Archive for the ‘Brian McBride’ Category

A Fitting Tribute For Captain Courageous

August 5, 2009

Wow! Fulham has just named its hospitality pub after former striker Brian McBride – I can’t think of a more deserving player (no bias here, cough).

We’ve all seen McBride pour his heart, soul, and blood into every match he plays, whether its at Fulham, Columbus, Preston NE, Chicago, Wolfsburg, or for the USA.
So cheers to Fulham for recognizing a man who always gave his all (and still does)!

Transfer Window Closes

February 5, 2009

The January transfer window has closed without some of the moves American fans were hoping for as DaMarcus Beasley, Heath Pearce, Oguchi Onyewu, and Brian McBride (to name a few) will be staying put.

Since I’m in the middle of my own transfer, I’ll let my friends Bob Wagman at Soccer Times and Greg Seltzer at No Short Corners fill you in.

USA And Japan Set To Face Off

August 7, 2008


Today the USA and Japan men’s soccer teams will open up their Olympic campaign in a tough group which includes Nigeria and the Netherlands. In contrast to the USA which features three top over-23 players led by striker Brian McBride, Japan is essentially bringing its U-23 team with no overage players.

While the USA has looked solid defensively in friendly matches, it still has yet to find its shooting boots and coach Piotr Novak hopes they find them today. Novak opined that “As a coach you’re always concerned about the team not creating chances, but during the qualifiers they did create a lot of chances. We had the opportunities to score goals, and we did that in the game that mattered the most. Against Canada in the semifinal we scored three goals and as far as I know it doesn’t really matter how many goals you score if you win. In today’s football it’s not possible to run up a score because the games are so tight.”

Their Japanese opponents have not fared much better of late and are now under pressure from their new federation president, Motoaki Inukai, who has criticized the team for its attitude as a cause of its poor form. Novak seems to have a different take: “I think the strength of the Japanese team is their whole team, the way they work together and understand each other very well. We watched them in the Toulon Tournament that we played in and their ‘team’ is their biggest strength. They collectively are very strong and never give up. They know the game and the discipline it takes and at any given time they can hurt you.”

The Japanese player to watch out for is Hiroki Mizumoto, a pesky 6-foot defender who is strong in the air and never seems to tire. In the penalty area, expect him to stick to McBride like glue.

Given the strength of group B, both Japan and the USA need to collect all three points to have any hope of advancing in the tournament for a shot at a medal. Despite the heat (expected to be in the 80s) expect a full-tilt contest with a frenetic start.

My prediction: USA 2 : Japan 1.

Not near a TV? Catch the game live here.

The Evolution of American Soccer Players In Europe: Part III

August 1, 2008

Part III: The Post-1998 World Cup Breakout

By now, most of the trailblazers had returned home to play in Major League Soccer (MLS); Caligiuri to Los Angeles, Wynalda to San Jose, Harkes to DC United, and Lalas to New England. Nonetheless, the number of American players in Europe exploded to unprecedented numbers with over 20 playing in Germany alone – a combination of established professionals, young players, and journeymen. This time period also saw more Americans playing in other leagues and more importantly, seeing significant playing time.

Claudio Reyna remained in Europe and transferred to Scottish giant Glasgow Rangers, where he scored 10 goals in 64 appearances before a move to English Premiership side Sunderland. Another key player to stay in Europe was Kasey Keller, who after a successful stint with Leicester, became the first American to play in the Spanish Primera when he signed with newly promoted Rayo Vallecano where he stayed for two years, starting every week.

Joe-Max Moore moved over from Nuernberg to Premiership side Everton in 1999, where he stayed until 2002 – earning several stretches of regular playing time. Meanwhile, McBride returned to Europe from the Columbus Crew to play in England for second division Preston North End and later Premiership side Everton. By 2000, Greg Berhalter was at England’s Crystal Palace where he saw the field only 19 times before he left in 2002.

McBride was just one of many transfers from MLS in the late 1990s as some American players, having proven themselves in their domestic league, sought their fortunes in Europe. Five other top players made their way across the Atlantic including DC United ace Tony Sanneh who played for Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin from 1998-2001 before moving to Nuernberg in 2001.

In 1998, Tampa Bay’s Frankie Hejduk was picked up by Bayer Leverkusen in where he had an immediate impact as a striker in Christoph Daum’s “three-headed monster” formation with three forwards. Some fans still remember Leverkusen’s star striker Ulf Kirsten celebrating Hejduk’s first goal by surfing around the penalty area while Hejduk did his own reggae dance. A coaching change, foreign player restrictions, and a huge player pool at Bayer later found Hejduk in a battle to fight his way back into the starting lineup.

