Adam Le Fondre

Americans Abroad: Tim Howard stays unbeaten, Aron Johannsson scores again

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The Americans Abroad have had a busy time since we last caught up with them, as league play and cup competitions are coming thick and fast after the international break.

From Tel Aviv to Tijuana, Norway to Italy, let’s take a gander across the globe at American soccer players making a name for themselves… and their country.

(MORE: Americans Abroad – Full Archive)

Plenty of US stars shone brightly over the last week, as you’re about to find out.

Let’s get to it.

ENGLAND

On Saturday Tim Howard secured yet another shutout for Everton, as the Toffees beat Chelsea 1-0. The USMNT goalkeeper made six saves, and despite a couple of shaky moments early on, Howard’s side held on for their first win of the season and remain unbeaten.

Up in Sunderland, it wasn’t such a happy afternoon for Jozy Altidore, as the U.S. forward was involved in the pivotal moment during a 3-1 loss to Arsenal. In the second half Altidore shrugged off Bacary Sagna and slotted the ball home to score what he thought was his first PL goal as a Mackem… not so fast Jozy.

Referee Martin Atkinson robbed Jozy of a 70th minute goal, by instead awarding a free kick when he should have played advantage, much to the annoyance of the former AZ Alkmaar forward.

Sunderland are without a win this campaign and sit bottom of the PL standings.

Staying in England’s top-flight, Geoff Cameron played superbly at right back as the Potters held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke are up to seventh in the table, but it could’ve been better as Cameron whipped in a great ball just after half time that nobody finished off.

(MORE: Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher; a partnership Sunderland are relying on)

Just down the M6 to Birmingham, and it was another frustrating afternoon for American goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The reigning Villa Player of the Year made six stops to try and thwart Newcastle, but Guzan was helpless as the Magpies won 2-1 following defensive mishaps from Villa. The loss marked a third-straight defeat for Guzan and Aston Villa, they sit in 16th.

source: Getty Images
Jozy Altidore had a goal disallowed as Sunderland’s struggle continued.

Down in the Championship it was an extremely busy week for the Americans.

On Saturday, Nottingham Forest right back Eric Lichaj put in a solid outing as Forest beat Barnsley 3-2, to move back into third spot. And on Tuesday night Forest were in action again, as they drew 2-2 with Middlesbrough. Lichaj was at fault for Kei Kamara’s opening goal, but set up a late equalizer to make amends.

Tim Ream played the first 60-minutes in midfield and then switched to a defensive role for the the final 30 minutes in the Trotters 1-0 loss to Leeds United on Saturday. Then, the former New York Red Bulls defender went the full 90 in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Derby County, assisting on Chris Eagles’ goal just before half time. Bolton still remain bottom and winless after seven games.

(MORE: Brek Shea, the painter, nearing Stoke City return)

There were three other Americans playing down in England’s second-tier, as Jonathan Spector‘s Birmingham lost 1-0 to QPR on Saturday, before being hammered 3-0 by Burnley on Tuesday. Zak Whitbread played for Leicester City on Tuesday as they beat Blackburn 2-1.

But things are going better for Danny Williams at Reading, as the former Hoffenheim man played the full 90 minutes in his first start for the Royals in a 0-0 draw with Brighton on Saturday. Then, on Wednesday night, Williams provided the key assist as Reading beat Leeds United 1-0 with a last-gasp winner from Adam Le Fondre.

EUROPE

Now switching over to the European continent, on Saturday Icelandic-American forward Aron Johannsson continued his good start to the season with another goal. The 21-year-old scored a penalty-kick in a 3-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles, the spot kick was his third of the season so far and overall Johannsson put in a lively display up front.

Following his callup to the U.S. national team for the recent World Cup qualifiers, Johannsson now has four goals in his first six Eredivisie games of the season. And Johannsson also started for AZ in their 1-0 Europa League win away at Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.

No doubt Jurgen Klinsmann will be keeping a close eye on the promising striker over the coming months.

