American Exports preview: Yanks gearing up for new English Premier League campaign
AMSTERDAM – Another Premier League season will arrive ready to be written this weekend, so we're here to give the rundown on what to expect for our boys playing in England.
THE KEY COGS
Let's begin with the big-name arrival, Sunderland's Jozy Altidore (above). Though he has the most to prove among all Americans in the Prem this season, the striker is again moving to a club that will rely on him for production up top.
The US national team star looks set to begin the season in the lineup while returning top scorer Steven Fletcher regains match fitness. Equipped with the cheat sheet that was a season on loan to Hull City four years ago, Altidore will attempt to help Sunderland avoid the relegation scrape of last season.
That experience, combined with the tactical and technical growth in his game over that time lapse, should allow the 23-year-old to now prove his mettle in England. This space previously predicted Altidore would notch at least 12 league goals this season – and the Black Cats have since captured Juventus playmaker Emanuele Giaccherini, so that estimate could actually prove conservative.
Another club that enters the season with the achievement of comfy survival as first objective, Stoke City has three Americans who hope club success will lead them to a World Cup call from US boss Jurgen Klinsmann. What's more, current Potters Geoff Cameron (at right), Maurice Edu and Brek Shea will be joined no later than January by New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo.
However, it is unclear at this time how many of the four will see significant pitch time at the Britannia Stadium before next summer. Likely their right back on opening day, Cameron is the most entrenched after a solid debut season of 29 league starts.
Meanwhile, Edu is nearing a return from sports hernia surgery. He wants to fight for a Stoke place, but could go back out on loan to either France or Turkey.
Shea (at right) is also in the healing ward and has been ruled out of the season opener against Liverpool. Look for him to get more pitch time when fit, with new manager Mark Hughes placing more emphasis on attack.
That just leaves the three biggest names among active American goalkeepers. Current US starter Tim Howard will again backstop Everton's hopes of reaching Europe. After making it to the big dances in four of his first five seasons, the Toffees have now missed out twice in a row.
Longtime boss David Moyes has moved to defending EPL champions Manchester United, and much of Everton's hopes to make a Europa League return hinge on whether guys like Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini follow their former manager or are still around when the transfer window closes. Either way, Howard will be aiming to improve on a personally underwhelming 2012/13 campaign.
Reigning Aston Villa MVP Brad Guzan (at right) easily outshined the man he's chasing on the US depth chart last season and the fans in Birmingham will be eager to see more of the same heroics.
The Villains remain a fairly young squad, so the added year of experience could provide enough dividends to keep them clear of the bottom three. No name-brand field players have arrived over the summer, but top gun Christian Benteke still remains. With him and Guzan in the line-up, Villa generally stand a fighting chance – but interested parties do still have 18 days to chase the Belgian goal monster.
Though some might find it silly to also include backup Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel in this category, it's no joke being the cup custodian for a team in three extracurricular competitions. Even if he ends up not needed on their EPL quest for a Champions League return, the 42-year-old should still have the chance to play in plenty of big games.
DOWN ON THE FARM
A few Americans will be trying to climb the ladder in EPL youth sides, with West Ham United playmaker Sebastian Lletget (at right) likely closest to a senior-team debut.
A source told MLSsoccer.com that a loan spell has not been ruled out for the 20-year-old, but also that the Hammers view him, for now, as being first in line should one of their senior attacking midfielders go down for a stretch. Lletget hasn't let the uncertainty bother him; he scored in the Under-21 side's season-opening win on Monday.
Down by the sea, Southampton reserve netminder Cody Cropper will focus on gaining experience with the U-21s. Though called up this week by the USMNT, the youngster currently sits fourth on the organizational depth chart at his position.
Finally, there is good news out of Liverpool regarding injured left-sider Marc Pelosi (at right), for whom the storied club holds high hopes.
You may recall that, just as the 19-year-old was being named to the Reds' Europa League squad, he suffered a nightmare broken leg in a senseless stoppage-time challenge back in February. Well, start your hopes back up, because Pelosi reported this weekend that the screws have been removed from his punctually healing bones.