Postcard From Europe: The Team of the Season
AMSTERDAM — The 2010-11 European club season isn't technically done just yet. But the champions have been crowned and the standouts have emerged.
With teams counting the days until summer break, it’s time again to see which American Exports are at the top of the class. Using a bit of our side's versatility, we have fashioned MLSsoccer.com's Europe-based Team of the Season into a 4-5-1 formation.
By grading on a curve that marks a bit more heavily on importance to team than on league quality, we have allowed second-flight standouts a more equal footing to graduate here with honors.
Brad Friedel (Aston Villa)
The toughest pick of the bunch was for the spot between the pipes. The choice could have just as easily been Tim Howard. Though neither was top-shelf in the EPL this term, each was just below that level. Friedel, however, edges the nod for notching 10 more saves on the season, under greater pressure, in front of an ever-rotating backline of mediocrity.
Honorable mentions: Tim Howard (Everton), David Yelldell (Duisburg), Brad Guzan (Hull City)
RB - Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96)
This one, meanwhile, was one of our easiest picks. The US mainstay may have suffered his first offensive shutout in seven seasons, but it was a willing sacrifice. After spurning free agent interest to re-sign, Cherundolo played nearly every minute of 33 games, captaining the Reds and anchoring their defense through arguably the greatest season in club history.
CB - Zak Whitbread (Norwich City)
Despite missing most of the pre-holiday action with injuries, the Canaries defender still managed 21 league outings, the team's second-highest total among defenders. While we could quibble over quantity, Whitbread's quality was beyond dispute. Promoted Norwich lost just once in his 20 league starts, leaking 1.15 goals per game. Without him marshaling the back, they conceded 1.35 while dropping seven of the other 26. The fans love him already for a reason.
CB - Leo Krupnick (Maccabi Netanya)
Had Clarence Goodson been able to work more than seven Brøndby matches, extrapolated form indicates he'd be a shoo-in here. He wasn't, however, and this place goes instead to the former Red Bulls defender for his police work in one of Israel's bests defenses. Despite the Diamonds barely scoring a goal a game, Krupnick has helped them up to fifth with a game to play.
LB - Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne)
Though the US skipper has worked the last handful of matches at right center back, he spent most of this Ligue 1 season providing consistently solid play at left back. Both of Bocanegra's goals gave his side a lead and his measured approach to playing wide helped Les Verts flirt with a title run for a good while. Thanks to cup outcomes, 'Los & Co. still have a shot at capping the term with a Europa League invite.
Honorable mentions: Clarence Goodson (Brøndby), Eric Lichaj (Leeds United), Babajide Ogunbiyi (Viborg)
DM - Jermaine Jones (Schalke/Blackburn)
Let's be clear up front: Jones' 2010 Bundesliga showings were nothing to write home about. That being said, the Miners' semifinal run was partially facilitated by the German-American's group-phase heroics. Since joining Rovers on loan, the US midfielder has provided hearty effort to fight relegation, essentially freeing top creator Morten Gamst Pedersen to run wild down the back stretch.
RM - Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg, pictured above)
Sure, he played nine of his mere 14 games at right back — but the impact of his inclusion was unmistakable. After a few sub appearances, Chandler barged into the lineup with a goal and assist blinder in a win at Stuttgart and stayed there. Along with a few other youngsters, he helped spark Der Club to the brink of a Europa League place with daring runs and nasty crosses practically falling out of his ears.
CM - Stuart Holden (Bolton)
Even though his EPL season was cut short at 26 games, the Wanderers busybody made a huge impact in his first full Prem season. Holden turned traffic director this term, ranking among the most active and cleanest tacklers in the league while also faithfully supplying the attack. With him, Bolton posted 10 of their 12 EPL wins, threatened a top-five finish and ran deep in the FA Cup. Had he been fit, they may well have reached their first final since 1958.
CM - Maurice Edu (Rangers)
Though asked to shift around the formation a lot, Edu adapted well to supply a steady stream of safe play as Rangers claimed the three-peat and a League Cup double. He also was terrific in UEFA play against the likes of Manchester United, Valencia and Sporting Lisbon in both the Champions League and Europa League. Some supporters moaned down the stretch that the American was ill-suited to the more advanced role, but he did bag a career-high five goals across all competitions. He also silenced those jeers with a strong finish as the Light Blues rallied past archrivals Celtic for the crown.
LM - Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus)
Though now breaking down defenses for the New England Revolution, let's not forget that Feilhaber started this season as a driving force on an AGF that looks poised to regain SAS Liga status with a second flight title. Finally given the chance to make plays, the US midfielder notched four goals and seven assists in 18 league matches, leaving with the club eight points clear at the top.
Honorable mentions: Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Aston Villa), Charles Kazlauskas (Helmond Sport)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham)
Citing a lack of competition up top, we'll use manager's choice to install the versatile, hard-nosed Cottager at forward. Dempsey played a lion's share of his 34 league games on the front line, burying 12 goals with four helpers. Including an August Carling Cup tally, Deuce has struck at least once in every full month but December. He's also been consistently scoring records, having already bagged a new career high, the American standard for EPL goals in a season and the title of Fulham's all-time top Prem hit man.
Honorable mention: Freddy Adu (Rizespor)