5 games to stay up. While some US players, including McBride, Dempsey and Keller contributed strongly to Fulham's surprising stand, others faded away and warmed the bench (Eddie Johnson and Carlos Bocanegra).  While some players continued to improve (Howard, Spector), others flopped or disappeared (Convey and Feilhaber). Let's look at the player by player review: 

 

Tim Howard

Goalkeeper

Everton

Grade: A+

It is hard to imagine Everton being better with someone else in goal. Everton's bid to wrestle Tim Howard from Manchester Utd more than a year ago turned out to be one of the better transfer decisions made in 07. Long gone are the embarrasing rookie mistakes when he started for Manchester United. Tim Howard has proven his class, reliability, sturdiness, and athleticism to everyone in the premier league this year, and in many ways, has even out-shined the always reliable Friedel. The question is, at any point, will Manchester United regret giving him up?

Nah.

Brad Friedel

Goalkeeper

Blackburn Rovers

Grade: A

Speaking of Friedel--what can you say about Brad Friedel? ...Just another reliable, consistent year, with an occasional brilliant game (see saves versus Manchester Utd in April) for one of the leagues best keepers. Not only did Blackburn play him in through the entire league schedule, but also through the full cup schedule. If you're back-up keeper Jason Brown, you have to wonder if you'll ever get a start. For an old man, Brad still has quite a bit of steam left in those engines.

 

Marcus Hahnemann

Goalkeeper

Reading

Grade A-

Is there any doubt at all that Marcus Hahnemann would be the number one goalkeeper for the USMNT if Howard were somehow not available? Again, despite being bombarded with shots from all corners of the field, and playing in games where it seemed Reading was playing without a back four at all, Hahnemann remained as tough, consistent, and sturdy as ever.  Moreover, it still amazes me (as Marcus is not exactly the quickest or most nimble keeper in the league) how many saves he makes just because of exceptional positioning, and instinct. I can only imagine how good he would be if he were more athletic and more limber. Marcus deserves a high grade even though he has had a lot of goals go by him this year--many of which being point-blank shots.

 

Clint Dempsey

Striker/Midfielder

Fulham

Grade: B+

Clint had an above average start to the season as he led Fulham in scoring after he replaced the injured Brian McBride at the striker/center forward spot early in the campaign. The debate still rages: would Dempsey be better in a more attacking midfield role, or would he/will he, come of age in the striker position? There were times that I thought Deuce would evolve into a fine opportunistic striker in 2008, but as the season grew longer, and the service grew less accurate, and more scarce, Dempsey failed to score for too long (wasting only a minimum of chances along the way). Frankly, Fulham never really got into gear this season until the final few games, and neither manager ever looked comfortable with the rotating starting line-up from week to week. This didn't serve the team, or in this case, Dempsey well. It's hard to say what Dempsey is really capable of just yet-but, at times in 07-08, he looked very promising and more relaxed. Perhaps a better cast of characters around him might have made for a double-figure scoring season for Clint. Regardless, the remarkable Fulham run made at the end to stay up will give the club a chance to find better players to reinforce those who were effective. Clint was certainly one of those stand-out players (his defending in the last game of the season might have saved Fulham from going down!).

 

Jonathan Spector

Defender

West Ham Utd

Grade: B

These past two years has proven the Spector can play in many different defensive positions: from defensive midfield to the back four. After spending several years being loaned out to Charlton and then West Ham by Manchester United,  it looks like Spector may have found a home. No matter where that "home" has been in the past few years, it has involved manager Alan Curbishley, who also managed Spector during his spell at Charlton and seems to favor the young American. The most impressive thing about Spector is his continued slow but steady progress and his self-confidence. He just doesn't seem to get rattled and has made fewer mistakes this year, and doesn't seem to give up the ball in the back anymore or press too recklessly up the sideline. Some fans have even called for him to start more often in defensive midfield, instead of the back four. On top of his improved reliability, strength and instinct, Spector also scored his first goal this season (never mind it was against lowly Derby). The future looks bright for Jonathan both on the International and club levels. Look for continued increase in playing time in 08-09.

 

Eddie Lewis

Midfielder

Derby County

Grade: B

You really can't blame Eddie Lewis for the failures at Derby. While he hasn't shocked with outstanding play, he has been a reliable crossing foot with decent speed and reliable performance. As he did for Leeds, however, Eddie still makes the occasional blunder, bad pass, and fails to make that great cross when one is needed the most. There were some impressive moments for Eddie this year, but all and all, it was no where near mind-blowing-and that's what Derby needed.

 

Brian McBride

Striker

Fulham

Grade: B

Poor Fulham. Had they had a healthy Brian McBride and Jimmy Bullard all season it would have been hard to see them battling against relegation. The 35 year old McBride, who just seems to find a way to score when you need it most, came back late this season to help Fulham stay up. It took the Fulham captain a month to get his feet under him and readjust to the speed of the game after returning to play in February. His goal against Everton in March was vintage McBride, and undoubtedly what we might have expected from him all season long had he remained healthy. There isn't much of a season to grade here, but the little bit I did see was, at times, impressive. The finisher against Birmingham was another example of how McBride seems to always be in the right place at the right time. There are many at expanding Craven Cottage praying that he stays instead of departing for the beckoning MLS.

