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Americans in the UK: Europe and Cup Finals on the Horizon

By Matthew Braine

While there weren’t many explosive performances from Americans over the weekend, there were important milestones and races that became considerably tighter. In England, Clint Dempsey helped Fulham weather two first half injuries to claim a gutsy win over Stoke. The club now sits six points behind Everton for the sixth and final European place. There are four fixtures remaining for each club and Everton will have to remain focused down the stretch to secure its position.

Maurice Edu started in an important Scottish Cup semifinal on Saturday and played very well as Rangers beat up on St. Mirren 3-0 to advance. They’ll meet Falkirk in the Finals next month and with the way Edu has been playing, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him suited up alongside the rest of the starting XI.

Premiership:

Tim Howard, Everton

vs. Manchester City, 1-2, 90 minutes, 6 saves, 2 goals conceded.

City earned its first win at Goodison Park since 1992 on Saturday as it defeated Everton 1-2. Brazilian striker Robinho notched the opening goal 35 minutes in after scampering down the left side and slotting the ball through Howard’s legs. Just nine minutes after the restart, Robinho turned provider, feeding Stephen Ireland who was left virtually unmarked until it was too late. Ireland controlled the ball on the right side of the box and drilled into the left corner. Howard made a few fine stops and while Dan Gosling tallied for Everton during the unbelievably generous seven minutes of stoppage time, it was too little too late for Everton. Everton defender and England International Phil Jagielka went off with a bad knee injury and will need surgery, leaving him out of next month’s FA Cup final.
Up Next: Sunday, away to Sunderland.

Brad Friedel, Aston Villa.
vs. Bolton, 1-1, 90 minutes, 4 saves, 1 goal conceded.

Villa’s dreams for a Champions League place are officially dashed. With just four games remaining and Arsenal's 10 point buffer, fourth place is out of the question. Saturday’s performance only added to the Birmingham club’s dismal second half of the season as it drew 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers at Reebok Stadium. Ashley Young gave the visitors a first half lead but just 15 minutes into the second stanza it was all level after Tamir Cohen smashed home the equalizer following a ruckus in the box. Friedel made some solid stops but has to be disappointed with his attack, which, despite the pressure on the Bolton defense, could only muster three shots on target.
Up next: Monday, home to Hull City.

Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa

Guzan backed up Friedel and Lichaj played the entire contest for the Reserves as they defeated Fulham 2-1 on Monday.

Clint Dempsey, Fulham
vs. Stoke City, 1-0, 90 minutes.

Fulham’s goal of playing in Europe next season remains alive after it defeated Stoke 1-0 on Saturday. Dempsey nearly gave the home team the lead in the 24th minute but his 20-yard effort flew just high. However, Andy Johnson hooked up with Eric Nevland five minutes later and that was all the Cottagers would need to take the win. The London club did suffer some injuries during the contest as both Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson went off in the first half with leg issues. Fulham is now just six points back of Everton and is certainly in the running for seventh place.
Up next: Saturday, away to Chelsea.

Jonathan Spector, West Ham
vs. Chelsea, 0-1, DNP.

Spector was dressed but did not get on the pitch as Chelsea defeated West Ham at Upton Park Saturday. Salomon Kalou gave the visitors an early second half lead but Mark Noble had a chance to even score in the 71st minute when he stepped up to take a spot kick. Noble struck his shot solidly but Petr Cech did a fantastic job of deflecting it, preserving the win for the Blues.
Up Next: Saturday, away to Stoke City.

Championship Round-Up:

Marcus Hahnemann, Reading


Reading finally got back on track Tuesday, notching a much needed 0-2 win at Derby County. Dave Kitson and Shane Long both scored in the second stanza while Hahnemann was brilliant, constantly frustrating the Rams attack as he made nine saves on the day. The Royals take on Norwich City on Monday and will have to pick up points there if they hope to seal their playoff spot.

Eddie Johnson, Cardiff

The Bluebirds got lucky on Tuesday as Chris Burke and Gabor Gyepes scored within the last eight minutes, giving Cardiff an unlikely draw against already relegated Charlton. The home team took a 2-0 lead going into the final ten minutes but were ultimately unable to close down the visitors. On Saturday, Cardiff were blown out, losing 3-0 at home to Ipswich Town. It was an embarrassing defeat and an overall disappointing week for the club. Johnson came on as a late substitute in each contest but failed to make an impact.

Jay DeMerit, Watford

The Hornets won a wild one at Coventry City on Sunday, coming back from 2-0 down in the second half to prevail 2-3. Tommy Smith and Grzegorz Rasiak leveled the contest before Tamas Priskin put in the winner in the 74th minute. DeMerit played the entire contest. Although Watford have had a disappointing campaign, they’ve done an admirable job of battling through injuries to maintain a spot in the Championship next season.

Frank Simek, Sheffield Wednesday

Darren Porter saved a point for the Owls on Saturday, grabbing an 88th minute equalizer in the 1-1 draw against Bristol City. Simek was not dressed for the affair.

Meanwhile Up In Scotland…

DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu, Rangers

vs. St. Mirren, 3-0, (Edu played 90 minutes. Beasley-DNP)

Edu continues to impress for Rangers manager Walter Smith. The young midfielder earned another start on Saturday and played the entire contest as the Glasgow club advanced to the Scottish Cup final after defeating St. Mirren 3-0. Andrius Velicka, Kris Boyd, and Kenny Miller all tallied for the home side, who will play Falkirk in the final. Beasley is still recovering from an injury.
Up next: Sunday, home to Heart of Midlothian.

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Matthew Braine's feature "Americans in the UK" appears every Monday on Goal.com. He can be reached at matthew.braine@hotmail.com