American Exports: Unveiling our Team of the Year of Americans playing in Europe
AMSTERDAM – With old man 2013 set to make way for cute little baby 2014, it is time again to unveil our Team of the Year for Americans based in Europe.
As always, we somewhat level the playing field with a "team impact" factor, giving second-flight standouts a more equitable chance for recognition. Still, only two players that put in work below the top flight in 2013 cracked the squad.
We were plenty spoiled for choice in goal (as usual), in midfield and at forward, but injuries and other ordeals made it a tough year for American defenders across the pond.
GK - Brad Guzan, Aston Villa
It took a while to make the call. Making a strong finish to the year, Tim Howard owned categories such as wins, shutouts and cup damage. However, Guzan came out ahead in saves, defensive gaffes covered, Man of the Match awards and, most notably, team Player of the Year prizes. It's hard to go wrong either way, but we'll tab the Villain.
D - Geoff Cameron, Stoke City
Despite some nice shifts in other positions this year, it was at right back where the former Houston Dynamo ace did most of his business. His two-way flank game is growing well enough to give some pause to those who've thought his best field station is elsewhere ... ahem.
D - Tim Ream, Bolton
The only player on this team to play the entire year in a second flight, Ream mostly earned his spot over the first half of the current season. He had a handful of decent starts as left back and defensive midfielder this year, but the former Red Bulls center back has been right near all-league form at his favored position since September. No, really ... that good.
D - John Anthony Brooks, Hertha BSC
The Hertha Berlin backline prodigy spent half the year helping his team win the second-division crown and promotion. Brooks has had ups and downs in his first nine games as a Bundesliga man, but his overall efforts are enough to win out against a thin 2013 field.
D - Fabian Johnson, Hoffenheim
Like the previous two defenders, Johnson gets the nod without much competition. Now back to playing up the wing for Hoffenheim, he did work 16 contests at left back this year. There were a few bummers in the bunch, but the US international was more often found pushing a side that usually needs goals up the field.
M - Jermaine Jones, Schalke
While the quality of his USMNT displays vary a good deal, the Schalke midfield enforcer had a pretty typical year. Jones regularly started for a top-five caliber Bundesliga team, offering plenty of hearty tackles and transition play. Of course, he also was booked in the double digits – most notably when a yellow card saw him banned for the second leg of their Champions League knockout duel with Galatasaray after his goal earned them a road share in the first.
M - Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht
Believe it or don't, but Kljestan dug up enough clues to bag 10 goals in 2013. Now a Mauves fixture as the cool-headed traffic cop, he is a much more solid all-around midfielder than when he left Chivas USA. He again showed this in the Champions League, including a nifty helper at Paris Saint-Germain to pad his American record for career assists in European cup play. The purple No. 19 shirt also led all Americans in Zlatan kerfuffles.
M - Alejandro Bedoya, Helsinborg/Nantes
With his year split between Helsingborg and Nantes, Bedoya rang up an impressive 13 goals and five assists. Most of the damage was done from his preferred box-raiding No. 10 slot, giving US boss Jurgen Klinsmann more to think about heading into a World Cup year. The Boston College product was the only American to score game winners in two European top flights and a UEFA tournament in 2013.
M - Clint Dempsey, Tottenham Hotspur
Sure, he moved back to MLS in August, but only after notching nine goals and two assists in 22 games for Tottenham. Two of those strikes got Spurs to extras of the Europa League quarterfinals at Basel, but Deuce never got a penalty kick in the shootout loss. Where is the club now? Seventh place, despite just 22 goals in 19 league games. Oh, and their pair of $40 million summer buys have combined for a single run-of-play EPL goal.
F - Jozy Altidore, AZ Alkmaar/Sunderland
Sunderland slump aside, the US Player of the Year netted 18 goals (including a KNVB Cup winner) and seven assists (tops among all American exports worldwide) this year. Altidore also picked up the first major Team of the Season honor for an American -- in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar -- since Tim Howard made England's nearly a decade ago.
F - Aron Jóhannsson, AZ Alkmaar
The newest US international on the squad was also the highest scoring American playing outside the States in 2013. Jóhannsson rang up 21 for AZ Alkmaar, including a perfect four-for-four from the spot. The silky forward has made sure "Born In The USA" can remain in the AFAS-Stadion rotation, hitting 15 goals in his 14 domestic matches at home this year.
Honorable mentions: Tim Howard, Charles Kazlauskas, Eric Lichaj, Babajide Ogunbiyi, Bryan Gerzicich, Conor O'Brien, Mikkel Diskerud, Terrence Boyd
Goals (top flight + cups only)
Aron Jóhannsson – 21
Jozy Altidore – 18
Terrence Boyd – 16
Alejandro Bedoya – 13
Sacha Kljestan – 10
Assists (top flight players only)
Jozy Altidore – 7
Terrence Boyd – 6
Alejandro Bedoya – 5
Aron Jóhannsson – 4
Jermaine Jones – 4
GK Wins (top flight + cups only)
Tim Howard – 17
Brad Friedel – 11
Brad Guzan – 11
Steve Clark – 8
Shutouts (top flight + cups only)
Tim Howard – 16
Steve Clark – 6
Brad Guzan – 5
Brad Friedel – 4