(Thursday, January 31, 2008) -- United States striker Eddie Johnson is just one of several acquisitions made by Fulham in its effort to escape the English Premier League relegation zone.
In addition to Johnson, for whom Fulham paid Major League Soccer a reported $4 million, a record for the American league, the London club also added Finnish international Jari Litmanen and Norwegian international Erik Nevland for the front line and three international defenders -- 29-year-old Finnish international Toni Kallio, Demmark's Leon Andreasen and Norway's Brede Hangeland.
Fulham also is looking forward to the return of two other Americans -- striker Brian McBride and goalkeeper Kasey Keller -- who have returned to training after missing long periods of time because of injuries.
No team has been as busy in the January transfer period, which ends tonight, and the signings are good news for American Clint Dempsey. The midfielder, who has been playing as Fulham's lone striker, can return to his regular position and be relieved of some of the pressure that has been placed on him in recent weeks. Dempsey, who leads the Cottagers with six goals, has played in every Fulham match this year, starting 25 of 28 outings in league play and the FA Cup.
Fulham's signings are not good news to defender Carlos Bocanegra, Dempsey's U.S. teammate, who will likely be shunted to the bench. That's where Bocanegra found himself at the start Tuesday of the Cottagers' 0-0 draw with host Bolton Wanderers.
Dempsey had a pair of excellent chances but both his shots were off target. Bocanegra replaced a tired Andreasen in the 83rd minute.
At 2-12-10 with 16 points, Fulham is 19th among 20 Premier League teams, four points below the cutoff for the drop zone with 14 matches left to play.
Johnson, 23, who received his British work permit last week after a successful appeal, was back in the U.S. getting his visa and other documents in order. He has now returned to London and Fulham manager Roy Hodgson says he will be available on Sunday for a home match with Aston Villa.
Johnson will not be called in for the U.S. men's match with Mexico Wednesday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. "I'm very grateful to the U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, who has agreed that he won't be calling him back on Sunday night or Monday morning for the friendly match," Hodgson said on his club's web site. "I'm much happier that he's now part of our game on Sunday."
McBride and Keller both played 90 minutes and reported no problems after a reserve match against Cardiff City. McBride required surgery after dislocating his left kneecap while planting to shoot in the Cottagers' season opener, shortly after he was appointed team captain. Keller tore a biceps soon after joining Fulham early in the season. Both hope to be within a week or two of returning to the lineup.
"Brian has done extremely well to be back so early from the injury," Hodgson said. "He's worked very, very hard at it. It was good that he played 90 minutes on Wednesday and I thought the longer the game went on the happier he looked on the field.
"We mustn't overestimate the level of opposition. It was an extremely young Cardiff team and that game was nothing like a Premier League game, but the really positive thing is that our captain, Brian, who is a really influential character and person, is well on the road to recovery. We're hoping that if he continues at this rate, it won't be long before we see him in the first team."
Keller expressed to the team web site a high level of frustration over his injury. He originally had been signed as an injury replacement for starter Antti Niemi, but quickly won the starting job, keeping Niemi on the bench even after he recovered. Keller had started four matches -- he was on the bench for three others -- before he went down in a training session.
"I've never had such a long-term injury and the most frustrating thing was that I came here, won the position, and everybody was happy with the way that I was playing," Keller said. "And I was happy with the way I was playing, and I just wanted to continue that run. Unfortunately, that got cut short with probably the worst injury of my career.
"But I can't be too negative about it -- if the longest injury of my career is 10 weeks, then I can't complain a lot. Although there's never such a thing as good timing for an injury, it was just poor timing in that I didn't have the time to fully establish myself as the number one."
Premiership teams have entered another crowded two weeks with most teams playing three times between last weekend and the next.
Reading's frustrating season continues. Once again, U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was solid in net against a blue-ribbon opponent, making seven saves in a 1-0 road loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Hahnemann, however, could not stop a Michael Ballack header off a cross from Paulo Ferreira in the 33rd minute.
American midfielder Bobby Convey went 85 minutes for the Royals, who could not solve Chelsea's stout back-line.
Reading (6-14-4, 22 points), which finished eighth last season after being promoted from the League Championship, suddenly has relegation worries in 2007-08. After dropping four straight games -- including a third-round elimination from the FA Cup -- the Royals are winless in their last seven league outings (0-5-2), leaving the club in 16th place, two points above the drop zone.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard had three saves, but his Everton teammates could not score with the result a 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur despite a wide advantage in shots (12-5) and a 6-4 edge in shots on goal.
Everton (13-7-4, 43) remained in fourth place, 10 points behind third-place Chelsea. On Everton's tail for the final qualifying berth for the next European Champions League are Aston Villa (11-5-8, 41), Manchester City (11-5-8, 41) and Liverpool (10-3-10, 40), which holds a game in hand on the other three teams
Derby County, under new American ownership, earned perhaps its best result of the season, a 1-1 draw with visiting Manchester City at Pride Park Stadium. Derby's American midfielder Eddie Lewis did not play after suffering knee cartilage damage last week against Preston North End in an FA Cup clash and he will undergo arthroscopic surgery, causing him to miss four-to-six weeks.
Derby (1-18-5, 8) is mired deep in last place, eight points below Fulham and 12 from safety, meaning relegation appears to be certain.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector played the last nine minutes of West Ham United's 1-0 home victory over Liverpool on Mark Noble's penalty kick in the 90th minute.
West Ham (10-7-6, 36) is in 10th place.
In a Tuesday match in the second-tier League Championship, American defender Jay DeMerit went the distance for Watford, which played to a hard-fought 1-1 draw with host Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Watford, which was outshot 18-8, 13-5 on frame, went ahead 1-0 on Nathan Ellington's goal in the 21st minute, but saw the lead evaporate when United reserve David Carney scored the equalizer in the 67th minute.
Watford (14-8-7, 49) is in third place, two points behind an automatic promotion berth.