The Best US Imports
Many nations have provided English football with players and the United States is no different. From Roy Wegerle to Brad Guzan, there has been a steady flow of Americans plying their trade across the pond, with goalkeepers being a regular export.
Juergen Sommer became the first American stopper to play in the Premier League when he signed for Queens Park Rangers in 1995 after serving a lengthy apprenticeship in the lower leagues. Plenty have followed and it seems the number one shirt has been the most hotly-contested in the national team’s recent history.
The proportion of goalkeepers in the list of American Premier League players is startling – Ian Feuer, Brad Friedel, Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard and Kasey Keller have all featured in the Premier League – and most have made a decent impact.
Friedel’s career in England was held up by work permit problems and when he did finally sign for a Premier League club, Liverpool, in December 1997, he struggled to settle. His tough spell at Anfield ended with a move to Blackburn Rovers in November 2000 and Friedel has gone on to become a Premier League legend.
Only three non-British or Irish players have made more appearances in the Premier League and Friedel’s 182 consecutive appearances was a record. His longevity is a testament to his consistency, as was his move to Aston Villa at the age of 37.
Friedel’s long-term replacement for both club and country could be Guzan, a similarly imposing figure with a flair for shot-stopping. If he succeeds to the extent Friedel, Keller and Howard have, he will be able to reflect on an excellent career.
Of course goalkeepers have not been the only notable US imports. Reliable right back John Harkes was a Premier League regular throughout the 1990s, whilst Carlos Bocanegra became the rock which Fulham’s defence of recent years was built around. Claudio Reyna was one of the most consistent holding midfielders during his years at Sunderland and Manchester City.
Attacking players have not fared quite as well. Most notably all-time leading cap-holder Cobi Jones failed to settle at Coventry City after arriving in the wake of the 1994 World Cup; indeed, successful American goalscorers in the Premier League can be counted on one hand.
Joe-Max Moore had his moments at Everton, but the most successful outfield import has undoubtedly been Brian McBride. A tough, uncompromising target man with an excellent eye for goal, McBride became a Fulham legend after a brief spell at Everton (some clubs clearly have a predilection for recruiting from MLS).
Clint Dempsey continues to wave the US flag at Craven Cottage and it seems a good football bet that the adaptable forward man will be remembered in similarly high esteem to McBride.