The walls came tumbling down at Old Trafford on Saturday as Clint Dempsey’s inaugural Tottenham goal gave Spurs their first win at Manchester United’s storied home since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down.
Tottenham’s 3-2 victory was a huge moment for their young manager, Andre Villas Boas, who will try to use this game as a springboard to the Champion’s League spot that Spurs so narrowly missed out on last season.
For Dempsey, this first goal will surely help him settle in at White Hart Lane, and with competition for places so tight, he knows he has to produce to nail down a starting spot. Tottenham’s 2-0 halftime lead had been cut in half by a 52nd minute Nani goal, when a Gareth Bale rebound fell at Dempsey’s feet. With virtually an empty net at his mercy, the Tottenham newcomer had only to keep his nerve, which he did, and the Londoners had some breathing room.
Just a minute later though, Shinji Kagawa pulled the Red Devils back within one, setting up a frantic final 37 plus minutes, as Spurs withstood a United onslaught to hang on for a famous victory. Brad Friedel was his usual dependable self in the Tottenham goal, so Hugo Lloris will have to wait a little longer to unseat the legendary American keeper.
Followers of the American soccer diaspora will have been greatly relieved by Dempsey’s goal, given his importance to the U.S. national team. The most impressive goal of the weekend however, was notched by Jozy Altidore. The AZ Alkmaar hit man received a pass about 30 yards from goal, turned him marker, weaved through a couple of more potential tacklers, and rifled home his Eredivisie leading eighth goal of the season. Jozy chipped in an assist on the game winner to continue his remarkable start to the season for the Cheese Farmers; one of my personal favorite club nicknames.
Altidore hasn’t been as impressive for his country, and seems to have fallen behind Herculez Gomez when Jurgen Klinsmann opts for a single striker. Gomez may be better fit in Klinsmann’s system, but I get the feeling that one national team goal could set Altidore off on a run, if he can get that one.
Back in the Premier League, Geoff Cameron continues his seamless transition to arguably the world’s best league, logging another 90 minutes for the Potters. Cameron lined out at right back for a second straight match, and his versatility is keeping him in Tony Pulis’ lineup. Fellow Yank Maurice Edu continues to await his Premier League debut, after his last minute transfer from the bankrupt Glasgow Rangers. It can be seen as small bit of good news for Mo that he made the bench for the first time in a league match, so his debut may be close.
Our third two Yank EPL side Aston Villa earned a hard fought 1-1 tie with red hot West Bromwich Albion over the weekend, back stopped in fine style by U.S. number two Brad Guzan. Guzan recently took over from Shea Given as the Villain’s top keeper, and he will need to keep performing well to hold off the former Ireland international. Guzan’s teammate Eric Lichaj didn’t fare as well, winding up on the bench in the wake of Villa’s 4-1 stumble last week to Southampton. Lichaj, who had been playing out of position at left fullback, may be in for an extended spell on the bench. Matthew Lowton is blocking Lichaj’s path at his preferred right fullback spot, and Sunday’s starter, England U21 left fullback Joe Bennett, is a natural left side player.
The man blocking Guzan’s path on the national side, Tim Howard, finds himself in second place with Everton. Saturday’s 3-1 defeat of Southampton, follows a 3-0 shutout of Swansea. As they say, it’s still early, but the Toffees are off to their best start in years.
A few other notes on American’s plying their their trade abroad, finds U.S. team captain Carlos Bocanegra quickly establishing himself at his new club Racing Santander, in Spain’s second division. Racing sit in the middle of the Segunda table, and while it would be better for the U.S. captain to be playing first division soccer, the Spanish second flight is good quality.
One division up in La Liga, the news is not great for Bocanegra’s former partner in the center of the American defense. Oguchi Onyewu faces an uphill climb to to work his way back into the national team picture, especially if he continues to ride the pine at his new club Malaga. The Champions League contestants are currently in third in La Liga. Gooch has never been one to shy from a challenge, so it will be interesting to see if he can force his way into Manuel Pellegrini’s starting 11.
Meanwhile Charlie Davies continues to search for the form that made him such an exciting player for the United States before his horrific car crash in October 2009. A loan spell last season with DC United brought mixed results. Now the former rising star is trying to get his mojo back while playing with Danish club Randers. Who knows if Davies will ever approach his former level, it’s been a slow go so far. The striker was stuck to the bench for Randers over the weekend as his long road back continues.
Then of course, there is the Bundesliga. Steve Cherundolo leads the American contingent, but the Hannover captain was unable to prevent a 1-0 loss to Hamburg over the weekend. The rest of the American national teamers performing in Germany’s highest division all settled for a share of the points in the most recent round of Bundesliga games. Jermaine Jones picked up his customary yellow card in Schalke’s 2-2 draw with Dusseldorf, while Hoffenheim duo Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams, each went the full 90 in a disappointing 0-0 tie with cellar dwellars Augsburg.
That is just a sampling of the United States players earning a crust around the world playing the beautiful game. As the year goes on we will check back in on these players and more of the ever growing band of American soccer expats.