Best of 2011: Dempsey the top American Export
The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with our Best of 2011 awards, running Dec. 19 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS and US international players, including MLS Broadcaster Call of the Year, Gaffe of the Year and, via fan vote, the Moment of the Year.
MLSsoccer.com European correspondent Greg Seltzer offers up the latest award, given to Fulham's Clint Dempsey as the American Export of the Year.
If there was any doubt about who should claim this honor at the start of December, record-setting Fulham star Clint Dempsey erased it with a big finish.
The Texas tornado opened the month with a late winner to beat Liverpool, closed it with an equalizer at Chelsea and added another pair in between to end 2011 with 16 Cottagers goals – the highest calendar year total for a European club from a capped US international. Ever.
Of course, there shouldn't have been doubt he'd win this award for a second straight year anyway. Dempsey has consistently been the main man on his EPL team all year. Deuce notched six assists and scored in eight of Fulham's full playing months, missing the target only in an abbreviated May and September. Dempsey hit first in a game six times, with five winners and two equalizers also to his credit.
He finished the previous season in May, having topped former teammate Brian McBride's single-season goal record for an EPL American with a cool dozen.
During the first half of the new Premier League season, Dempsey surpassed McBride's standard for career EPL strikes, taking the total to beat up to 39 and counting. Adding in three Europa League markers, he is currently on pace to improve his goal sum across all Fulham competition for the fifth consecutive season.
It wasn't just about denting nets and snapping records, though. Like McBride before him, Dempsey has mixed true grit with the goals become the face of Fulham as a bloody American, of all things.
2. Jozy Altidore – Forget the first half of the year with Bursaspor ... on loan again, naturally. Summer brought a new, real home in Alkmaar, where he enjoys classical strike training. It took Altidore less than two months with AZ to match the goal total (six) from his first three full years in Europe. If the production wasn't enough to excite, Jozy's hold-up play and defender-occupying has helped the Cheese Farmers lead the league at the break.
3. Herculez Gomez – It's fairly safe to say at this point that the well-traveled hit man, good for 11 goals during calendar year 2011, is among the most feared forwards in Mexico. One reason is Gomez usually doesn't need long to score; seven of his tallies in the recently completed Apertura season came in his seven sub appearances for former club Estudiantes Tecos. In fact, since heading south of the border in 2009, no regular Primera División player can match his strike rate of 0.725 per 90 minutes.
WATCH: Discussing the American Export of the Year