In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan has had a mixed week following league success and UEFA Champions League disappointment. On Saturday Kljestan scored in Anderlecht’s 5-0 win over Mechelen, keeping up his terrific record this season with four goals in five league games. Yet on Tuesday night, the Brussels club came unstuck away at Portuguese side Benfica in their Champions League opener. Kljestan’s men lost 2-0, and the former Chivas USA star was booked to compound a frustrating night in Lisbon.

Over in the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson‘s Hoffenheim beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1, as the left-sided player was involved in the home teams opening goal.

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A bad night for Kljestan, who was booked late on in Anderlecht’s 2-0 defeat to Benfica in the Champions League.

Forgotten man Timmy Chandler created FC Nürnberg’s opener from right back with some inventive play, but the USMNT defender was culpable as they dropped a late equalizer to newly-promoted Braunschweig and remain winless after five games.

(MORE: Is Danny Williams re-inserting himself into the U.S. national team conversation?)

Up in Norway, Mix Diskerud played the full 90 in Rosenborg’s shock 1-0 loss at Tromso. It was the Troll Kids first defeat in 16 games and they are now just two points ahead at the top of the table, with seven games to go.  Elsewhere in Norway, goalkeeper Steve Clark and Hønefoss lost yet again as they continue to struggle at the wrong end of the table. The Michigan born star made one save as his side dropped a late1-0 decision to IK Start.

Down in Denmark, Babajide Ogunbiyi was the hero for Viborg as he scored the winner against AGF Aarhus. Ogunbiyi also played superbly at the back, as his side held on for the 1-0 after his goal.

Over in France, Alejandro Bedoya put in yet another tireless display as Nantes beat Sochaux 1-0 at home. The attacker started off brightly and continued that throughout the game before being subbed late on. The Canaries are now seventh in Ligue 1.

In Austria, Terrence Boyd scored his fourth goal in five games as Rapid Vienna hammered FC Wacker Innsbruck 4-0. But in the Europa League on Thursday, Boyd was on the bench and came on for the final 27 minutes, as Rapid lost 1-0 to FC Thun.

MEXICO

Apart from Club Tijuana’s plethora of American players, another US star is making a name for himself in Liga MX. Former US U-20 international Alonso Hernandez helped Monterrey beat Puebla 1-0 on Tuesday, as the 19-year-old set up the goal with a dazzling run.

Keep an eye on this guy.

On Saturday Tigres UANL beat Cruz Azul 1-0, with US midfielder Jose Torres playing the entire game in what was a fiery contest between the Liga MX rivals. Tigres played most of the second half with 10 men but Torres’ side held on for the three points, with the midfielder showing off his creative skills throughout.

Onto the Xolo’s, and Club Tijuana drew 2-2 with CD Guadalajara on Sunday, but the big story was regarding Edgar Castillo, who left the game with an injury late on. Other Americans Paul Arriola and Greg Garza came on as subs for the Northern Mexican side, while surprisingly USMNT midfielder Joe Corona was once again an unused sub.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Puebla’s US duo DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco Fiscal both played in a 1-1 tie with Toluca. And Puebla looked like snatching all three points until the last minute when Toluca’s ‘keeper scored from the penalty spot, you read that right, to equalize late on.

England’s relegation battle: What changed on Saturday

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Barring two highly improbable runs (and help from almost everybody around them), Reading and Queens Park Rangers are going to be relegated. Each sit on 23 points, eight points adrift with just over a month left in the Premier League season. If they recover, the story will be their miraculous turnarounds, not our assumptions it won’t happen.

That leaves six teams trying to avoid the last relegation spot: Norwich City, Stoke City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Wigan.

Aston Villa came into the day in 18th, but after two late goals at the Britannia, the relegation battle’s in flux. And with the continued disappointing results of Stoke and Norwich, the picture’s becoming even more cluttered.

Here’s where the teams stand after Saturday’s results.