Hejduk and other American players in Germany found their playing time restricted by a rule at the time which limited the number on non-EU players on the field to three per team. Regardless of how well an American player’s form, he was fighting for one of three spots, not 11. If your team had a few star Brazilians and top Africans (also non-EU players), even if not playing in the same position as the American, the situation could be very tough. Luckily, these restrictions were later relaxed to allow coaches more latitude in selecting their lineups.

And yet another American keeper found his way to England when the Colorado Rapids Marcus Hahnemann moved to Fulham in 1999 where he served mainly as a backup. Eddie Lewis joined him at Fulham in 2000. By 2002, Hahnemann found a starting job at Reading, a team he helped to later earn promotion to the Premiership. That same year Lewis, who has seen little playing time at Craven Cottage, took a transfer to Preston North End of the English second flight where he scored 15 goals in 111 appearances.

Following in the footsteps of Keller and Tab Ramos was the Chicago Fire’s Ante Razov, who was transferred to Racing de Ferrol of the Spanish second division. During his one year with Racing, Razov scored six goals in 19 appearances before returning to the Fire. It would be several years before another American would suit up for a Spanish club.

The post-1998 era also saw an increasing number of US soccer’s top young talent signing with European clubs but often experiencing mixed fortunes. San Diego native Steve Cherundolo signed on for the Second Bundesliga’s Hannover 96 in 1998 and saw action immediately before a serious knee injury set him back for most of 1999. He later earned the starting role at right back and helped the club achieve promotion to the Bundesliga, becoming a recognized team leader in the process.

A strong US showing at the 1999 U-17 World Youth Championships made even more European clubs take notice as the Stars and Stripes took home the Gold and Silver balls for the best two players in the tournament. Landon Donovan, the Golden Ball winner, signed with Bayer Leverkusen in a deal which had all the marks of making him a future star in Europe. Unfortunately, Donovan found himself inside of an insidious development in modern soccer – a warehouse club. Warehouse clubs stock up on top veteran talent to enable them to be more successful in league and European play but they are seldom a good situation for a young player looking to break into the first team.

Instead of being in a roster of 25-30 players to work his way into a first team of 18 (which was restricted by non-EU player limits), Donovan found himself among 40+ quality players at Leverkusen, many of whom played for their national teams. Fellow Bayer Leverkusen player Frankie Hejduk later said the club had “enough good players to field two good Bundesliga teams.”

So, the FIFA U-17 Golden Ball winner found himself languishing in lower division reserve matches with little chance of ever seeing first team play. US national team coach Bruce Arena seemed to realize Donovan’s predicament and called him up for many US matches to give him a better chance to develop. I interviewed Donovan several times during his time at Leverkusen and while he never came out and said it, I got the impression that he may have felt that the club and given him the “bait and switch.” Sadly, some club officials started to respond to Donovan’s frustration by telling the press he was “homesick” when all he wanted was a chance to play.

But Donovan was not the only U-17 starlet to find that he has signed with a warehouse club. Taylor Twellman, the 1999 U-17 FIFA Silver Ball winner signed with 1860 Munich with expectations that he too would get a chance to work his way into the first team one day (a promise many warehouse clubs seem to make). While Twellman was the leading scorer for the 1860 reserve team, he was later told (after nearly a year with the club) that 1860 “doesn’t really use the reserve team to produce first team players, but rather buys them on the market. ” Unfortunately, this was becoming a trend all over Europe.

While they were not the only young players stashed in the basements of warehouse clubs, both Twellman and Donovan eventually worked their way back to MLS in 2001, where they’ve since made their mark as two of the best players in the league.

Ironically, the one young player in Europe who saw the most first division playing time was not even a member of the 1999 US national youth teams; Cory Gibbs. The 20 year-old Gibbs signed as a central defender for FC St Pauli, which was promoted to Bundesliga in 2001. He started each week and immediately received a baptism by fire against the Bundesliga’s best which often sliced through a soft St Pauli midfield. He became the youngest American to score in the Bundesliga and stayed with the club as they descended into the Second Bundesliga, and eventually the third division. By the end of three seasons, he had started 60 matches, scoring three goals and saw rapid development in his tactical prowess before returning to play for the Dallas Burn in 2003.

The post-1998 World Cup era also witnessed more American players not only in the top leagues, but also in the well-financed German Regionalliga (third division), where salaries were often better than in MLS. Among these players were John Van Buskirk at Sportfreunde Siegen, Jacob Thomas at Eintracht Braunschweig, and the American trio of Tim Lawson, Brent Goulet, Grover Gibson at SV Elversberg

During this time, fans at home started to take greater interest in how American players were faring in Europe but found few sources to provide it. While largely ignored by the major sports media, a small group of online news sources began to appear starting with San Diego native John Dwyer’s weekly report Amis in Deutschland in 1998 (see his excellent web site here). Within two years, new sources appeared such as Soccer Times’ weekly update from European-based reporters; Americans Abroad, as well as periodic US-based reporting on SoccerSpot.Com and in Soccer America’s print magazine.

