What Future Awaits Yanks in England?
As the seasons in both the Premiership and Championship draw to a close the fate of several American Internationals lies in the balance. Some Americans including Leeds United’s Eddie Lewis and Watford’s Jay DeMerit have already been relegated. Others including Jonathan Spector, Cory Gibbs and the three Americans on Fulham will have a nervous few weeks. In addition, on loan Americans DeMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu are by no means certain to stay with their current clubs. Here’s a look at the future possibilities for each American currently playing in England’s top two divisions.
Tim Howard (EVERTON): Howard recently signed a long term deal to stay at the Merseyside club and will likely be the first choice keeper for the USA as well.
Brad Friedel (BLACKBURN): Freidel is getting up their in years but continues to be a staple of his club.
Marcus Hannehman (READING): Has had an outstanding first season in the EPL and is Reading’s long term starter at keeper.
Bobby Convey (READING): Has missed much of the season with injury, but should return to Reading’s starting eleven next season.
Johann Smith (BOLTON): Smith only got EPL game action once before being loaned to Carlisle. At 20, Bolton could choose to loan him out again next season or let him work his way into the first team. In either event, expect Smith to continue blossoming into a top American attacking threat.
DeMarcus Beasley (MANCHESTER CITY): Beasley has had a complicated time at Manchester City since coming on loan from PSV. He has been injury plagued and every time it appears he can be safely discarded by the club, he steps up and makes an impact. A few weeks ago Stuart Pearce stated Beasley hadn’t yet earned a permanent stay at Eastlands but that he could very well still be in the club’s long term plans. Beasley then proceded to score two critical goals in three matches before getting injured again. Chances are that Beasley’s fate will be largely determined by who buys the club this summer.
Oguchi Onyewu (NEWCASTLE): When Onyewu arrived at St James Park on loan from Standard Liege it appeared a long term deal was a mere formality. However Onyewu has played poorly with the Magpies and has only seen action in nine league games. Onyewu’s contract with Standard Liege expires this summer and he could be available to sign with any club. Given his propensity to foul and poor positioning, Onyewu may need more time in Belgium or a comparable league before swimming with the big boys again.
Jonathan Spector (WEST HAM UNITED): Spector is stuck with West Ham regardless of whether the club survives the drop or not. Having signed a long term deal last season and subsequently become a regular on the back line, Spector has improved his profile for the National Team. However if West Ham is relegated and fails to win promotion next season the door could close on Spector to play a large part in the US World Cup qualifying campaign.
Carlos Bocanegra (FULHAM): Bocanegra’s emergence as a set piece goal scoring specialist has helped to mask that Spector is likely now the first choice left center back for the national team. Moreover when Bocanegra and Onyewu play together for the national team they both look slow and tend to be out of position. Fulham’s late season collapse has had much to do with a porous back line and a lack of killer instinct. If Fulham go down, Bocanegra may be stuck going down with them.
Clint Dempsey (FULHAM): Dempsey’s time with Fulham has yielded little positive for either the club or the player. Dempsey has yet to start a league match and has shown little quality when given a chance as a substitute. Moreover, Dempsey’s form with the national team has suffered as well and he has looked totally lost in his last two national team call ups. Dempsey probably isn’t in Fulham’s long term plans whether they stay up or not. For a player so vocally anxious to ditch MLS, Dempsey has done little in his time in Europe to distinguish himself.
Brian McBride (FULHAM): Much like Andy Johnson at Crystal Palace last season, McBride could tear the Championship apart if Fulham goes down. He could also be a short term solution for an EPL club needing an attacker if Fulham chooses to sell him after relegation. If Fulham stay up, McBride stays in London.
Cory Gibbs (CHARLTON): The same injury that kept Gibbs out of the World Cup has kept him off the pitch all season long. When Gibbs signed with Charlton last summer he didn’t expect to be playing Championship Football but chances are he will be.
Jay DeMerit (WATFORD): DeMerit was a key part of Watford’s season and he will likely go down with the club. In the Championship, look for DeMerit to have a big impact as one of the top defenders in the league.
Frankie Simek (SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY): With Wednesday now eliminated from playoff consideration expect EPL clubs to come calling for this outstanding young defender. Simek despite not receiving a cap for the US until last month should be a fixture with the national team for years to come. Simek has been perhaps the best player this season at Hillsborough and many clubs have surely noticed.
Jemal Johnson (LEEDS UNITED): Johnson was loaned from Wolves to Leeds in January. Johnson has some success with Wolverhampton and should the club not achieve promotion in the playoffs, expect Johnson to return to Wolves. If Wolves are promoted, Johnson will likely be sold or loaned again to another Championship side. Johnson is a solid championship level player but isn’t good enough for the Premiership as Blackburn found out last season.
Eddie Lewis (LEEDS UNITED): One of the casualties of Leeds drop to the third flight of English Football will be Lewis. The two time World Cup veteran is too good for League One but not good enough anymore at his advanced age for the Premiership. Either Lewis will try and latch on with another Championship side or return home to MLS where he last played in 1999 before moving to Fulham. If this is the end of the road for Lewis in Europe, he deserves credit for being one of the trailblazers for the other Americans now playing in England. Lewis’ pace and classy crosses were a staple for the national team and he will be missed for both club and country.