Postcard from Europe: Exports Team of the Year
AMSTERDAM — It's time again to hang annual plaudits for the Americans playing in Europe that made the biggest splashes in their respective homes away from home. As this has become the year of the 4-3-3 for American exports and US internationals, we'll draw up the clipboard in that formation.
Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel
Including Aston Villa time, the Tottenham netminder went 21-9-9 in 2011. In his first real EPL title chase, Friedel currently leads league regulars with over a 78 percent save rate. And did we mention he kicked off a big-name summer bidding war at age 40?
Right back: Steve Cherundolo
Some might prefer Timothy Chandler here, but only one Bundesliga wingback captained his side to Europe for the first time since 1993. Cherundolo recently has had a fight for his place, but he's also helped the Reds reach the Europa League knockout stages.
Center back: Oguchi Onyewu
People may forget Gooch did a very professional job in 14 games with FC Twente this year, but there's a reason. Since a struggling Sporting CP turned to Onyewu in mid-September, they've won 12 of his 14 starts to stay alive for a treble.
Center Back: Carlos Bocanegra
The US skipper finished last season strong (even if Saint-Étienne didn't), then arrived at Rangers to become a quick fan favorite for his sturdy play at the back.
Left Back: Michael Parkhurst
Though he played every spot in defense this revelatory year — as well as defensive midfield when FC Nordsjælland earned that Ekstra Bladet Cup repeat in May — Parkhurst slots here for us. On current form, he'd have a fair shot come SAS Liga awards time.
Defensive midfielder: Maurice Edu
Steady if unspectacular last season, the midfielder has routinely been among Rangers' top performers this term. All five of his 2011 goals were pretty or important, including a last-gasp Europa League tie-taker at Sporting CP in February.
Central midfielder: Sacha Kljestan
Fans questioning his value for a US call-up surely have not seen him in Anderlecht colors lately. Like Onyewu, the greatly improved Kljestan is doing fine work for a club still chasing league, cup and Europa League glory.
Attacking midfielder: Mikkel Diskerud
One of just four Tippeligaen players to work every minute this season with no cards, Mix has become more than just the ideas man for Stabæk. The affable, heady Diskerud has become a local hero and team spokesman at 21.
Right wing: Josh Gatt
Just the fifth American to win silver from a season starting inside his first year in Europe (after Edu, DaMarcus Beasley, Tim Howard and Troy Perkins), Gatt did so as triple threat. He excited as wing terror, filled in at wingback and mature teen idol on Molde's first ever league-winning side.
Left wing: Clint Dempsey
Our American Export of the Year has recently been playing a lot from Fulham's left side. He has four goals and an assist in six outings this month. Deuce on the left, it is.
Striker: Jozy Altidore
Including one at Bursaspor, Altidore ended the year with 10 goals. Having stepped into a strike chasm at AZ Alkmaar, a rapidly maturing all-around game helps make him the third guy listed here still in for three titles.