(Sunday, January 27, 2008) -- United States midfielder Michael Bradley continued at a red-hot pace, scoring three goals in the past week to lead SC Heerenveen to a pair of victories in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Heerenveen, which has won three straight league matches following a pair of draws, used Bradley's 14th and 15th goals of the season (in all competitions) to record a 3-0 road victory Saturday over Graafschap Doetinchem.
In the 20th minute, Bradley redirected a cross into the net and in the 80th, he put away a low, hard shot into the corner of the net. Miralem Sulejmani also scored for Heerenveen.
With top scorer Alfonso Alves sidelined as he awaits his transfer out, manager Gertjan Verbeek has pushed Bradley forward into a more attacking role and the 20-year-old American has responded brilliantly. Bradley is tied with Alves with 11 goals in league play.
On Wednesday, Bradley had a goal and an assist as Heerenveen crushed visiting VVV Venlo 5-1 at Abe Lenstra Stadion, scoring three goals within a space of 16 minutes in the first half.
Bradley put Heerenveen ahead 1-0 in the 23rd minute with a wicked shot that beat keeper Danny Wintjens. Sulejmani cut the ball back from the end line and Bradley took it in full stride and lashed the ball home.
Bradley assisted Sulejmani's strike five minutes later.
Bradley has five goals in the last four league games, pushing Heerenveen (12-6-6, 40 points) into a three-way tie for third place, six points behind league-leading PSV Eindhoven.(14-3-4) and one behind second-place Ajax (11-2-8).
Bradley contributed the final goal January 19 with a header in a 4-0 defeat of AZ Alkmaar after assisting Sulejmani on the prior tally. A week earlier, Bradley found net in a 2-2 tie draw with FC Utrecht.
Adu appears late for Benfica in win
American Freddy Adu replaced Angel Di Maria on the front line for Benfica inthe 76th minute and contributed to Oscar Cardoza's goal in the 90th minute of a 3-1 triumph over Guimaraes. It was Cardozo's second goal of the game
Benfica (9-2-6, 33) is second in the Portugese Liga, eight points behind FC Porto (13-2-2).
Friedel, Rovers concede tie with Aston Villa
Ashley Young placed a 73rd-minute free kick inches beyond the reach of diving American goalkeeper Brad Friedel to allow Aston Villa salvaged a 1-1 draw with visiting Blackburn Rovers at Villa Park.
Rovers went ahead on a Roque Santa Cruz goal in the 67th minute, but saw their advantage disappear after a foul just outside of the penalty area set up he box set up Young's equalizer.
With the draw in the only English Premier League match on an FA Cup weekend, Blackburn (10-6-8, 38) moved into eighth place, but only four points below fourth which would include advancement to European Champions League qualifying.
Friedel has been consistently strong in net for Blackburn, making four saves January 19 in a 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough and five stops six days earlier in a 2-1 decision over host Bolton Wanderers.
In the fourth round of the FA Cup, Derby County's miserable season continued when the Premier League cellar dweller lost 4-1 to Preston North End, which is 22nd in the second-division League Championship.
U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis started for Derby, but hobbled off with a leg injury in the24th minute.
On January 19, Portsmouth used Benjani Mwaruwari's three goals to defeat Derby 3-0 in a league game.
Lewis came on as a substitute on the left side of defense in the 32nd minute when the newly-arrived Danny Mills was injured. A week earlier, Lewis did not play in a 1-0 setback to Wigan Athletic.
With Frenchman Laurent Robert, one of several recent acquisitions, being a left-side midfielder, Lewis will probably see most of his playing time in back.
Derby manager Paul Jewell is also intent in getting rid of U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber and has said the young midfielder is free to move elsewhere, including to Major League Soccer.
Strangely, the club then turned down what was said to be a $900,000 offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv for Feilhaber, 23, who came to Derby from Germany's Hamburger SV last summer for a reported $2 million.
Derby won its only league match in September and is 0-14-3 since for an overall mark of 1-18-4, its seven points leaving it 13 points from escaping the relegation zone. The club announced Friday that it will be taken over by an unnamed company in the U.S. and General Sports and Entertainment, based in Rochester, Mich., will be introduced as the new owner in a Monday press conference.
With American Jay DeMerit on the back-line, Watford, third in the League Championship, suffered a major disappointment with a 4-1 loss to ninth-place Wolverhampton.
Watford's undoing came after conceding three goals after intermission.
On January 19, DeMerit went the distance in Watford's 1-1 home draw with Charlton Athletic and he also led a solid defensive effort in a 1-0 road loss at Preston North End a week earlier.
Watford (14-8-6, 48) is in third place, three points behind West Bromwich Albion (15-7-6) and Bristol City (14-6-9). The top two teams are promoted to the Premier League, while the next four play off for a third promotion. Watford is only 5-5-4 at home, but 9-3-2 away from Vicarage Road.
Hahnemann, Howard display value to their teams
If there was any doubt of United States goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann's value to Reading, he dispelled January 19 in what ended up a 2-0 losing effort to Manchester United, the leader of the English Premier League.
The American keeper made three amazing saves to keep the game scoreless until the 77th minute when Wayne Rooney beat him, brilliantly using his first touch in stride to put away a Carlos Tevez through ball.
Cristiano Ronaldo added a goal in stoppage time for the final two-goal margin.
The highlight for Hahnemann was his stop on Owen Hargreaves' perfectly-placed free kick.
U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey played well for Reading, twice almost setting up goals with deft passes. The Royals, playing without three starting defenders, attacked throughout the match, but simply could not match United's All-Star firepower.
Reading has lost four straight league matches and suddenly must worry about relegation in its second season in the top league. After breaking records for success in capturing the second-tier League Championship title in 2005-06, Reading had a fairly successful debut in the Premier League last season, finishing eighth, one position below earning a berth in Europe's second-level UEFA Cup.
Now Reading is 6-13-4 with 22 points, tied for 13th place, but only two points above Sunderland in 18th place, which is in the drop zone. The Royals are also out of the FA Cup following last Tuesday's 1-0 loss to visiting Tottenham Hotspur in a third-round replay at the Madejski Stadium.
Convey went the distance as Reading's defense held up well, but the Royals could not generate much of an attack. Reading outshot Tottenham 11-9 -- each team placed four shots on frame - with Hotspur winning on Robbie Keane's shot in the 15th minute. Hahnemann sat out in favor of backup keeper Adam Federici.
On January 12, Hahnemann mad 13 saves, but host Aston Villa outclassed the Royals 3-1 in a league match at Villa Park. Hahnemann was also shown a yellow card behind a disorganized defense, while Convey replaced defender Ulises De la Cruz in the 73rd minute.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard continues to be solid in goal for Everton, which is in fourth place and battling to earn entrance into next season's Champions League.
On January 20, Howard made four saves and was beaten only by an own goal in a 2-1 decision over host Wigan Athletic at The JJB Stadium.
Andrew Johnson and Joleon Lescott scored in a three-minute span late in the first half to stake the Toffees to a 2-0 advantage, leaving enough of a margin for error to survive central defender Phil Jagielka putting a ball into his own net in the 53rd minute.
On January 12. Howard made five saves in a 1-0 home victory over Manchester City.
Everton (13-7-3, 42 points) is 12 points behind league leading Manchester United (17-3-3) and Arsenal (16-1-6), so automatic advancement to the Champions League seem unlikely, but if Everton can hold fourth place, it would advance to a qualifying tournament for the event. Fifth place means inclusion in the UEFA Cup. Three teams trail Everton by two points, while another two clubs are within five points with all but one team having 15 matches left.