AMSTERDAM – With so much going on for American Exports in Europe these days, it seemed a good time to clean out the old notepad and show a little combination play.
It's been a banner year for our boys overseas in one statistical respect: They're making more covers of official club magazines and monthly edition matchday programs than ever.
They're going glossy early and often this term. April is no exception, with Jozy Altidore currently gracing the front of the latest Bursaspor periodical and Clarence Goodson doing likewise at Brøndby.
It's tough to nail down an exact number of American Exports to have taken the feature spot on the monthly club album this season, but it is getting high. The April pair joins a cover models list this season that includes Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, Tim Howard and Zak Whitbread.
Benny the Helper
[inline_node:323274]Much fuss was made when Dempsey hit his 10th league goal for Fulham recently – and rightfully so. But let's take a brief moment to celebrate Benny Feilhaber's seventh league assist on the campaign from this past weekend.
As with the magazine covers, it's a bit tough to be fully certain over the exact numbers through history, but the US midfielder's weekend heroics definitely earn him a place among the best dish-out seasons in recent memory for Americans in Europe's top two tiers. It was a play befitting of salutation. Returning from injury in a sub's role, Feilhaber coolly picked out Søren Berg with a pillow-soft diagonal lob feed for an easy stoppage-time goal.
Earnie Stewart had eight for NAC Breda in 2001-02, DaMarcus Beasley notched six for PSV Eindhoven in 2004-05 and Michael Bradley set up five for Heerenveen three Eredivisie seasons later.
Best we can tell (at this stage of our research, anyway), Eddie Lewis is the man Feilhaber's to shoot for – both from a Euro-season and career perspective. He had 10 league helpers for Preston North End in 2004-05. The former MLS star also had seven for the Lilywhites two years prior and bagged as many as six in a season for Leeds United.
[inline_node:333313]Speaking of Dempsey again ... let's make more of a fuss over his scoring exploits this season.
With his 10th of the season, Dempsey brought his EPL belt up to 31 notches, just one shy of the club's all-time Premiership (read: since 1992-93) standard co-owned by former teammates Brian McBride and Steed Malbranque. He is also just five off McBride's American record for career top-flight goals in England.
With no Europa League to plunder this term, he's played eight fewer games than all of last season. Nevertheless, his strike total across all competitions has already climbed from nine to 11. It marks the fourth straight year his overall goal sum has climbed.
Unless Chelsea's Salomon Kalou hits four times in his last eight to 11 matches (depending on Champions League stay), Dempsey will be the only Premier League player able to claim such an impressive improvement streak.
The Old Standard
There has been precious little transfer talk around US internationals thus far in 2011, but one former USMNT man is apparently well in play for next season.
[inline_node:327521]Despite being super-secret about such matters at his end, Brad Friedel has found his name hitting the gossip pages with increasing frequency. The former Columbus Crew star is out of contract at season's end and at one time seemed to be leaning toward an MLS return.
However, a bankruptcy filing and a particularly strong run of form has changed the plot. Aston Villa are suddenly trying to work an extension. What's more, reports of serious interest from former employers Galatasaray and Liverpool has been burning up the wire in those respective countries.
In February, Friedel's agent told reporters that his client had several offers from around Europe, but preferred to stay at Villa. Thus far, it seems he was at least playing the facts half straight.
Stay tuned – this could get interesting.
[inline_node:331085]In rallying for a draw this weekend, FC Twente held their Eredivisie lead over PSV Eindhoven at two points. However, they allowed victorious third-place chasers Ajax to creep back to within three.
Oguchi Onyewu and the Tukkers are alive for a domestic league and cup double, which would be a new accomplishment for the club. As things stand, it's hard to miss the irony that Gooch's quest for both crowns could end one way or the other in a battle with the team he was reportedly visiting when AC Milan suddenly called in the summer of 2009.
Twente are already slated to face Ajax in Rotterdam for the KNVB Cup on May 8. The following week, Onyewu & Co. close the Eredivisie season in Amsterdam.
US U-20 national team
While we are all left searching by the U-20 failure to reach their age-level World Cup and how it played out, being human means we search for the silver lining in last week's 2-1 loss to hosts Guatemala.
It may be hard to cheer about now, but the reality is that several hot American prospects will be able to maintain important club fights for developmental playing time because of the defeat.
In addition to MLS youngsters like Perry Kitchen, Amobi Okugo and Omar Salgado skipping Colombia in July and August, a number of American Exports will benefit from what is now a great disappointment.
Djurgårdens defender Gale Agbossoumonde and Molde winger Josh Gatt won't be pulled away in midseason now. Others like Derby County's Conor Doyle, Hoffenheim's Joseph Gyau, Bayern Munich's Fabian Hürzeler and 1860 Munich's Bobby Wood can get serious about a proper preseason first team invasion.
Sometimes, we must take the bad with the good. In this case, it's the opposite task. It's what fine pro athletes do; they grow stronger through adversity and heartache. I'd imagine those U-20 players will agree once the shock wears off.