AMSTERDAM – The English Premier League kicks off its 2015-16 schedule this weekend, giving you one last preseason chance to brush up on the road ahead for our American exports.
The games begin on Saturday, so let's ditch all ceremony and get straight to the lowdowns.
BRAD GUZAN - ASTON VILLA
It has been a stormy spring and summer for Guzan, but the net-minder is right back where he started as the Villa number one. The Gold Cup participant only joined training last week, but manager Tim Sherwood pronounced him so fit and ready for the opener that the American did not feature in the team's final preseason game.
Previous skipper Ron Vlaar won't be around to marshal the line in front of Guzan anymore, but he has a new best buddy in Manchester City recruit Micah Richards. Often shoved aside by the Citizens, the England international now gets a chance to grab the spotlight. If he is unable, the US 'keeper is going to one of the busiest dudes around.
Of course, that is often when Guzan does his best work. Making him do it every week is another matter. Villa are hoping a pair of wide backs and new winger Scott Sinclair will add enough skill to ease the pressure on Villa's back.
In the forecast: The even-keeled Guzan seems a very good bet to shake off last season's end and a rough Gold Cup semifinal loss to regain top form. His distribution certainly looked back in 2013-2014 form at the CONCACAF championship tourney. I will boldly predict zero non-injury trips to the pine this season.
Villa will need their custodian in tidy mode, because the sale of wrecking ball striker Christian Benteke dramatically lowers the margin-for-error bar. Thanks to some nice additions all over the field, Guzan and company should survive another scrape. And if not, the transfer sharks will start raising their bidding paddles.
TIM HOWARD - EVERTON
Though the Toffees netminder enjoyed a hot spring run, he struggled with both fitness and form last season. With Everton thin in central defense to start the new one, Howard probably won't struggle for action in front of goal. His return to the US set-up theoretically adds a layer of focus, which he'll need to backstop his club to a rebound showing.
While only Phil Jagielka and John Stones return as seasoned center backs, Everton have regained former loan ace Gerard Deulofeu and added Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley. Both players will be charged with helping to keep the Toffees defense out of so many sticky situations, which is obviously in Howard's interest.
In the forecast: Expect Howard to top last season's meager sum of seven EPL shutouts to pass both Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel and Brad Friedel into eighth place on the all-time EPL chart. Can he reach double figures and sixth place on that list? Until Everton gets to the market for a new defender or two, that seems unlikely.
The improvements to the transition game (and a lack of Europa League distraction) can definitely see them better last season's dreary 11th place finish. But unless they show a couple sturdy defensive reinforcements, we shall not discuss fighting for Europe.
GEOFF CAMERON - STOKE CITY
The Potters now consider themselves a proper threat to reach the European places in the Premier League table, which means everyone will be expected to raise their game a notch. The arrival of Liverpool right back Glen Johnson only ups the ante on Cameron, who has received the wide majority of his Stoke starts on the right side of defense.
With skipper Ryan Shawcross now out for a couple months, the American handyman could be thrown into the center back mix. Still, he started their weekend friendly loss to Porto at right back. If Cameron still gets most of his time at right back, improvement means patching the main hole in his game: crossing.
The Massachusetts native shipped less than a half of a cross per game last season, and this led to him creating just 12 chances, easily his lowest total in three years with Stoke. With right-side attackers Peter Odemwingie and Jon Walters apt to work in the box, getting even one solid cross per match from Cameron would qualify as contribution toward the team's Europa League goal.
The rest of Cameron's game is dependably solid, a playing personality which blends well in this group. Stoke have added a bit more flair in veteran attacker Ibrahim Affelay, striker Joselu and teen Barcelona left winger Moha, showing they are serious about reaching their highest table finish since a pair of fifth place seasons in the 1970s.
In the forecast: It won't be at all easy for Cameron to match his Potters average of 30 league starts this term, but his versatility and consistency should make him good for about 25. The Potters look like a club on the rise, but it says here they will end up a place or two short of Europe for at least one more season.
DEANDRE YEDLIN - TOTTENHAM
Yedlin remains in a Spurs depth chart battle, seemingly at right wing for now. Aaron Lennon's removal from the first team essentially puts the young American third in line at two positions. Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend clog the lane up the flank, while Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier are duking it out for the top right back job.
The possibility of a loan assignment still hangs over his situation, and he can still be farmed out on the short-term to lower English divisions after the standard transfer deadline passes at month's end. If he stays, Yedlin will be in a pressure-packed side that aims to improve on last season's fifth place finish and break back into the Champions League places. Though their defense has been solidified this summer, the club is still browsing the market for another striker to join breakout star Harry Kane.
In the forecast: It seems likely that Yedlin will manage at least a handful of appearances with Maurico Pochettino's Spurs first team this season. Of course, it feels just as likely that he could spend part of the coming season out on loan. His positional quandaries cloud the scene further, but let's say the former Sounders ace wraps eight to 10 EPL outings around a month or two with some Championship club and plenty of reserve action.
As for Tottenham, pending the arrival of another big threat up top, they still don't seem to have quite enough to crack the top four.
DOWN ON THE FARM
Seventeen-year-old center back Danny Barbir enjoyed a cup of coffee with the West Bromwich Albion first team earlier in the preseason, but he will be trying to breach the reserve side this term. Tottenham central defense prodigy Cameron Carter-Vickers got his feet wet in the Under-21 Premier League last season; if he continues last season's growth curve, the 18-year-old is a real threat for a Spurs call-up.
After breaking into the reserve team late last season, Sunderland U-21 attacker Lynden Gooch could be in line for a loan spell at a higher station than his spring sabbatical with fourth flight Gateshead. Liverpool summer signing Brooks Lennon is just getting to work. The erstwhile 17-year-old Real Salt Lake Academy striker will begin with the Reds' U-18 squad.
Finally, Leicester City attacking midfielder Kris Scott kicked off his second year with their U-21 Premier League side by scoring in the preseason opener last month.