 

Kasey Keller

Goalkeeper

Fulham FC

Grade: B

Keller was there when Fulham needed him during that last 5 game stretch at the end of the season. He was competent and reliable when called on to play between the sticks. He made some good saves, but missed a few as well. Most of the goals he did give up were frankly not really "savable" in the first place. One has to wonder what Keller does in 08-09 now that the Cottagers have managed to stay up-retire, MLS, play second fiddle at a larger club?

 

Carlos Bocanegra

Defender

Fulham

Grade: C

Playing time went down for Carlos this season. Why? Well, Carlos had multiple errors in the back this year, and even gave up a penalty kick or two. Most of this can be blamed on poor positioning, and sometimes just poor defending in general (some were very costly indeed). Of course, Boca didn't have much help back there during the limited time he played in 07-08 (I almost forgot he played for Fulham the last half of the season). While Konchesky remained a given at fullback, the rest of the back four were flip-flopped and reshuffled again and again-as if looking for a magic combination. That combination never really materialized until after the holiday transfer season was over. Bocanegra's poor play in the back has been such a shame, especially because he really has become such a scoring threat on corners and free kicks. After the winter transfers, Hodgson simply didn't need Bocanegra in the back 4. He was searching for a sturdy and strong back four and he found that elsewhere.   

 

Eddie Johnson

Striker

Fulham

Grade: C-

Not much to report on here, but when he did play, Eddie looked nervous (understandably)... He had some moments when he found open space, but he never really cut it loose. It makes sense that he would be nervous, so I wasn't really expecting any miracles from Eddie. The turnovers were really poor here and there, but I expect that from a player just finding his way in the Premier League. Eddie could use some playing time in the Championship just to get more use to the speed of English football. Perhaps a short loan spell would get him some confidence. If I were really honest, however, I would say that EJ just doesn't have the confidence and gumption to make it overseas in a top league (never mind the lack of foot skill).

 

Bobby Convey

Midfielder

Reading

Grade: C

Injured throughout most of the season, one wonders if Convey will ever figure back into the regular rotation at Reading even when they drop to the Championship. He just can't seem to stay healthy--and when he did play, he looked rusty, out-of-place, and ineffective. There were a few Cup games where he seemed to regain his confidence, but his league appearances continued to be less than average. For someone who started out so promising, we can only hope that Bobby's health and confidence return to pre-World Cup 2006 form. I don't see any EPL team, or newly promoted team seeking his services next season.

 

Benny Feilhaber

Midfield

Derby County

Grade: D

What happened to Benny at Derby this year? Was his performance in training so lame that Paul Jewell banished him to the bleachers? Rumor has it that Benny rubbed people the wrong way; that he came off as a bit of a prima donna; that he shouldn't have openly and publicly voiced his disappointment about his lack of playing time. Regardless, when you don't play, it's hard to grade the performance-but from what I have actually seen this year, Benny has had little impact and looked lost on the field. In fact, the games I did get taped, I noticed that when he played, he rarely even touched the ball. It's hard to make an impact when the ball never comes to your feet. I do not see an newly promoted teams, or EPL teams looking to transfer Benny over. He'll probably end up in the MLS or at an Isreali club like Maccabi Haifa...At least those are the rumors. 

 

Player

EPL Team

Position

07-08 All Games Played

07-08 Goals

Brad Friedel

Blackburn

Goalie

48

0

Benny Feilhaber

Derby County

Midfielder

10

0

Eddie Lewis

Derby County

Winger

27

0

Tim Howard

Everton

Goalie

46

0

Clint Dempsey

Fulham

Forward

40

6

Brian McBride

Fulham

Forward

17

4

Carlos Bocanegra

Fulham

Defender

26

1

Eddie Johnson

Fulham

Striker

6

0

Kasey Keller

Fulham

Goalie

14

0

Marcus Hahnemann

Reading

Goalie

38

0

Bobby Convey

Reading

Winger

24

1

Jonathon Spector

West Ham

Defender

28

1

 

NEXT YEAR'S FORECAST

 

What now? What happens next season?  

 

Clint Dempsey looks to be staying with Fulham along with Brian McBride. The team would certainly like to build more strength around these players.

 

Kasey Keller might be a possibility for the MLS-he's talked openly about this. But why not stay another year with Fulham. His solid goalkeeping allows the team to use their big dollars getting better defenders and strikers instead of finding a quality keeper-which they have with Keller.

 

Eddie Johnson just didn't show enough. We never saw a break-away goal or the top-class speed people talk about. Rumor has it that he will be on the cutting block or up for a transfer or available on loan. My guess is that Eddie will get some playing time with a Championship team next year while out on loan. If his performance and comfort level become impressive, he might return to Fulham before his three year deal expires. 

 

The oft-injured Bobby Convey will stay at Reading at least one more campaign. His play this year was just not impressive enough to warrant any EPL clubs interest.   

 

Someone would be smart to bring Marcus Hahnemann onto their club in the top division, but I doubt Reading will let go of him-so he'll play another year in the championship division.

 

Spector, Howard, Friedel will all stay where they are. Expect another great year for the two goalkeepers, and another growing one from Jonathon.

 

As for new American's in the Premier League: look for a possible deal to get Michael Bradley from Heerenveen to Blackburn. Those are the rumors, at least. I wouldn't look to find any other new American's in the top division. No doubt, there are many who have the ability to do so (like Onyewu), but for now, I would guess most teams will hold on what they already have.

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