By Jon Levy
Maurice Edu – The ‘Gers just took an Old Firm loss to Celtic on Sunday, so our man Mo was no doubt sick of the sight of green hoops by the time he put foot to ball and vanquished Celtics doppelgangers, Sporting in Lisbon, on Thursday. He’s making a habit of scoring these critical late goals, with strikes against the hated Hoops, now Sporting, and (EDIT) in the World Cup over the summer. The do-it-all middy returns to the friendly confines of Ibrox against St. Johnstone on Sunday in what will be a welcome break from facing European-level opposition for three matches in a row. Rangers are still chasing Celtic for the SPL title though, so don’t expect Edu, one of manager Walter Smith’s favorites, to leave the field until the old legend’s Glasgow tenure comes to an end after the season.
Stuart Holden – Stu and Wanderers take on Newcastle away on Saturday at St. James in what should be one of the more wide open fixtures of the weekend. Part of me can’t believe I just wrote that about the BOLTON WANDERERS. This was the team that I built my fantasy soccer strategy around two and three years ago. “I wonder which goalkeeper I should start this week. Hmm. I guess I’ll just do what I do every week and transfer for whichever dude is starting between the sticks against Bolton.” Points in the bag. A big bravo to Owen Coyle, as if it even needs to be said again. Expect Stu to keep on keepin’ on.
Clint Dempsey – Fulham are in that rare and precarious spot in the English Premier League where they have very little to play for. There are no more trophies left to play for, and their fear of relegation is probably just a little greater than “slight” at this point in the most mediocre of seasons. Deuce will be motivated as usual though, but not for the usual reason alone. His competitive fire and drive to be the best, a drive that this year might just be rewarded by being placed in the league’s top XI, will be supplemented by a fiduciary desire to atoned for his penalty miss against Chelsea. Count Jose Francisco Torres’ buddy, ole Onion Rings, among the ranks of Yanks whose ability to bounce back is no longer in question. The real question in, does he stand a better chance of bagging one in the “City of Manchester” on Sunday or in one of the USMNT’s March friendlies? Some dudes I know had quite the discussion about that topic.
Tim Howard – America’s number one enters this match week looking to ride the momentum of his spectacular PK triumph over Chelski. That’s not the type of season it’s been for Timmy and Everton though, so scoring victories over Sunderland on Saturday and Reading in the FA Cup on Tuesday would be a feat, even with both matches in front of the home support at Goodison. A win over the Black Cats in the league would grant Everton a good deal more comfort and see them put more distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Meanwhile, beating Reading would see Merseyside Blue just one win away from Wembley and the FA Cup semifinal.
Jonathan Spector – West Ham host newly resurgent Liverpool in an early game on Sunday, which means I’ll wake up at 8:29 A.M., try to shake off my hangover, and close an eye so there’s only one Scott Parker doing circles in the midfield and making me dizzy… I still might throw up. Thankfully the match is on Fox Soccer Channel so I don’t have to actually leave the bed, mess with my laptop, and try to figure out which cord the HDMI cable is. The news isn’t bad for Jonny Specs, but it’s not particularly good either. The Hammer’s sometime starter got to witness the triumphant West Ham debut of bratwurst fan (and sometime midfielder) Thomas Hitzlsperger in the FA Cup this week, but the newfound health of the German will likely relegate the American to the bench until an injury or the need to demoralize Manchester United arises. In the past four months Jon has gone from reserve D/M,to starting M/reserve D, to reserve M/D. See, he’s a bench player again, but now he’s preferred at what it turns out is his better position. I can hear the sound of popping bottles on your end. Go ahead. Take your time. It should be noted though that the Chicagoan’s chest down to Freddie Sears in the FA Cup match against Burnley did earn him an assist in the 5-1 drubbing of the Clarets. The man’s racking up considerable stats in this competition! On another West Ham note, youth team American attacking mid Sebastian Lletget has progressed to the club’s reserve side and is making waves for an 18 year old Yankee on King Avram’s pitch.
