SmorgasBorg: David Moyes at Manchester United could change face of American soccer in Europe
Go ahead and list the most successful Americans that ever moved across the pond to make a splash in European soccer.
Who's on your list? Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel, Brian McBride, Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley, Steve Cherundolo, Jozy Altidore, Kasey Keller, John Harkes, Tim Howard, Claudio Reyna and perhaps Joe-Max Moore.
But then begin to list the clubs where they made their name — Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn, Everton, Fulham, Hannover 96, AZ Alkmaar, Sheffield Wednesday, Rangers, Aston Villa and Millwall.
Pretty good. But that's not exactly European royalty.
The truth is that Americans have yet to experience a meaningful breakthrough at the world's super clubs — not a prolonged one, anyway. We're talking: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Inter Milan or AC Milan (Oguchi Onyewu's cup of coffee with the Rossoneri will only be remembered for his training ground fistfight with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Howard was in the EPL's Best XI one season, then shipped out of Old Trafford the next).
Is it a product of the negative bias that these clubs and their managers still have toward American players? Or is that American players haven't been good enough? The answer is not black-and-white.
Which is why the rumored move by Everton's David Moyes to take over for the soon-to-be-retired Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is so significant. The breakthrough could be upon us, when it comes to field players.
It can be argued that Moyes has been the single biggest proponent of American players in Europe during his tenure at Everton. He inherited Moore when he took over in 2002, but then recruited the likes of McBride (who played for Moyes at Preston North End), Howard and Landon Donovan. And he gave them prominent enough roles with the club.
But especially in the case of Everton, these acquisitions were not exactly international marketing gimmicks. They weren't done to sell jerseys. The Toffees were not angling to grab a slice of the "North American market" or to lure new sponsor dollars.
When Moyes brought Everton stateside on summer tours it's because he valued the competition that American clubs could give his squad (including 2009 All-Star Game). There were no red carpets, no celebrity events, no sponsor functions celebrating their arrival. He came to work.
Moyes developed a relationship with former US national team manager Bob Bradley over the years and he currently allows his goalkeeper coach at Everton, Chris Woods, to also double as the USA's 'keepers coach on Jurgen Klinsmann's staff. And he even made time for an appearance on ExtraTime Radio (Dec. 2011).
There's no reason to believe that a move to US-owned Manchester United would change Moyes or his view of American soccer. Moyes is a no-nonsense, roll-up-your-sleeves, hard working type. He doesn't have the sartorial splendor of Pep Guardiola, the showmanship of José Mourinho, the fine tastes of Roberto Mancini or the eloquence of Arsène Wenger.
Moyes is a working-class man, who was in his element at a blue-collar club in Everton. It's maybe why he has an affinity for the American player, who is known for his hard work ahead of any other attribute.
But now Moyes may be about to hit the lottery and stumble on a transfer cash windfall as the successor to Ferguson at Old Trafford. It means he wouldn't have to depend on creative short-term loans to get the Americans he really wants like he was forced to do in the case of Donovan.
Speaking of which: Reports say Donovan's four-year deal expires at the end of the current MLS season. If there was an American field player ready to become the first US-born recruit for Moyes at Manchester United, the timing works out perfectly for Donovan to be that candidate.
"American boys in the main tend to come over here and do well," Moyes said back in 2009 after acquiring Donovan on loan. "I see the American team regularly and know what is there."
Howard spent three seasons in and out of the goal for the Red Devils. Jonathan Spector and Giuseppe Rossi had just a handful of cameos for Manchester United. Jovan Kirovski, Kenny Cooper and John Thorrington got a taste of their reserve team.
The next American field player to land at Manchester United could be set for a very different experience if Moyes is the boss.
And one successful run with the Red Devils could be enough to bust down the doors of Europe's high society for Americans once and for all.