(Sunday, December 24, 2006) -- Three Americans were in the lineup when West Ham United visited Fulham yesterday for a 0-0 draw in the London derby before 22,452 at Craven Cottage.
All 20 English Premier League clubs were in action yesterday as the league started the busiest two weeks of the season. Every team will play four matches over the next nine or 10 days in the traditional busy holiday calendar. The fog that shut down London's Heathrow airport for three days was still in evidence, but did not affect any of the games.
As usual, United States striker Brian McBride started on the front line for Fulham and American defender Jonathan Spector was in his regular spot in West Ham's back-line. However, American Carlos Bocanegra was a surprise starter in the center of Fulham's defense, replacing England national defender Zat Knight, who fractured his jaw following a clash of heads with his brother in a family game at home Friday.
Both teams had good chances in the spirited match with McBride leading the way with a pair of opportunities. In the 26th minute, Spector was booked for a badly-timed tackle on Tomasz Radzinski with West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green forced to make a fine save when McBride curled the subsequent free kick to the top right corner of the net. Early in the second half, McBride could do no better than send a header directly at Green.
Bocanegra hit a post with a drive in the 38th minute.
Fulham (6-7-6, 24 points) stands 12th in the tightly bunched middle of the standings. West Ham (5-11-3, 18) remains in the relegation zone in 18th place.
Tim Howard won a battle of American goalkeepers Saturday, posting a clean sheet in Everton's 2-0 road victory. In the process, Everton (7-6-6, 27), which had dropped two straight matches and three of four, passed Reading (8-9-2, 26) into eighth place. The Royals fell to ninth, losing their second in a row and are 0-3-1in their last four outings.
U.S keeper Marcus Hahnemann suffered bad fortune in the 14th minute when Toffees striker Andrew Johnson made it 1-0, taking a laid-back pass and hitting a blast that deflected off a defender's boot, changed direction and flew behind the American who was moving in the wrong direction.
Forward James McFadden doubled the Everton advantage to 2-0 in the 47th minute when he controlled a pass in the penalty area and beat Hahnemann with a drive.
Howard was not called on to do much in the first half, but made good saves on reserve forward Leroy Lita in the 54th minute, and midfielders Kevin Doyle in the 70th minute and Steve Sidwell in stoppage time.
U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna was sidelined with a sore hamstring for Manchester City, which dropped a home contest 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers before 40,157 at City of Manchester Stadium.
Bolton's French international striker Nicolas Anelka proved to be too much for City, scoring goals in the eighth and 25th minutes in his club's third consecutive triumph.
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley dressed for City, but languished on the bench.
Rumors persist that Reyna's midfield partner Joey Barton might be leaving City, along with defenders Micah Richards and Sylvain Distin, when the transfer window opens next month.
Relegation is a concern for City. Tied with Middlesbrough and Sheffield United at 5-9-5 with 20 points for 15th place, the trio is just two points ahead of West Ham in the drop zone.
There were no reports of U.S. keeper Brad Friedel suffering whiplash, even after watching six shots go by him into the Blackburn net in host Arsenal's 6-2 romp before 59,913 at Emirates Stadium.
Blackburn briefly led 1-0 on Shabani Nonda's penalty kick in the third minute. Midfielder Gilberto Silva pulled Arsenal even in the 10th minute, with midfielder Alexander Hleb putting the home side ahead in the 23rd minute and forward Emmanuel Adebayor adding a penalty kick four minutes later to give the Gunners a 3-1 halftime lead.
Nonda scored again to bring Rovers to within 3-2 in the 69th minute and Blackburn pushed forward for the equalizer before being victimized by goals by Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie in the 85th and 88th minutes and a strike by reserve midfielder Mathieu Flamini in stoppage time.
Friedel did make eight saves, including a pair of difficult stops on Francesc Fabregas when the match was tight in the second half.
In 17th place, Blackburn (5-9-4, 19) is one point and one position above the relegation zone.
American defender Jay DeMerit went the distance for visiting Watford (1-9-8, 11), which remained in the EPL basement following a 2-0 loss to Liverpool before 42,807 at Anfield.
The Watford back-line hung tough for one half, but fell behind two minutes after intermission. Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard received a throw-in and advanced on goal. As the central defenders converged on him, Gerrrard fed Craig Bellamy, who rifled a shot into the net before DeMerit arrived from the outside.
Xabi Alonso added a blast for the Reds in the 88th minute.