Michael Bradley – Aston Villa take on Jermaine Jones’ Blackburn squad in the Prem this weekend, and will trek to the Eastlands for one of this round’s juicier looking FA Cup fixtures against Blankcheckster City on Wednesday (don’t get too excited yet, it’s City at home under Mancini. Could be a nil-nil borefest as easily as it could be a 3-2 thriller). MB90 will probably start in one of these matches, but which one? Gérard Houllier has been singing the praises of the recently idle Stiliyan Petrov, and it remains uncertain whether he and Bradley are a possible partnership in the Frenchman’s mind, or similar components that don’t go together. Either way, Villa is in grave danger, just three points north of the relegation zone, and they could use a bald American hero to insure their sweet claret and blue checkered side-panels don’t get relegated. Fifty states and half of Birmingham will be rooting for it.
Steve Cherundolo (and DaMarcus Beasley I guess… sadly so) – Stevie C’s in his millionth year of captaining a team that amounts to the Martin O’Neil version of Aston Villa over in Germany. They’re currently either in Champions League position, or pushing for it, depending on what happens with UEFA’s mathematics between the German league and Serie A. But my second favorite Californian right back (love Dolo, but Hejduk’s gotta take it) would rather not leave a berth in Europe’s biggest competition in the hands of Johnny 5 and R2D2. The Hannover 96ers are one point back of Bayern Munich, and one week away from hosting last year’s European runners-up. In college football terms, that means this Saturday’s match away at eleventh place St. Pauli is a “trap game” right? Leave it to the captain to educate his troops on Southern Cal’s visits to Corvalis, Oregon.
Oguchi Onyewu – It’s a huge week for Gooch at Twente, the type of week that could help define the future of his time in Europe and his career in Netherlands, not to put too much pressure on the man or matches. Twente sit two points behind PSV in the title race, and they travel to AZ Alkmaar this Sunday to take on more than respectable opposition. They’ll be dealing with tough opponents again when they host Utrecht in the Dutch Cup on Wednesday. This is another chance for Onyewu to prove his mettle against good opposition and continue to prove his fitness against the grind of another two-games-in-four-days scenario.
Carlos Bocanegra – Despite bagging a goal for himself a couple games ago, Boca and his St. Etienne side are reeling. They’re looking up at the European spots and hoping a home fixture against OGC Nice on Saturday will prove to be a nice get-right game. The U.S. Captain deserves to play in Europe, and we can’t all count in another offseason club upgrade this time around. They got work to do.
Eric Lichaj – has played every minute since arriving at Leeds, but a bright defensive start has been followed by leaking five goals in the past two games. He’ll hope to help right the ship at high flying Swansea on Saturday. Leeds are currently in the last Championship playoff spot, and anyone who thinks their oft-shit-on fans can’t smell the Prem through the crusted dung on their heads is kidding themselves. Lichaj has the opportunity to become a cult hero to the Leeds faithful in the course of less than half a season.
Brad Guzan – Brad Friedel’s former ball boy has allowed one goal in his last three matches, and is helping escort Hull City up the table. They’re five points out of Leeds United’s coveted last playoff spot, and Guzan’s got two of the next three in his home net, where he’s already recorded three clean sheets.
Elsewhere: Sacha Kljestan and Jozy Altidore are in and out of their respective squads, but the teams themselves are doing well, making it harder for either player to establish a foothold on a starting position. Freddy Adu starred in his debut for Rizespor, that needs to continue. Eddie Johnson is getting in games for Preston North End, but still no goals. Robbie Findley is allegedly injured but who is to say that he simply can’t make the squad at Nottingham Forest. Edson Buddle still hasn’t added to his debut match tally at Ingolstadt, and Pat Onstad’s decision to come out of retirement may be enough for him to regret making the move across the pond…
Jon Levy is Co-Founder and Associate Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you should follow him on Twitter at @TYAC_Jon because he’s a really neat guy and knows a bunch about soccer and the NFL.