Howard stunned in goal, his Everton falls 6-1 to Arsenal.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Saturday, August 15, 2009) -- United States goalkeeper Tim Howard's English Premier League season got off to a nightmare start Saturday when he was beaten six times in Everton's 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal.
Everton's goal came in stoppage time.
Many commentators have picked Arsenal as a possible champion this season and it certainly looked like it with the Gunners putting nine shots on goal with the shell-shocked Howard able to stop only three.
The match was scoreless until the 26th minute when an unmarked Denilson hit a 25-yard rocket into a top corner of the net. Goals in the 37th minute by Thomas Vermaelen and four minutes later by William Gallas, the result of poor marking, gave Arsenal a 3-0 halftime lead.
Three minutes into the second half, Cesc Fábregas shot under Howard and he headed home another in the 70th minute before Eduardo put away a rebound in the 89th for a 6-0 lead before Marouane Fellaini salvaged a tally in time added on.
During the preseason, U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan got a number of starts for Aston Villa and manager Martin O'Neil made it clear that Guzan was his keeper of the future. Yet, when Villa opened its season at home against Wigan, fellow American Brad Friedel was in his customary place in the Villa net for what turned out to be a long afternoon and a 2-0 loss.
Villa's defenders simply could not match the pace of Wigan's young attackers. In the 31st minute, Wigan's lone striker Hugo Rodallega hit a sensational 30-yard volley that was simply unstoppable for a 1-0 lead.
Friedel made a terrific save just before halftime to prevent a second goal, but was beaten again in the 56th minute when left midfielder Jason Koumas put one through Friedel's legs from a sharp angle as Koumas advanced alone on the Villa goal.
In the 74th minute, Friedel was called on to make a sensational save on midfielder Jordi Gómez to keep the match within reach.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey celebrated a new three-year contract with Fulham (reported to be worth $3.1 million per year) with a solid 90-minute performance for Fulham, which opened its season with a 1-0 road victory over Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
The only goal of the match was a complete fluke, but Dempsey was responsible. In the 13th minute, he launched a 25-yard drive that struck teammate Bobby Zamora flush in the back and spun into the goal. Zamora was credited with the goal and Dempsey an assist.
American striker Eddie Johnson did not suit up for Fulham.
Hull City opened with a disappointing 2-1 road loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea forward Didier Drogba scoring his second goal in stoppage time to win it.
Hull's new American striker Jozy Altidore was not in attendance. Altidore has been sent to Hull on a season-long loan from Villarreal of Spain in a deal that allows Hull to buy him outright at the end of the loan period. Despite the fact that Altidore has been granted a work permit, the paperwork has not been completed and he remains in the U.S. until his visa comes through..
Hull chairman Paul Duffen said the club was hopeful of completing the paperwork by Tuesday and of getting Altidore into training by week's end.
At the end of last season, when Reading of the second-tier League Championship failed to win promotion to the Premier League, it looked like keeper Marcus Hahnemann's attempt to return to the Premiership was over. Despite talk that Hahnemann would return to Major League Soccer, Wolverhampton Wanderers' manager Mick McCarthy came calling and signed the American to a one-year contract for his club, newly promoted to the Premier League.
Hahnemann was acquired for the stated purpose of backing up and tutoring Wolves' two young keepers. Hahnemann got a lot of playing time in the preseason while Wayne Hennessey nursed a sore ankle, but on opening day Hennessey was in the net for a 2-0 loss to West Ham United.
Hennessey made eight saves on a busy afternoon, but it will be interesting to see if McCarthy opts for experience next weekend.
American defender Jonathan Spector also started on West Ham's bench, entering the match in the 65th minute when starting left back Hérita N'Kongolo Ilunga went down with an injury.
DeMerit plays, but Watford struggles at start
In the League Championship, two weekends of play have now been completed and Watford is off to a slow start. On Saturday, it followed an opening-day 1-1 draw against Doncaster with a 2-0 road loss to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
In both matches, U.S. central defender and team captain Jay DeMerit went the distance. He was rested and did not dress for Watford's easy 2-0 opening-round win over Barnet of the fourth-division League Two in the Carling Cup.
American defender Frank Simek has not seen league action yet for Sheffield Wednesday. He dressed, but did not play in Wednesday's opening day 2-2 draw with Barnsley or Saturday's 1-1 tie with newly-promoted Peterborough United .
Simek did play 90 minutes in a 3-0 defeat of League Two's Rochdale in Carling Cup action.
Johnson a starter for MK Dons
In the third-tier League One, American attacker Jemal Johnson has become a starter for MK Dons since three strikers are among 11 on the roster out with injuries. He went 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw opening day with Hartlepool, then did the same is a rather dismal 4-1 Carling Cup setback to Swindon Town.
American striker Mike Grella signed a new three-year pact with League One's Leeds United, which continues to struggle as it tries to eventually find it was back to the higher divisions, such as the Premiership where it was not too many years ago.
Leeds got off to a good start this season with a 2-1 decision over Exeter and a 1-0 triumph over Wycombe Wanderers Saturday in its first two matches. Grella dressed, but did not play in either match. He did go 85 minutes in an opening 1-0 Carling Cup win over Darlington of League Two.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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