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20 February 2008
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17/09/2007 14:39

Americans in England: Deuce on the Loose USA's Matthew Braine wraps up the weekend that was for the American players in the English Premier League.

By Matthew Braine

After starting the season on the bench, Clint Dempsey has become nearly indispensable in a matter of weeks, as he continues to carry the Cottagers on the attack.  This past week against Wigan, the former New England Revolution star continued his great run when he netted his third goal in four games, putting one past goalkeeper Chris Kirkland in the 11th minute in the 1-1 draw.  Diomansy Kamara crossed the ball into the box and Dempsey snuck through the defense to touch it into goal. 

Fulham have made a habit of allowing late goals, but their recent play against Tottenham and even Wigan until late was encouraging for a side that has been a bit disappointing so far this season.  The Cottagers will no doubt take away several good things from their play so far, including Dempsey's quick rise and Kamara's increasingly impressive play up front.  The U.S. international has been especially impressive this season, as only Nicholas Anelka (four goals) has notched more goals in league play than the feisty American.

Who Played?

Carlos Bocanegra, Fulham
Vs. Wigan (90 minutes, 0 goals)

Captaining the squad until the injured Brian McBride returns, Bocanegra got his squad going early on against Wigan when Dempsey’s short flick on after a Kamara cross gave the Cottagers a valuable away lead.  Unfortunately for Fulham, a late penalty kick from Jason Koumas equalized and took away two points from the away side.  Despite the bitter draw, Bocanegra was solid in the back and had a few chances on goal as well.  Also, Saturday marked a milestone for Bocanegra, as he notched his 100th Premier League appearance for Fulham. 

Clint Dempsey, Fulham
Vs. Wigan (90 minutes, 1 goal)

Dempsey's play in the last four games has been stellar and should continue to be as he gets adjusted to English football.

Marcus Hahnemann, Reading
Vs. Sunderland (90 minutes, 8 saves, 2 goals conceded)

Although Hahnemann conceded two goals on the day, in all fairness they were nearly unstoppable shots.  Kenwyne Jones' low strike into the corner was pure class, as was his cross that set up Ross Wallace's goal just two minutes into the second half.  Hahnemann has been allowing a large number of goals recently, but the back line shares much of this blame.

Brad Friedel, Blackburn
Vs. Chelsea (90 minutes, 13 saves, 0 goals conceded)

Friedel stifled Chelsea with some fantastic efforts in goal as Blackburn came away with a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.  A Salomon Kalou goal was disallowed on a questionable call by referee Howard Webb that had Jose Mourinho in knots, but Chelsea could not penetrate the wall that was Brad Friedel.  The former U.S. international’s performance was his finest of the season thus far.

Bobby Convey, Reading
Vs. Sunderland (12 minutes, 0 goals)

It was encouraging to see Convey get on late in the game for the Royals, but he still remains on the bench at the start and is rarely the first substitute in.  Convey was on the field for Dave Kitson's strike late that gave Reading hope. But for the most part, the U.S. winger played a rather uneventful 12 minutes.

Who Didn't?

Tim Howard, Everton
Vs. Manchester United

The rugged goalkeeper was 50/50 on whether he would play or not against his former club. To avoid further damage to his finger, Stefan Wessels got the start in goal and performed admirably.  Howard's inactivity should be temporary. And with two matches this week -- one in the UEFA Cup -- he should be in goal for at least one of them.  Another no-show for Howard could be cause for concern at Goodison.

Jonathan Spector, West Ham
Vs. Middlesborough

Despite West Ham's resounding 3-0 victory over Middlesborough on Saturday, Spector still remains out of the starting eleven and was not among the five substitutes available for the game.  It remains to be seen where Spector's place is on a consistent basis.

Kasey Keller, Fulham
Vs. Wigan

Keller appears to be the number two man for the time being as Antti Niemi's performance was quality enough against Wigan.  Keller was on the bench and could get a start in the next few weeks when their Carling Cup fixture approaches.

Eddie Lewis & Benny Feilhaber, Derby County

It is unknown whether the American duo will play tonight against Newcastle, but it couldn't hurt since the Rams have looked overmatched so far in the Premiership.  The two sides are in polar positions with Derby yet to win a game and Newcastle yet to suffer a defeat this season. 

Meanwhile up in Scotland:

DaMarcus Beasley, Rangers
Vs. Hearts (90 minutes, 1 goal)

Beasley was back in the starting lineup on Saturday against Hearts. Rangers were down two goals early and 4-1 in the second half before Beasley pulled one back in the 74th minute.  His left-footed strike was impressive, yet Rangers went on to suffer their first defeat of the season, moving them one point behind Celtic who now sits at the top of the table.  Beasley continues to do his part, as he has provided at will in this year’s domestic campaign.

Coming up this week:

This week will be a busy one for most clubs as UEFA competitions get going while the league matches keep on coming.  Everton will host FC Metalist Kharkiv in an opening round UEFA Cup tie on Thursday and then travel away to play Aston Villa on Sunday.  After last year's disappointing Europe result, they'll be looking to make an impression early on with or without Tim Howard.  Blackburn will travel to face Greek side Larissa in their UEFA Cup match before hosting Portsmouth on Sunday.  West Ham only has one game this week (Newcastle), while Reading host Wigan on Saturday.  Hahnemann and company will hope to get all three points after a series of poor performances.  Dempsey’s Cottagers will host Manchester City on Saturday, while Derby County have to travel to London to take on Arsenal, where it could get ugly for the Rams.   Up north, Rangers will host VfB Stuggart on Wednesday in their first match of the Champions League group stage.  They remain home on Sunday to play struggling Aberdeen.  

Pub Talk:

New Jersey native, Jemal Johnson scored his first goal for League Two side Milton Keynes Dons on Sunday against Brentford.  Johnson came on in the 77th minute and scored in the 90th minute when he curled in a great shot into the top right corner.  Johnson's signed a new contract with MKD after coming over from Leeds United in late August.  The club is currently in the top half of the table, sitting in sixth place after their 3-0 victory.

-- In his New York Times blog, Jozy Altidore talks about some of his favorites.  His favorite player is Thierry Henry, favorite sport other than soccer is basketball, and then, he tosses in Busan of South Korea as his favorite Asian city.  That Jozy is just wacky.

Matthew Braine is a regular contributor to USA. His "Americans in the EPL" articles appear every Monday.

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