Coming Next Week: Part IV: The Post-2002 World Cup Era
Comments, Questions, Ideas? courtitalia@yahoo.it

The Evolution of US Soccer Players in Europe: Part I

July 18, 2008

While players are now reporting to their European clubs’ preseason training camps, we’re all still following the movement of American players between various clubs. This got me thinking that after 20 years of following the fortunes of US players in Europe (9 of them as a reporter), its hard not to notice the evolution of the American presence in the European game. So, let’s take a look back and see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and what progress is yet to be made.

1980s: The Trailblazers

The NASL went defunct in 1984 so young American players wanting to play at a higher level had a choice; go to a college team, play in a US semi-pro league, or try heading to Europe. But heading to Europe was no easy task since few clubs were interested in experimenting with unknown quantities, especially from a country without a soccer culture. For the time, it was comparable to an English youngster wanting to try out with a major league baseball team.

But some young Americans were starting to get noticed since US players became much more visible in the 1980s. The US played in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic soccer competitions as well as the 1987 Pan-American Games, in addition to a number of lesser international tournaments. In 1986, Bundesliga side Hamburger SV took notice of Paul Caligiuri and brought him to the team where he never managed to break into the lineup. Later, in 1988, he was transferred to Second Bundesliga side SV Meppen where he played for the next two seasons.

Around the same time, Brent Goulet, the 1987 US Player of the Year, moved to English lower division side AFC Bournemouth and later to Crew Alexandra where he scored three goals in 1988. Goulet later moved to Germany where he played on several second and third division teams for the next decade. While other US players received interest from European clubs, few teams seemed willing to make the investment.

Post-1990: Establishing A Toehold

Thanks to a wonder-strike by Caligiuri, the US qualified for its first World Cup in 40 years in 1990 and while the US team did not win a game, scouts at Italia 1990 took notice of several players. What they found were players with decent skills and a good work ethic available at bargain basement prices. Tab Ramos was signed by Spanish second division side Figueras and later moved to Real Betis while John Doyle went to Sweden to play for Örgryte IS. Hugo Perez ended up at Red Star Paris and later joined Doyle at Örgryte IS – the first European squad to have two Americans on its roster.

Among the higher profile US players of the era, John Harkes signed on with English second division side Sheffield Wednesday and helped the team to win the 1991 League Cup Final where they defeated Manchester United 1-0. In 1992, a young keeper named Kasey Keller started a four-year stint at another English side, Milwall, where he earned praise from the club’s faithful and opponents alike.

At the same time, Cobi Jones was struggling to get playing time at Coventry City but still managed to score nine goals in 28 appearances from 1992-1995. The South African-born Roy Wegerle became an American citizen in 1991 while playing for first division side Queen’s Park Rangers where he scored 29 goals in 65 appearances from 1990-1992. He later played for Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City, as well as the US national team.

Overall, most of these players went to second division sides but the biggest impact was felt in Germany where a few American players made their mark. By 1991, Caligiuri had moved to FC Hansa Rostock in eastern Germany, a team he would help to win the final East German championship before the league was disbanded . A year later, Kaiserslautern’s star midfielder Tom Dooley become an American citizen – further raising the profile of American players in Germany. All the while, Chad Deering spent three years, from 1990-1993, in the Werder Bremen system before moving to Schalke 04.

The one American player that made the Germans sit up and take notice was Eric Wynalda who was loaned by the US Soccer to FC Saarbrucken, a Bundesliga club. He made an immediate impact scoring nine goals in his first 10 games before opposing defenders started marking him more closely. In 1994, young Americans Brian McBride and Mike Lapper signed with the Second Bundesliga’s VFL Wolfsburg.

Around the same time, the US Men’s Team started not just showing well but actually beating a few major teams including a 2-0 home win over England in 1993. Instead of ignoring the US as a source of potential talent, some in Europe started to take a closer look. Fluke or no fluke, there must have been something going on in US Soccer. Thus, a toehold was established in the European game but few , mostly the naturalized Americans, were with top-flight teams and not all legionaires across the Atlantic were seeing regular playing time.

Coming This Week: Part II: Post-1994 World Cup: Breaking Into First Division Soccer

Comments, Questions, Ideas? courtitalia@yahoo.it

Copyright Chris Courtney 2008