We mentioned it easier today: Gedion Zelalem, loaned from Arsenal to Rangers, is stepping into a distinguished history of United States internationals at Ibrox Stadium. Though only five names long, the list includes some of the most impressive names the U.S. have ever produced – names that have 390 caps and 11 World Cup spots to their credit.
Sneakily, Beasley may have accumulated the most impressive resume of the five. Recently un-retired with the U.S. national team, Beasley is the men’s active leader in appearances (his 122 ranking fifth all-time). A starter at left back during Brazil 2014, Beasley is the only American to appear in four World Cups: 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
During his time at Ibrox, Beasley won four major honors — two leagues, one Socttish Cup, and one League Cup — though his European career may be best remembered for his time with PSV Eindhoven, where he was part of a team that made the UEFA Champions League semifinals.
Having also spent time with the Chicago Fire (Major League Soccer), Manchester City (Premier League), Hannover (Bundesliga) and Puebla (Liga MX), Beasley is currently the starting left back for MLS’s Houston Dynamo.
Few can talk about the best U.S. players ever without bringing up Reyna, who was also named to four World Cup squads (playing in 1998, 2002 and 2006 after not registering any minutes in 1994). At one time, however, Reyna had a nearly undisputed case as having America’s best club resume, having made stops with Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg (both Bundesliga), Rangers, Sunderland and Manchester City (both Premier League) before retiring with MLS’s New York Red Bulls.
Reyna spent two-plus seasons in Glasgow between Germany and England, making 95 appearances and scoring 11 goals as a regular in manager Dick Advocaat’s midfield. The current New York City FC technical director also won his career’s only two major honors while in Glasgow: the 1999-2000 Scottish Premier League, and the 1999-2000 Scottish Cup.
Like Beasley and Reyna, Bocanegra has also had the honor of wearing the U.S. armband, but perhaps more than the others, the national team captaincy came to define Bocanegra’s career. For six years surrounding the 2010 World Cup, the UCLA product led the U.S., serving as an anchor in Bob Bradley’s defense during a Round of 16 appearance at South Africa 2010.
Throughout a 12-year national team career, ‘Boca’ recorded 110 caps and 14 goals, the latter a record for defenders. He also was a part of two Gold Cup-winning teams and helped led the U.S. to second place at the 2009 Confederations Cup.
With Rangers, however, Bocanegra failed to claim any major honors. Arriving as the club’s financial problems began to derail results, Bocanegra would spend the 2011-12 season at Ibrox before being loaned to Racing Santander. Though, while departing, he professed his love for the team he’d left Saint-Etienne to join, Bocanegra still spent the season in the Spanish second division. His former teammates would toil in Scotland’s fourth.
Unlike some of his Rangers alums, Edu has failed to reach the century mark in international appearances, but his 46 caps include a spell at the 2010 World Cup. Though his presence in Jurgen Klinsmann’s setup has waned over the last two years, Edu is still only 29 years old, and he remains a fixture for MLS’s Philadelphia Union.
Like Bocanegra, ’Mo’ was also part of Rangers’ 2011-12 team, capping a four-season run that saw the former Toronto FC midfielder make 125 appearances, score 12 goals and claim three straight league titles (from 2008-09 through 2010-11). Another casualty of Rangers’ financial despise, Edu moved to Stoke City in the summer of 2012, making only one appearance over the two ensuing Premier League seasons.
One Ranger I overlooked when we originally posted this piece was Alejandro Bedoya – another player who was part of that 2011-12 Rangers squad. Transitioning between Swedish clubs (Orebro and Helsingborgs), Bedoya spent one year in Scotland, eventually jumping to his current home league, France, after a brief Swedish return.
Though he has gone on to become a regular for Klinsmann and the U.S. men’s national team, the current Nantes starter only make 13 appearances for Rangers, starting six times and scoring once. With Edu, Steven Davis and Lee McCulloch holding established places in manager Ally McCoist’s pecking order, Bedoya never had a major impact at Ibrox. Come come Aug. 2012, with Rangers in administration, Bedoya was back in Sweden.
Since, the versatile midfielder has established himself as a regular call-up for the U.S. Now 28, Bedoya has 42 caps and played a prominent part at the 2014 World Cup. And since moving to Nantes, the former Boston College star has made 69 appearances, scoring nine goals.
Now injected into this legacy, Zelalem’s time at Ibrox will include one major difference: time in the second division. Having missed out on promotion last season, Rangers continue recovering from the financial restructuring that sent them down to the fourth tier.
One thing which hasn’t changed, though? The fervency of the fan base. Even in the second division, Rangers drew over 50,000 to this weekend’s game against Hibernian.
“Playing in front of 50,000 fans will replicate what it will be like at Arsenal, and the media spotlight is also similar,” Zelalem explained shortly after his loan was confirmed. Having been on hand during Rangers’ 1-0 weekend win over Hibernian, the 18-year-old came away impressed.
“The supporters were magnificent. They didn’t stop singing for the full game and they really pushed the team on to get the win.”
It may not be the first division, but Zelalem is going to get a first division crowd.
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