Ed van den Pool/AZ Media
AMSTERDAM — As Jurgen Klinsmann's US national team group prepares for friendly tests in France and Slovenia over the coming days, a familiar refrain is being heard around our bubble: Where are the goals?
No, this isn't the first time USMNT observers have wondered en masse about a lack of offense. It is, however, the first time since mandating an attack style of play and hiring Klinsmann to be the first one to institute it.
Only now, if the chorus quiets down just enough, they may actually notice attack improvement fast approaching. Setting aside the obvious that it takes more time to change a national team playing style, much hope can be found in the suddenly burgeoning impact of American goal scorers in Europe — the place where a large number of USMNT players hold day jobs.
Consider this: Factoring in 15 mid-to-major top flights (Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Turkey), plus domestic and European cup play, we are essentially about to conclude the first trimester of the traditional European campaign for 2011-12.
If we also include the second divisions from England, Germany and the Netherlands, USMNT-eligible players have combined to bag 62 goals thus far this term.
|Goals Scored by Americans in Europe|
|*through Nov. 9|
To put this in perspective, the entirety of last season saw 61. As recently as 2008-09, Americans in those leagues hit for just 48. Take a moment to get the eyes popped back into your head. Seeing better now? Let's delve deeper into the numbers.
In six of the last seven seasons, there was one US player to tally at least 10 goals across all competitions. Last year, Clint Dempsey led the way with 13, and the next most impressive club total was Michael Bradley's four in Germany.
Currently, no less than seven players (Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Dempsey, Robbie Findley, Charles Kazlauskas, Chris Rolfe and Matt Taylor) are on pace to hit double digits in the aforementioned leagues this season.
What's more, among those eye-popping 62 goals this term have been 10 in UEFA action, already besting the old record of seven in 2007-08. Even better, seven American field players are in position to advance to the knockouts with two games left in group play; last season, Maurice Edu had the only two strikes by an American in either the Champions League or Europa League.
The goals haven't just bloomed, they've also come in increasing numbers from players 23 and younger. Last season featured 15 goals by such players. This go-around, American youngsters have already fired off 23. The more-than-alright kids are paced by Altidore's eight and five from Hønefoss striker Kenneth Di Vita, a former Norway youth international eligible to play for the US.
In almost any statistical perspective taken, the rising tide of offense out of our boys is plain to see. Last season, US defenders netted 10 times; they have already accounted for seven this year — and the most prolific American club scorer from the back in recent years, Clarence Goodson, has yet to bury one.
Put it all together and excitement is the only true option over the future of USMNT scoreboard lightings. What do Joe-Max Moore, Earnie Stewart and Eric Wynalda have in common? They all stand in the top seven all-time US scorers and earned places in the side by scoring goals overseas. Fellow top gunners Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride elevated their games by doing the same.
Of course, not every scorer tallied in this exercise will go on to international glory. Still, when instituting a European system on a team well-stocked with European-based players, the sudden explosion in goals by Americans in Europe has to be a good sign. If it continues for the rest of the season, even more so.
No one can deny how annoying having necessary patience can be. But with the next competitive match seven months away, it is an annoyance we can honestly afford right now.
With a US team loaded with young talents operating in school mode and several of the star pupils working the ol' abacus at the club level, an international influx of goals seems like the track vibrations of an incoming train unheard below the din of the crowd.
You only need to use all the senses to feel it coming.