(MORE: Rosicky revitalized with brace at West Brom)

Relegation battle – England

Pos. Club GP Pts.
13 Norwich City 32 35
14 Stoke City 32 34
15 Newcastle United 31 33
16 Aston Villa 32 33
17 Sunderland 31 31
18 Wigan Athletic 30 30
  • Aston Villa increase pressure on Wigan, Sunderland

Of course it’s three huge points. When you start the day in 18th, any points are, and with Saturday’s 3-1 win at Stoke City, Aston Villa have climbed all the way to 16th, a status that could be temporary.

Thanks to that result, Wigan now need a Sunday win at QPR to return to safety. Sunderland need to spring an upset at Stamford Bridge to guarantee they’ll stay above the drop.

Wigan do have a game in hand, but even if Roberto Martínez’s men are able to climb on Sunday, Villa’s win should sound an alarm. Having floundered for most of the season, Aston Villa now seem capable of getting a few surprise results. While Stoke’s quality is in question, Paul Lambert’s side showed an admirable resiliency in finding two late raod goals.

The team that joins Reading and QPR in the Championship will be the one that flounders most. If Villa prove as resilient over these next six weeks, somebody else will volunteer to go down.

Right now that looks like Sunderland. It could be Wigan. Maybe Stoke will supplant them both. But based on what we say on Saturday, it probably won’t be Villa.

  • Reading, Southampton’s fates sealed

source: Getty ImagesWhat a bitter day for Nigel Adkins. The new coach at Reading saw Mauricio Pochettino guide his former club to their third straight win and 11th place. That spot in the table makes it highly unlikely every team between them and 18th will out-play them over the season’s last six rounds.

Most galling to Adkins will be the ease with which Saints got their win. In a must win game at home, Reading offered little. Adam Le Fondre had a chance to put them up early, after which Southampton controlled the game, with basic passing around an ineffectual midfield maintaining their hold on the match.

Reading are last place with 23 points through 32 rounds. Seven points back of Wigan, they’d need an unprecedented comeback to survive. Unfortunately, they showed no sign they’re capable of turning things around.

  • Stoke City, Norwich City making things too interesting

source: Getty ImagesNorwich City may be five points clear, but after today’s 2-2 draw at home with Swansea City, the Canaries have two major problems. First and most important, they’re not getting results, winless in five while being out-scored 8-3. Second, their goal difference is terrible. At -19, they’re unlikely to win a tiebreaker against anybody but Aston Villa. Their only saving grace right now is their run-in, a schedule that features visits from Reading, Villa, and West Brom.

Stoke’s in a similar situation. Although they don’t have Norwich’s goal difference issue, they’re only four points clear after a season where relegation was a blur in the rearview. They’re winless in six and have only one league win since December. They’ve been hel scoreless three times in their last five matches and have scored a league-low 28 goals.

Both Stoke and Norwich have played so poorly that their previously comatose relegation worries have been awakened and emboldened. Having allowed themselves to be pulled into this fight, there now needs to be a sense of urgency, the type of intensity we’ve seen from Southampton, Aston Villa, and Wigan.

Stoke doesn’t have that. Neither does Norwich. Their only saving grace may be Sunderland, an even more inept squad that sits lower in the table.

But all it takes is one Black Cats result to pull Stoke in. And the Canaries would be right there, too. Neither side can afford to take anything for granted.

Premier League roundup: Chelsea’s Dr. Jekyll, Reading’s big comeback

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There’s no explaining this Chelsea team. The ups and downs are too extreme, too often. In the last month, they’ve lost to Corinthians, Queens Park Rangers, and Swansea (the last two at home) while beating Aston Villa and Southampton by a combined 13-1.

Today was more of the latter, though they got some help. Two own goals from Jon Walters staked the Blues to a 2-0 lead. Sprinkle in insurance  via Frank Lampard (from the spot) and Eden Hazard and Chelsea was back in the win column. Combined with Spurs’ draw at Loftus Road, the 4-0 result vaulted the Blues back into third place.

