U.S. players have seen their numbers dwindle in English Premier League.
By Robert Wagman(in Washington, D.C.)
and Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)
(Thursday, August 28, 2008) -- A new season has started in England and far fewer Americans are playing in the Premier League than finished the season there last May. At season's end, 12 Americans were playing in the Premiership; only three remain with one newcomer.
The biggest change is at Fulham, which had five Americans on the roster at the end of last season. This season, goalkeeper Kasey Keller and striker Brian McBride have returned to the United States and Major League Soccer, defender Carlos Bocanegra moved on to Renne in France and forward Eddie Johnson was loaned to Cardiff City in the second-tier League Championship. Only midfielder Clint Dempsey remains.
Three clubs with Americans were relegated to the League Championship. Keeper Marcus Hahnemann and midfielder Bobby Convey continue to play for Reading. Defender and team captain Jay DeMerit still is with Watford.
However, the two Americans who were part of Derby County's last-place debacle in the Premier League are gone. Midfielder Eddie Lewis moved to the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS, while midfielder Benny Feilhaber went to AGF Aarhus in the 12-team Danish Stillingstabellen. He joins fellow American Jeremiah White, a striker, at the Danish club.
Even long-time Blackburn Rovers keeper Brad Friedel has moved onto a new club. After eight seasons with Blackburn, he took a reported $5.2 million-per-season contract from Aston Villa and his former coach Martin O'Neill. He will be backed up this year by U.S. No. 2 Brad Guzan, who is making the move to England from Chivas USA of MLS.
Friedel and Villa started their season by splitting their first two matches. On Saturday, visiting Villa twice erased deficits, but fell to newly promoted Stoke City 3-2 on Mamady Sidibe's goal in stoppage time.
Six days earlier, host Villa opened its season with a 4-2 victory over Manchester City today at Villa Park. After Friedel conceded a 64th-minute penalty kick to Blumer Elano, Gabriel Agbonlahor scored three goals in six minutes in the second half for a 4-1 lead.
Friedel's debut for Villa came with a 4-1 road victory over Iceland's FH Hafnarfjordur in a UEFA Cup second-round qualifying match. Tonight, Villa clinched the series 5-2 on aggregate with a 1-1 draw at home.
Fulham also split its first two matches. Dempsey entered the opening 2-1 setback to newly promoted Hull City in the 81st minute. In a sharp reversal, the homestanding Cottagers stunned Arsenal 1-0 Saturday with Dempsey coming in the 87th minute for mop-up duty.
Johnson proved much more of a project then Fulham realized when it acquired him during last January's transfer window from MLS's Kansas City Wizards. With a $20-million acquisition of England striker Andrew Johnson, the Cottagers no longer needed the American, thus the loan to Cardiff, though Fulham can recall him in January.
Everton, with U.S. starter Tim Howard remaining in goal, got off to a shaky start in a 3-2 home loss August 16 to Blackburn.
The match looked to be heading towards a 2-2 draw when Blackburn defender Andre Ooijer scored four minutes into injury time. A Stephen Warnock free kick was headed against the post by defender Ryan Nelsen and Ooijer tapped home the rebound into an open net.
On Saturday, Everton recovered from a poor first half to register its first win on second-half goals from Leon Osman and Ayegbeni Yakubu in a 2-1 triumph at West Bromwich Albion.
Convey back in Reading starting 11
Reading, which was relegated to the League Championship on the last day of last season, opened the new season with a 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest and followed that up with a 2-0 decision over visiting Plymouth in its opening match in Madejski Stadium. Then, on Saturday, the Royals suffered a 4-2 setback on the road to Charlton at the Valley.
After going 1-1-1 with four points in its first three league matches, Reading rolled to a 5-1 romp at home Tuesday over Luton of the fourth-tier League Two in the second round of the Carling Cup.
Hahnemann season started with clean sheets in first two matches. In the scoreless draw at Nottingham Forest, Hahnemann recorded nine saves as Forest dominated time of possession. Against Plymouth, he had six saves in a second strong performance. In the loss at Charlton, one of the goals he gave up was on a penalty kick and two were on rebounds of sharply hit balls that he parried, but could not control.
Convey has worked himself back into the starting lineup after an injury-plagued 2007-08 season and registered a pair of assists. He went the distance against Forest, 85 minutes against Plymouth and 73 minutes against Charlton.
In the Plymouth triumph, Ibrahima Sonko scored both goals for Reading with Convey assisting on the first. He also had a pair of shots that went just over the crossbar. Against Charlton, he served in a perfect ball to Sonko who headed it home for one of the two Reading goals in the loss.
Hahnemann needed only two saves against Luton. Convey did not play.
DeMerit has been in his accustomed place in the center of Watford's defense for the opening three matches of the season, a 0-0 opening day draw away at Crystal Palace, a 1-0 home win against Charlton and a 3-2 loss to away at Nottingham Forest.
Just as he played 90 minutes in all three league matches in the 1-1-1 start, he went the distance Tuesday in a 2-1 home victory over Darlington of League Two in the Carling Cup second round.
As the new season was starting, it was announced that Lewis was leaving Derby "by mutual consent" and he soon signed with the Galaxy. Derby, which had the worst season ever in the Premiership, is rebuilding its midfield with several young acquisitions and Lewis became odd man out.
Lewis made 27 appearances for Derby in 2007-08. "Eddie is a great professional who has been fantastic to work with and has been a very good influence on the team," Derby manager Paul Jewel said.
AFG Aarhus manager Brian Steen Nielsen said Feilhaber signed a three-year contract, "Benny is a different type than the midfielders we already have," Nielsen told the team web site. "He is more offensive-minded and he has played at a high level in the Bundesliga, Premier League and for the American national team. He is an exciting player that I am sure the adjust quickly both on the field and socially.
"AFG is a club on the way forward, where I feel I fit well in and can perform my best," Feilhaber told the web site. "I have heard very good on the Danish league, which I am looking forward to trying it."
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor.
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