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Americans in the UK: Titles, Europe, And Heartbreak

By Matthew Braine

Maurice Edu helped Rangers grab the Scottish Premier League title on Sunday to cap off a very successful weekend for the Americans in the UK.

If you count Eddie Johnson (Fulham) and Eric Lichaj (Villa Reserves), there will be eight Americans playing in Europe next season. Everton, Aston Villa, and Fulham clinched fifth through seventh place in the Barclays Premier League and Rangers won the SPL title on Sunday, topping off arguably the most successful season ever for American players in the United Kingdom.

Tim Howard and Brad Friedel paced very successful squads to European places, with Howard standing out even more due his unbelievable 20 clean sheets on the season. Clint Dempsey helped Fulham notch a Europa League place as well and led his team in scoring to boot. All Maurice Edu did was lock in a starting position for the Scottish champions and help them win vital matches down the most important stretch of the season. Although Zak Whitbread of Millwall spent his Sunday on the losing side of the promotion race as Scunthorpe United beat them to the final Championship spot, this season as a whole was a solid one for Americans in the lower leagues as well.

All in all, the 2008/2009 season was one that fans of Americans abroad will remember for quite some time.

Premiership:

Tim Howard, Everton

vs. Fulham, 0-2, 90 minutes, 4 saves, 0 goals conceded.

Goals from Leon Osman on each side of halftime proved to be the difference on Sunday as Everton grabbed a victory and a fifth place finish. Howard had arguably his best season as a pro as he totaled 20 clean sheets in all competitions. In addition to breaking Neville Southall’s club record for Premier League clean sheets, Howard also led his team to a fifth place finish and a place in the FA Cup final.
Up Next: Saturday vs. Chelsea (FA Cup Final).

Brad Friedel, Aston Villa.
vs. Newcastle, 1-0, 90 minutes, 4 saves, 0 goals conceded.

Friedel kept his 14th clean sheet of the season on Sunday as he blanked Newcastle 1-0. Although Villa had already clinched a top six finish, they ran their starters out there anyway and outlasted a less than stellar Newcastle squad that never looked like they wanted to stay up. A terrible own goal error by Damien Duff in the 38th minute was all it took to send the Magpies out of the Premiership for the first time in 16 years. Aston Villa’s 62 points eclipses their previous sixth place point totals from last season and during the 2003/2004 season in which they finished with 60 and 56 points respectively. The club will be participating in the Europa League next season.

Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa

Eric Lichaj helped the Villa Reserves capture the Barclays FA Premier Reserve League title as they defeated Sunderland 1-0 on Thursday. Lichaj played the entire contest as goals from Nathan Delfouneso, James Collins, and Shane Lowry powered the squad ahead.

Clint Dempsey, Fulham
vs. Everton, 0-2, 90 minutes.

Although the Cottagers ended their campaign with a 0-2 loss at home, other results allowed the squad to clinch a seventh place finish and the final English spot in the Europa League next season. Fulham came out aggressive and Dempsey had a chance early in the 20th minute but he hesitated with his shot, allowing Joleon Lescott to block the attempt on goal. After Leon Osman put the visitors ahead just before the break, the atmosphere around Craven Cottage seemed deflated as the second stanza began. Everton continued to pressure the opposing goal and in 88th minute Osman doubled his tally and put the home side away with a strong 20-yard effort.

During his quest to help the Cottagers achieve a European position, Dempsey amassed eight goals and three assists; a very impressive total for just his second full season in England. He finish tied with teammate Andy Johnson for the team lead in Premier League goals with seven.

Jonathan Spector, West Ham
vs. Middlesbrough, 2-1, 90 minutes.

Spector played an entire match for the just the second time this season as the Hammers put down Middlesbrough 2-1 on Sunday. The loss sends Boro down to the Championship next season while the win for West Ham gives them a ninth place finish.

League One News:

Zak Whitbread, Millwall


Millwall squandered a 2-1 second half lead on Sunday and ultimately fell 2-3 to Scunthorpe United at Wembley. Gary Alexander scored twice within two minutes to offset Matthew Sparrow’s early strike but Sparrow and Martyn Woolford would tally in the 70th and 85th minute to win promotion to the Championship. Whitbread was partially responsible for the equalizing goal from United as Woolford burst past Whitbread to play a nice ball into Sparrow who blasted the second goal home.

Whitbread played very well for Millwall this season, starting nearly every game while providing steady defense in the back four.

Meanwhile Up In Scotland…

DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu, Rangers

vs. Dundee United, 0-3, (Edu played 90 minute, Beasley DNP).

Rangers clinched the Scottish Premier League title on Sunday after they defeated Dundee United 0-3. Edu played the entire contest and was a vital part of the second goal as he earned a free kick which led to a Miguel Pedro Mendes goal. It was Rangers first SPL title since the 2005/05 campaign.
Up Next: Saturday vs. Falkirk (Scottish Cup Final).

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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