AMSTERDAM – Now that we've done plenty of looking back over the shoulder at the year that was, it's time to turn that gaze forward in anticipation of what may lie ahead for American exports in 2013.
To celebrate a new year full of possibility, I've been asked to step out on a narrow limb with 10 bold predictions for the 12 months to come. Let's get to it.
10. The Aston Villa duo of Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj will fight off relegation, with the netminder noted as a rising star in the English Premier League in the process. What's more, they will claim a Europa League place if they can knock off Chelsea in the Capital One Cup final.
9. Hertha Berlin defender John Anthony Brooks, Southampton netminder Cody Cropper and Birmingham City handyman Will Packwood will be among the team leaders when the US Under-20 national team avenges the World Cup qualification failure of two years ago. The likes of OFK Beograd's Matthew Dunn and the Liverpool-owned duo of Villyan Bijev and Marc Pelosi will also have roles when the CONCACAF Championship begins in Mexico next month.
8. Brooks will help Hertha return to the Bundesliga, while Zak Whitbread (right) and Leicester City will earn their way back to EPL play for the first time since 2004. Over in the Netherlands, Charles Kazlauskas finally makes it back to the Eredivisie with Helmond Sport, who haven't been in the top flight for nearly 30 years.
7. Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan will become just the fifth American to repeat as champion in a European top flight when the quirky Belgian title concludes in May. He will join the exclusive company of Maurice Edu, Josh Gatt, Oguchi Onyewu and, of course, DaMarcus Beasley, who pulled off the feat at both PSV Eindhoven and Rangers.
6. With Vitesse ace Wilfried Bony doing African Nations Cup duty for Ivory Coast before leaving on a January transfer, AZ Alkmaar striker Jozy Altidore becomes the first American to both score 25 league goals in a top-flight season and claim the Golden Boot by doing so. For the effort, he becomes the first US international to make the Team of the Year in a top-seven European league since Tim Howard got the Players Football Association nod with Manchester United in 2004.
5. Altidore will also be the big summer window prize for those browsing American. Though longtime admirers Fiorentina seemed to have the inside lane, the AZ Alkmaar power forward will instead be snapped up by a top-half EPL club in July. Then, a strangely large and mean portion of USMNT fans will protest that he's not good enough before Altidore opens with five goals in the first 12 games with his new club.
4. Terrence Boyd will help Rapid Vienna win the Austrian Cup before finally getting his shot at the German Bundesliga with a summer move. He won't be alone in reaching domestic cup finals, though. Kljestan will raise his first Belgian Cup this spring, while Altidore's AZ and Michael Bradley's Roma come up short in the title match.
3. It's too early to say when, but Josh Gatt (right) will move up in class from Norwegian champs Molde FK. At some point, a Dutch team that expects to make Europe will snap up the wing terror. After that, the speedster will prove he's no mere Tippeligaen wonder.
2. Jermaine Jones will be the last American standing in the Champions League when Schalke are ousted in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Steve Cherundolo will run deepest in the Europa League, with Hannover 96 falling out at the quarterfinal stage for the second straight year.
1. Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel will finally earn a Champions League ticket with Tottenham Hotspur. Deuce will then score three group-phase goals, including the winner to clinch second place, to keep Spurs playing in the tourney past New Year's Eve for just the third time in club history.