American Exports: Premier League season preview
Our preseason European hop concludes in jolly ol' England, where seven Americans are preparing to open the new Premier League campaign this weekend.
Contract expirations and relegations have thinned the USMNT crowd in the world's biggest league this season, with only Zak Whitbread of promoted Norwich City using the in door.
US Players: Brad Guzan (G), Eric Lichaj (D)
Player Outlooks: Guzan's future is unclear as he enters the final year of his Villa deal. New manager Ally McLeish would like to keep the former Chivas USA man around as cover for Shay Given. Don't be surprised, though, if he leaves for first-team action in the Championship.
Lichaj opens the season as Villa's backup right back behind veteran Luke Young, with Habib Beye also bidding for time. It's a long full season for EPL clubs, so expect the youngster to easily surpass his five appearances from last term.
Team Outlook: Losing Ashley Young probably won't hurt Villa, who have several speedy wing terrors eager to take his place, but the departure of the clever Stewart Downing probably means finishing in the top half of the table would constitute success this season.
US Player: Stuart Holden (M)
Player Outlook: The 2010-11 Wanderers Player of the Year has started training with the side and hopes to be back in the selection by mid-September. Once he's fit, he's written in ink in Owen Coyle's central midfield.
Team Outlook: Bolton have down well to cover departures with the capture of old Coyle charges Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears. However, Tuncay Şanli is not an adequate replacement for Johan Elmander and depth remains the issue it was last season. If they can pull off a proper strike capture, then we'd be able to talk seriously about them being top-10 material.
US Player: Tim Howard (G)
Player Outlook: Just fine, thanks. The US netminder has started 141 straight league matches for the Toffees and all but four since first arriving at Everton in 2006. Howard will, however, start his season a week later than the others due to their opener against Tottenham Hotspur being postponed by the unrest in London this week.
Team Outlook: Minus 11 games from James Vaughan, the current Everton squad is exactly the same as the one that closed last season a respectable seventh. That means they'll probably need some classic David Moyes loan magic or a Jose Baxter breakout to compete for a European place. The former seems more likely at this time.
US Player: Clint Dempsey (M/F)
Player Outlook: If he stays, Deuce will again be a mainstay and take a crack at the Europa League. As the roster is, look for him mostly at forward. MLSsoccer.com has learned that the admiring influence of new AS Roma boss Luis Enrique has put Dempsey straight to the top of the club's "Buy American project" wish list (along with Michael Bradley) and they aren't the only exciting name on the continent currently browsing him. Either way it turns out, stay tuned — this should be fun.
Team Outlook: The roster is rather thin with reliable EPL players, so expect the Cottagers to pull off a few late deals. If among them, they can wrangle a set of power legs for the attack (Cameron Jerome? Pedro León?), Fulham would again look like a top-half side.
US Player: Zak Whitbread (D)
Player Outlook: Whitbread seems to have a won a preseason challenge for his job and the guess here is he'll partner with Manchester United loan defender Richie De Laet in the against Stoke this weekend. If he does well enough to maintain the place, it shouldn't be long before he's in Red, White and Blue.
Team Outlook: How best to put this politely for the rather young Canaries? Enjoy the cup of Prem coffee and be sure to learn from your struggle.
US Player: Brad Friedel (G)
Player Outlook: Friedel will be the last of our EPL boys to begin the season, with their opener put back until a week from Monday. By that kickoff, we will learn if he's taken the starting job away from Gomes or not. At the least, the 40-year-old netminder should see plenty of cup and Europa League action.
Team Outlook: Like Everton, Spurs almost exactly resemble last year's model for the time being. Unable to buy unless he sells, manager Harry Redknapp is trying to shed Peter Crouch and hang onto Luka Modric. How well he does with these tasks will have much to say about whether Tottenham have it in the locker to challenge for a Champions League return. As for this year's Europa League, the depth at White Hart Lane makes them a deep run threat.