Pulisic, Donovan & the top U.S. soccer stars to play in the Premier League

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At Chelsea, Christian Pulisic will aim to surpass the achievements of some legendary figures in the Premier League

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    John Harkes: Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United, Nottingham Forest – 1992–93, 1995–96, 1998–99

    John Harkes was the first American to play in the Premier League, making his first appearance in the competition on the second day of the 1992-93 season while playing with Sheffield Wednesday.

    He went on to make 43 appearances in the rebranded competition, scoring two goals, yet it is in the League Cup that he is most remembered. Harkes scored for Wednesday in a 2-1 final defeat to Arsenal in 1993 and became just the second American to net at Wembley.
     

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    Roy Wegerle: Blackburn Rovers, Coventry City – 1992–95

    Roy Wegerle ended his career with 76 Premier League appearances but was a long-time stalwart of England’s top division, having plied his trade in the country since 1986, when he signed for Chelsea having played indoor soccer in the U.S. for the Tacoma Stars.

    He was perhaps past his peak by the time the Premier League formed, but the attacker still managed 13 goals, becoming the first player from the USA to net in the competition when he scored a double against Norwich in a 7-1 victory. Wegerle helped his Blackburn side to second in the table before he was later sold to Coventry.

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    Kasey Keller: Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Fulham – 1996–99, 2001–05, 2007–08

    Kasey Keller first moved to England from the Portland Timbers in 1996 but spent his time outside of the top flight with Millwall. Four years later, he moved to Leicester, where he made the first of 201 Premier League appearances.

    Playing for four different clubs, he amassed more than 18,000 minutes of game time and would go on to keep 57 clean sheets in the competition.

    During his career, he also turned out for Rayo Vallecano in La Liga and Borussia Monchegladbach in the Bundesliga.

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    Brad Friedel: Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur – 1997–2000, 2001–14

    Brad Friedel should go down as one of the great goalkeepers in Premier League history simply for the fact that between May 15, 2004 and October 7, 2012, he did not miss a single match in the competition.

    That incredible run, which spanned 310 fixtures for three different clubs – Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham – is unsurprisingly the longest such run in the league’s history.

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    Claudio Reyna: Sunderland, Manchester City – 2001–07

    Although one of the greatest players that the USA has ever produced, Reyna only spent the tail end of his career in the Premier League, having turned out previously for Bundesliga sides Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, as well as Scottish giants Rangers.

    His time in England was further complicated by a serious knee injury, but that did not stop him becoming a popular player with Manchester City, where he played 77 Premier League matches and scored four goals.

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    Brian McBride: Everton, Fulham – 2002–08

    Brian McBride was one of the first big success stories in England who had arrived direct from MLS. He played initially on loan at Everton from the Columbus Crew in 2003 and after scoring four times in eight matches at Goodison Park ultimately earned a full-time move to Fulham.

    It was at Craven Cottage where the striker really made his name in the Premier League, having arrived for a mere €1.5 million. He was top scorer for the club in the 2006-07 season and played a major role in securing their survival in successive campaigns before leaving for the Chicago Fire in 2008.

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    Carlos Bocanegra: Fulham – 2003–08

    Former USA international captain Carlos Bocanegra spent four years of his professional career in the Premier League, where he turned out exclusively for Fulham. While at Craven Cottage, he played 116 times in the top flight and netted eight goals, enjoying arguably the best spell of his whole professional life.

    Ultimately, he was released by Fulham and went on to play in the top flights in France, Scotland and Spain. He would make over 100 appearances for his national team.

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    Tim Howard: Manchester United, Everton – 2003–16

    Perhaps no American player has arrived in England with the fanfare that Tim Howard enjoyed when he moved to Manchester United from the MetroStars – now the New York Red Bulls – in 2003 for $4 million.

    So highly rated was the young goalkeeper, he immediately displaced World Cup winner Fabien Barthez as the club’s starter. After a promising start to life at Old Trafford, errors ultimately forced him out of the club. But Howard went on to enjoy a long and successful stint at Everton, and fell agonisingly short of a Premier League landmark by making 399 appearances in the division.

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    Clint Dempsey: Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur – 2006–14

    Fulham were prolific and successful importers of talent from MLS and in Clint Dempsey they arguably found their ace. Over five years at Craven Cottage, the attacker showed off a knack for perfectly timed runs into the box, which helped him to amass 57 Premier League goals – a record for an American in the division.

    From the Cottagers, he moved on to Tottenham, where he scored seven times in 29 outings before returning back to MLS, where he played out his career with the Seattle Sounders, barring a brief loan back at Fulham.

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    Brad Guzan: Aston Villa, Middlesbrough – 2008–09, 2011–17

    The USA’s most successful Premier League exports have typically been goalkeepers, and Brad Guzan is another example.

    Having started his career with Chivas USA in MLS, Guzan moved to Aston Villa in 2008. He would spend the next eight years of his career there and would turn out 144 times for the Birmingham club in the Premier League.

    He was voted the Villains’ Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season and played 10 times in a one-season stint with Middlesbrough before moving to Atlanta United back home in 2017.

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    Stuart Holden: Bolton Wanderers – 2009–11

    Stuart Holden’s star did not shine long, but it certainly shone bright. Though born in Aberdeen, Scotland, the midfielder represented the USA at international level, having grown up in the country.

    After failing to make the grade at Sunderland, he caught the eye playing with the Houston Dynamo and was snapped up by Bolton Wanderers, whom he helped to seventh in the Premier League during the 2010-11 season.

    Following a tackle from Manchester United’s Jonny Evans, he suffered a serious knee injury, which would be the beginning of a nightmare spell for the player. Holden effectively missed three years of action and ultimately had to retire because of persistent concerns in 2016, aged only 30.

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    Landon Donovan: Everton – 2009–10, 2011–12

    Landon Donovan was U.S. soccer’s biggest name in the first decade of the millennium thanks to his scoring exploits with the national team and in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy.

    Despite making it big in his homeland, across the Atlantic he never stayed long enough to establish himself. Donovan was only briefly at Bayer Leverkusen early in his career before a pair of loan spells in England with Everton during the MLS off-season. The attacker performed well in his brief time with the Toffees, and was named the club's Player of the Month in January 2010. Donovan made a total of 17 Premier League appearances and scored two goals. 

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    Geoff Cameron: Stoke City – 2012–18

    Geoff Cameron’s move to Stoke City nearly never happened as his initial request for a work permit was turned down, yet the Potters were right to persist with chasing the defender, who became a key player in their starting XI.

    He proved a versatile and consistent performer, mustering 168 Premier League outings for the club over the course of six campaigns. He managed two Premier League goals, one against Arsenal and another against Aston Villa.

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    DeAndre Yedlin: Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland, Newcastle United – 2014–16, 2017–present

    DeAndre Yedlin has spent the last two seasons playing in the Premier League having initially arrived at Tottenham from the Seattle Sounders following the 2014 World Cup. He would, however, make only one appearance for Spurs before being shunted to Sunderland on loan and from there he moved to Newcastle in 2016.

    Since arriving at St James’ Park, he has become a mainstay of the team at right-back and notably found the net against Manchester City in a 2-1 loss earlier this season.

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    Christian Pulisic: 2019–present

    Christian Pulisic arrives at Chelsea as one of most hyped American players of all time. While the 20-year-old has bags of promise and has shown flashes of brilliance, he failed to hold down a starting berth at Borussia Dortmund under Lucien Favre.

    Nevertheless, BVB will keep hold of him until the end of the season and Chelsea are viewing him as a possible replacement for Eden Hazard. If he can achieve his potential, he will surpass what any of his compatriots have managed in England.