American Exports: Brad Guzan and Hoffenheim's Americans still sweating out relegation battle
AMSTERDAM – It was largely a rough Saturday for European clubs employing Americans, with Brad Guzan's five saves not enough for Aston Villa in a 2-1 home loss to Chelsea.
Before getting to his usual work, the US netminder helped start the play for Christian Benteke's 14th minute opener with an accurate long clearance. Guzan would eventually make three fine first half saves, including a stunner on Frank Lampard. But the Blues star would get his revenge in the final half hour, hitting twice to flip the result and become Chelsea's all-time top scorer with 203 goals.
Eric Lichaj also went the distance for the home side in a match that ended with each side down a man. The right back performed solidly until losing the crosser on Lampard's 89th minute winner.
The defeat cost Villa a chance to clinch EPL survival, leaving them five points above the trap door. If Wigan fail to win at Arsenal on Tuesday, they will be assured a finish in the safety zone.
Turning focus to the Bundesliga, Steve Cherundolo set a new Hannover 96 record with 299 top flight appearances in a 3-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen.
It was an otherwise tough day at the office for the Reds skipper, who got caught up on the hosts' first goal and outjumped for a header on the second. Hannover remained ninth despite the loss, their third in five games.
Elsewhere, Fabian Johnson hopped off the bench at halftime to set up Hoffenheim's consolation goal in a 4-1 humbling from rude guests Hamburg.
The US international's backheel in the box was driven home by Kevin Volland in the 61st minute. It was the first home loss in four for Hoffenheim, who squandered a golden opportunity to climb out of the relegation mire for the first time since November.
The news wasn't much better for Jermaine Jones and Schalke, who dropped a 2-1 home decision to Stuttgart. The Miners will now go into closing day needing at least a draw at fifth place Freiburg to claim Germany's last Champions League invite.
Over in the Austrian Bundesliga, Terrence Boyd worked 76 relief minutes up top as Rapid Vienna were held 0-0 at home to RZ Pellets WAC.
The US forward narrowly missed with a header shortly after entering and also went close with a quarter hour remaining. Despite wasting several big chances, Rapid held firm with a five-point advantage for the final Europa League pass with three games left.
Finally, in Portugal, Tony Taylor watched as fifth place Estoril all but booked the first Europa League ticket in club history with a late 2-1 winner over Beira-Mar. The Liga ZON Sagres surprise package ran their home win streak to six, moving three points and 11 goals in differential ahead of chasing side Sporting CP in the process.
Greg Seltzer covers Americans based in Europe for MLSsoccer.com.