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The Goal Americans Abroad Best XI

Tim Howard and Aron Johannsson enjoyed outstanding club seasons to head toward the World Cup on good form, and also to earn places in the Goal USA Americans Abroad Best XI.

The past year wasn't quite a banner one for Americans Abroad. Not because there weren't Americans enjoying strong seasons overseas, but with several top stars returning to Major League Soccer, and with few transfers the other way producing successful moves, the number of elite Americans playing in foreign countries went down.

Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley were two of the best Americans plying their trade in Europe, so when they took their big paydays to come home, the void left behind on the Americans Abroad front was sizeable.

The impact of that exodus could be seen when Jurgen Klinsmann called in players for the March friendly against Ukraine. The team lacked the strength of European-based U.S. teams of year's past.

That doesn't mean there aren't promising signs for the future. There are more and more young Americans making their livings in foreign leagues, and showing signs of potentially stepping up to be quality pros. Paul Arriola was chosen as Liga MX rookie of the year during the Apertura season at the age of 18. Joe Gyau made his Bundesliga debut late in the season for Hoffenheim at the age of 21. Will Packwood returned from his broken leg to earn considerable playing time as a 20-year-old central defender for Birmingham City, even earning a U.S. national team call-up. John Brooks earned regular playing time in the Bundesliga as a 20-year old, doing enough to earn a place on the U.S. Preliminary World Cup roster.

This isn't to say there weren't established veteran American pros who enjoyed good seasons. There were several, including Aron Johannsson, who enjoyed the best season of all foreign-based Americans, scoring 26 goals for AZ (a number that could still go up if he takes part in the Europa League playoff final in the coming days).

So who is left to carry the flag for Americans Abroad? Here are the players who enjoyed the best years overseas:

Tim Howard - Everton

The 35-year-old U.S. starting goalkeeper enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, recording 15 shutouts and helping Everton come close to a top four finish in the English Premier League. The case can certainly be made that he was the Americans Abroad Player of the Year.

Geoff Cameron - Stoke City

A regular starter during a season that saw the Potters record their best Premier League finish in club history, Cameron started in 37 matches, missing just one match all season (due to suspension). He scored two goals and showed marked improvement in the attacking side of his play at right back.

 

Tim Ream - Bolton

The 2013/2014 Bolton Player of the Year, Ream started 42 matches for the Trotters, turning in solid form at a number of positions. Capable of playing defensive midfield and either fullback spot, the 26-year-old Ream provided a reminder that he is a central defender to keep an eye on for the future.

Michael Orozco - Puebla

An ill-timed late-season injury ultimately cost him a chance at the U.S. preliminary World Cup roster, but that shouldn't make us forget what was a very good season he had at center back for Puebla. Orozco started 26 matches for a Puebla defense that was much better than the team's attack.

Fabian Johnson - Hoffenheim

Facing some stiff competition from DaMarcus Beasley and Edgar Castillo, Johnson won out for another good season for Hoffeinheim. One that saw him play both left and right back, and play well enough to pave the way to a step up to a bigger club in Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Jose Torres - UANL Tigres

When he transferred from Pachuca to Tigres there were some questions about how Torres would settle in. His transition was a smooth one as he became a regular starter, and eventually a goalscoring threat. He finished the 2013/2014 saeason with five goals and 39 appearances in all competitions.

 

Sacha Kljestan - Anderlecht

Though he lost his starting job toward the end of the Belgian League season, Kljestan still put together a season worthy of a place on this list. He scored a career-high eight goals, many of which came early in the season. Rumors persist about a return to MLS, but the 28-year old might want to stay in Europe to show he can still play at a high level.
 

Danny Williams- Reading

Much like Orozco, Williams had a very successful season ended prematurely by a terribly-timed injury. Williams had become an integral part of Reading's midfield, registering career highs in minutes, starts and goals before a knee injury forced him out of the final matches of the season. At 25, Williams is a player to keep an eye on for the future.

Alejandro Bedoya - Nantes

To some, the jump from the Swedish League to the French First Division might have been seen as a leap too great, but Bedoya's transition was thoroughly impressive. He tied a career-high for goals in a season (5) and made 31 appearances to help the newly-promoted club finish a respectable 12th in Ligue 1.

Aron Johannnsson - AZ Alkmaar

The 23-year-old striker enjoyed a breakout season, netting 26 goals in all competitions for AZ, helping the club offset the departure of Jozy Altidore. He fell short in his quest to break Altidore's year-old record for goals in a season for an American Abroad, but he looks capable of making another run next season.

Terrence Boyd - Rapid Vienna

The 23-year-old German-born striker followed up an impressive 2012/13 season at Rapid Vienna with an even better sophomore campaign. He finished with 20 goals in all competitions, including a hot streak to close out the season and play his way onto the U.S. preliminary World Cup roster.

 

 

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