From the Continent all the way South of the Rio Grande, domestic league seasons are mostly all closing up shop. That means it's time once again for us to fill out our American Exports Team of the Season.
As always, we name the squad based on relative league importance, meaning second-flight aces compete on level footing with their honor-division compatriots. Even so, it was those in the top flight that shined brightest this past campaign.
Last summer, many people wondered if the free agent made the right decision in re-joining Aston Villa. Three games into the EPL season and Guzan had displaced veteran Shay Given. From there, we had one standout outing after another, including some in games where Villa still took a beating. Though the tough relegation fight was not glorious, the happy outcome was. With the chips down late in the season, Guzan led his team on a 5-2-1 escape run that avoided the team's first drop since 1987 – and took home the team's Player of the Year honors for himself.
The 26-year-old may not be the most fashionable player in U.S. Soccer circles, but he is a vital cog in Club Tijuana’s well-oiled machine and has soared from a forgotten national team outsider to a regular in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad this season. His flying runs down the left helped Xolos to the Liga MX Apertura 2012 title and while doubts remain about his natural defensive ability, he hasn’t often been guilty of mistakes that have led to goals.
John Anthony Brooks
Now that it looks like the US national team program is going to win the tug-of-war with Germany, it becomes a lot more exciting to think about this 20-year-old backline leader for the 2.Bundesliga champs. In part thanks to unusually agile feet for a 6-foot-4 defender, Brooks was Kicker magazine's fifth-best rated at the position this season in a second flight often regarded as the world's best.
While he was not a league standout, one can be mighty impressed with what the Stoke handyman got up to this season. After moving from MLS to the Premier League, Cameron quickly showed what he was capable of with star turn in defensive midfield against Arsenal. The former Houston Dynamo ace then went on to make 36 starts at four positions, ending up sixth on the squad in minutes played.
The former MetroStar soared in his first season with AS Roma, showing that the club's long chase for his services was well worth it. Bradley did a lot of the back-alley and time-keeping work for an attack that produced 71 goals. In essence, he continued down the path to field mastery by taking lessons from the likes of Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti. Check back in a week and you may need to call him the first Coppa Italia champion from America as well.
Plenty of observers have panned Deuce's first term with Tottenham Hotspur, but these folks are too busy comparing it to his last one with Fulham. Let's be fair: Dempsey did arrive to a different team with new pressures with no preseason last summer before finishing third on the team with 12 goals and third with seven assists. The Texas tornado also conjured up three winners and four game-tying goals, including three of his six scored inside the last quarter-hour. Another one of those late strikes gave Spurs their first win at Old Trafford since 1989.
The Schalke man didn't just provide his brand of all-action midfield play for a team heading back to the Champions League. Jones also set a couple of telling personal marks on the Bundesliga season, notching his career high in assists and career low in league bookings. The US international was consistently among the standout Miners this term, including some exemplary European play.
Anderlecht certainly made it exciting, but in the end, the No. 16 shirt became just the fifth American to raise the league silver in consecutive top-flight European seasons. Kljestan was another American who shined in the Champions League, notching four assists in nine tourney games. He had nine helpers across all competitions to go with his steady holding play, and then twice bagged a first-half goal in championship playoff victories.
Almost everything that has been asked of Corona over the past 12 months he has steadily and assuredly ticked off. The 22-year-old’s status has grown proportionally with that of Tijuana, from relegation candidates to reaching the playoffs to Liga MX champions to Copa Libertadores upstarts. Over the last year, Corona has changed from a winger or a No. 10 to nailing down a starting spot for Xolos in the center of midfield. His versatility, mental toughness and technical ability mean he should become an established member of the USMNT squad for years to come, as long as he keeps his feet firmly planted on the ground.
What more can be said that hasn't been said already? How about ... of the AZ Alkmaar star's 31 total goals, seven opened a game's scoring, another four canceled a deficit and nine put his side ahead. Among the ways Altidore displayed his growing all-around game were 12 goals over the final half-hour of matches, seven lefty shots, five headers, three fearless penalties and a dazzling free kick. And, of course, there was also that KNVB Cup winner.
The Rapid Vienna forward made way through his first top-flight campaign like a goal shark. Averaging a goal every 195 minutes, Boyd finished second among Americans in Europe with 16, including three in the Europa League. When not pouncing on rebounds and crosses, the youngster also added eight assists for a side that has underperformed badly over the back half of the season.
Honorable mentions: Tim Howard, Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Maurice Edu, Conor O'Brien, DaMarcus Beasley, Herculez Gomez, Andrew Wooten