Ten American stories
Liverpool's interest in Clint Dempsey is big U.S. soccer news in the U.K.
It looks like Dempsey is finally getting the move to a big club he wants -- and fully deserves. And like Bradley, he'll be staying in his current league if he lands at Liverpool.
Less than a month before the season begins, we assess the prospects of 10 Americans in the UK.
Clint Dempsey, Fulham: Signing, officially, with Liverpool might take several more days yet, but the snafu that resulted this week tells you it's close to a done deal.
An American idol at the Kop, anyone? At 29, the time to leave modest Fulham is now, and Dempsey will depart with the blessing of the fans. Furthermore, his skills and versatility suit Liverpool. Dempsey can operate as an emergency striker, behind a lone striker or in a slightly deeper role. He's good with the ball at his feet -- important to new manager Brendan Rodgers -- and in the air.
Just don't expect Dempsey to score 23 goals as he did in all competitions last season. Getting between 10 and 15 for goal-shy Liverpool and helping the Reds return to the Champions League would do nicely.
If a transfer doesn't materialize, what a shame for the Texan.
Brad Guzan, Aston Villa: With a new manager at Aston Villa in the form of Paul Lambert, Guzan has his best opportunity yet to become the starter between the sticks. That and Shay Given's poor form at Euro 2012.
He's certainly waited long enough, making a miniscule six league starts for Villa in four years. When he has played, Guzan did little wrong deputizing for an injured Given between December and January. He also impressed during a loan spell at Hull last year.
Lambert defended Given this week but seemed to give Guzan preference. Lambert brought Guzan back to Villa after his contract had initially expired.
"I've watched Brad in games when he was in the team last year, and he was excellent," Lambert told Villa's Web site. "Brad played very well the time he was in and maybe he found himself a bit unlucky to be back out."
Villa craves stability, which it has lacked since Martin O'Neill quit in 2010.
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Tim Howard, Everton: The order wasn't right for Howard. If only he'd played a few years at Everton and then moved to Manchester United, not vice versa.
Howard, however, continues to maintain he's happy at Goodison Park. He's been one of the most consistent keepers in the Premier League the last five years, and his good form ensured Slovakian international Jan Mucha didn't get a game in the league in 2011-2012. Only a prolonged slump would see Howard surrender the No. 1 spot.
From a U.S. soccer perspective, if Dempsey heads to Liverpool, the Merseyside Derby becomes even spicier.
Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa: Now here's a source of joy for Villa fans: the club's youth academy. In Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark and Lichaj, the supply line to the senior squad has been steady.
Lichaj, 23, became a regular at the end of March, and his energetic displays, mostly at right back, were generally considered a positive.
"Eric's top quality," Albrighton told reporters this month. "I have said this ever since he came to the club, all the way through the youth, reserves, and now the seniors."
The exit of popular Spaniard Carlos Cuellar and impending exit of the not-so-popular Alan Hutton are good news for Lichaj, though Matthew Lowton, signed from Sheffield United, will provide competition at right back.
Brad Friedel, Tottenham: This is the season that Friedel's eight-year streak of consecutive Premier League starts (totaling more than 300) comes to an end.
With Friedel's age -- 41 years old is getting up there, even for a keeper -- Spurs were always destined to be in the hunt for a new shot-stopper this summer, and France captain Hugo Lloris, Inter's Julio Cesar and Real Valladolid's Jaime have all been linked to Tottenham.
A point of concern: AVB has long been a fan of Lloris.
Stuart Holden, Bolton: Make no mistake: Had Holden played a full season (or even slightly less), Wanderers wouldn't be in the Championship. The box-to-box midfielder was a standout performer for Bolton, not to mention a breakthrough artist in Premier League, in 2010-2011.
Holden's only appearance last season came in the League Cup in September, and his engine was badly missed. Meanwhile, his return date from a knee injury isn't known. For Bolton, the sooner the better.
Tim Ream, Bolton: There was no gentle passage for Ream as he began life in English soccer in January. He had to replace Gary Cahill, was involved in a relegation dogfight and, like his teammates, looked on (from the subs bench) as Fabrice Muamba almost died on the pitch at White Hart Lane in March.
How much more difficult can this season get?
With a knee injury keeping David Wheater out long term, Ream and new signing Matthew Mills figure to be manager Owen Coyle's initial central defensive pairing. It should translate to plenty of game time and good experience for a man tipped to be a bedrock of the U.S. defense in the future.
Jonathan Spector, Birmingham City: The versatile Spector had to drop down a division to do it but he was a mainstay in a lineup somewhere, starting more games in a season -- 31 -- than ever before.
Despite Lee Clark (harshly sacked by Huddersfield) replacing Chris Hughton as manager, Spector's playing time shouldn't diminish.
If City makes the playoffs for a second year in a row, call it an achievement. The task, though, is made easier by a lighter fixture load.
Robbie Rogers, Leeds: Leeds is more fancied than Birmingham to do damage in the Championship, no surprise given that fiery Neil Warnock is at the helm for a full season. Warnock, an unpopular sacking at QPR in January, knows how to take teams up.
The speedy Rogers, limited to four appearances last term thanks to injuries after moving from Columbus, will hope to work his way into the starting lineup in midfield. Striker Mike Grella's departure to Scunthorpe leaves Rogers as the lone American at Elland Road.
Alejandro Bedoya, Rangers: Joining Rangers was supposed to be a step up for Bedoya. So much for that.
While fellow US internationals Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu are on the way out at financially stricken Rangers, Bedoya could be sticking around and plying his trade in the fourth tier of Scottish soccer.
The top level in Scotland, in terms of quality and competition, isn't great, so what of the Third Division and the likes of Berwick, East Stirling and Montrose? Fun. The lone upside for the midfielder is that he'll get games.
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