The scoreline was deceiving, though. Chelsea weren’t that good. Through most of the first half they looked the better team in talent but not in execution. The match was playing out as a game Stoke could steal via defensive mistake or a set piece.

But fortune went the other way, starting in first half stoppage time. Walters headed a cross into his own net to send Chelsea into halftime up 1-0. A second own goal in the 63rd minute and Lampard’s 194th goal for Chelsea (second on the club’s all-time list) two minutes later eliminated all doubt. Hazard’s tally was pure icing.

It’s the type of result that will obscure the fact Chelsea are still performing nowhere near their capabilities. People will see the lopsided score and make positive inferences, but it’s unclear this team is making progress. They may be within four points of second place Manchester City, but Chelsea are still more third/fourth place battlers than title contenders.

Which, incidentally, is right where most predicted them to land at the beginning of the season.

Mid-week, I rolled out the trite Dr. Jerkll and Mr. Hide analog (though I used it incorrectly). It’s cliché, but it’s an apt shorthand for Chelsea’s schizophrenia behavior, especially if you’re trying to avoid too many mental illness metaphors.

You really can’t predict which Chelsea team is going to show up. Today, the good one got three points at the Britannia.

source: Getty ImagesEight minutes, three goals, three points for Reading

When QPR drew this morning, we talked about the importance of going for three at home, especially if you’re fighting relegation. One point is nice, but at this juncture of the season, holding serve is not enough.

Through 80 minutes on Saturday, Reading weren’t even in frame for a draw. Nineteenth and 69th minute goals from Romelu Lukaku gave West Brom a 2-0 lead at the Madejski Stadium. The Baggies were on their way to snapping a two-match losing streak.

Then came the onslaught. Jimmy Kebe broke through in the 82nd minute, with mid-week hero Adam Le Fondre equalizing from the spot two minutes later. Not content with the lesser comeback, Reading got a winner from Pavel Progrebnyak in stoppage time to claim their third win in 22 games.

With neither Aston Villa nor Wigan winning, the three points loom particularly large. Not only did the Royals vault out of the basement, they’re now within three  of both the Villans and Latics. Plus, Brian McDermott’s team holds the goal difference advantage on each.

The comeback underscores the importance of full points. QPR walked off the pitch at Loftus Road feeling good about their 0-0 with Tottenham, but after the result at Reading, Rangers are worse off than they were before the day’s opening whistle.

Elsewhere in England

Aston Villa 0-1 Southampton – Ricky Lambert’s first half penalty conversion holds up to move Saints into 15th place. Villa drops into the relegation zone. Make a list of the potential reasons you should replace a coach mid-stream then ask yourself whether Villa should move on from Paul Lambert. Given their recent managerial history, is easier said than done, but it’s hard to see how, based on what he’s done at Villa, Lambert’s the man to keep them up.

Everton 0-0 Swansea – Swansea hasn’t lost since a 1-0 at White Hart Lane on Dec. 16. In that respect, this is an understandable result for Everton, though for a team chasing a Champions League spot, this looks like points dropped.

Fulham 1-1 Wigan Athletic – A 71st minute Franco Di Santo goal gets the Latics a valuable road point, temporarily pulling them out of the drop. Fulham started all of Dimitar Berbatov, Mladen Petric and Bryan Ruiz but were unable to snare a crucial second goal before Martin Jol started changing things just after the hour.

Norwich City 0-0 Newcastle – Everything I said about Paul Lambert, above? Apply them to Alan Pardew. Newcastle snaps a three-match losing streak (in league) but are only two points above the drop.

Sunderland 3-0 West Ham United – It’s the kind of result that makes you wonder if West Ham’s hat a wall. You can point to the absence of midfielder Mohamed Diamé, but it takes more than one man’s absence to explain conceding three times to Sunderland. Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson, and James McClean scored for a Black Cats side who’ve taken nine points from their last five games.