When is an “A” international not an “A” international? When the UK home office deems it not to be. Recall the plight of Cobi Jones one of the most decorated and accomplished players in the history of American Soccer. In 1995 while playing for Coventry City of the Premiership his work permit renewal was denied by the UK home office based on many of his caps with the US being deemed “non-competitive matches.” Several years later, Brad Friedel ran into work permit trouble and had to play in Turkey for a season. Next up was DaMarcus Beasley: in 2003 despite having started three games in the previous World Cup where the US made the Quarterfinals, Beasley was denied a UK work permit for a move to Southampton. The failure to secure a work permit was a good thing it turns out because Beasley ended up on a club with renowned reputation for player development and Champions League football to boot: that club was PSV Eindhoven. Bobby Convey tried the same year to move from DC United to Spurs but was also shot down, while Carlos Bocanegra with fewer caps and fewer starts for the National Team was awarded a work permit on appeal to play for Fulham. Why did Beasley and Convey get turned down while Bocanegra was accepted? Ask the U.K. home office?
Now we come to the case of Brad Guzan, who has emerged as the #2 US goalkeeper ahead of two players, Kasey Keller and Marcus Hahnemann with significant playing experience in England. By any reasonable standard Guzan would enhance the Premier League. He is a top keeper, in a league that regardless of playing standard has produced some top flight goalkeepers. Former and current American national MLS keepers Mike Amman, Ian Feuer, Jurgen Sommer, Adin Brown, Troy Perkins, Brad Friedel, Marcus Hahnemann, Zach Thornton, Joe Cannon and a few others that escape me currently have all played and excelled in many cases on European club sides. Sommer, the current US National Team Goalkeeper coach was so well thought of in England that even as a backup for New England (behind Adin Brown) late in his career he was loaned to Bolton on request of Sam Allardyce for one match, an FA cup tie against Blackburn. Guzan will without a doubt be a top class keeper, perhaps one of the best keeper a nation known for producing good goal keepers ever produces. Guzan has been called into every single US camp since this past May and while he doesn’t start every match due to Tim Howard’s status, he is without a doubt one of the leading two or three options for a nation known for producing outstanding keepers. So why doesn’t the UK Home Office and Work Permit panel relent? Could it be the possible embarrassment of Guzan potentially beating out the new England #1 Scott Carson for the Aston Villa job? Or is this simply another example of how the UK Work Permit rules don’t fully understand the world of football, especially nations that play friendlies to deepen the player pool and enter certain tournaments with the same aim in mind. Should the US be as England has been in recent years, picking the same 23 players for every friendly and competitive match and not working to deepen its pool and improve it overall national team at every level?
Let me also mention this issue warrants a mention of Taylor Twellman. For the first time in his career, Twellman has received enough US National team action recently to recieve a work permit. This window was likely to be Twellman’s only chance to follow his ambition to play in England. But New England and MLS refuse to sell Twellman to a Championship (2nd division) side. By doing so, the Revolution and MLS are being as shortsighted and unfair as the UK Home Office, and what is worse they have received so much from Twellman in the way of performance and loyalty.
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