Funny isn’t it; football speculation. Score in back to back games, a few influential commentators start eavesdropping on old stats, new attributes are uncovered and more chins start wagging. This has been the recent fate of Fulham’s Clint Dempsey but in spite of the Texan’s recent form, he has steadily been doing this for years down by the river at the Cottage. It is only now, that more people are recognising the true qualities the United States International brings to the table. Naturally, managers catch wind and the West London club are likely to receive a few official approaches in the summer but there was no such gamble in January or in seasons past; if the signing of Dempsey were to be a gamble anyway.
If you trace your eyes through the rosters of football teams worldwide, you are hard pressed to find American’s cutting it at the top end of the respective divisions. American goalkeepers have seemingly embraced the so-called ‘bigger clubs’ more greatly than the outfield with Brad Friedel currently being employed at Tottenham and Tim Howard having a four year spell at Manchester United. However, national team hero Landon Donovan has opted to remain at LA Galaxy with a few fleeting appearances on loan at Everton and a big club in Bayern Munich who eventually declined extending his loan after the striker failed to register in six league games.
Moreover, the much-coveted pair of Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu; deemed the national team future, tried and failed to cut their teeth at bigger European clubs with spells at Villarreal and Benfica going horribly wrong and loan spells to places they would have never heard of such as Hull and Rizespor proving their dim reality. Adu even had a trial with Manchester United before the 2006 season but a failed work permit and a few issues again represented the door being slammed shut in the face once more of the Stars and Stripes young hopefuls.
So why are American talents being overlooked by top clubs? It is a tired old stereotype nowadays that the States don’t take an interest in soccer with the MLS forging a greater reputation year on year, the national team being managed by Jurgen Klinsmann and the team remaining in the top 30 ranked FIFA nations. With a talent pool of whopping proportions also given the country’s size, you would think the bigger sides would have tapped into more American talent.
Arsene Wenger may have been representative of a changing attitude in getting Brek Shea over on trial for Arsenal in January but there was still the overriding notion that this spell was simply to do with so-called experience and that alone. Of the few Statesiders we have seen at mid-table Premier League clubs we have recognised tremendous work rate, energy and patriotism to the cause as characteristic to their native roots. Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Brian McBride and DaMarcus Beasley have all been steady pros and have shone in their respective clubs but have failed to achieve any more than this in English football. Dempsey; the highest American scorer and highest Fulham goal scorer in any of their Premier League seasons might just be the first to earn a big move after recently striking his 16th goal of the season but bigger clubs have sometimes plumped for talent from the United States old international rival in Mexico with Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez infiltrating English football’s elite more quickly than their neighbours to the north.
Perhaps it is just a mere coincidence that Americans are readily adopted by middle-of-the-road clubs but the fact that any club has to go through the complicated application for a work permit for a United States player doesn’t explain their top-heavy presence away from the elite level. Of course stereotypes run deep and because no such American player has established himself thus far at a big club such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona, Milan or Madrid, this may have a big say in elite managers’ sub conscious decisions in still overlooking the pioneering prospect of grooming the next American superstar. Perhaps the few failed examples at bigger clubs in Howard, Altidore, Adu, Spector and Donovan have been powerful in harming the chances of future stars in the eyes of the modern talent scout.
Nevertheless, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United toured the States last summer and you’d imagine there must be more to these trips than simply expanding their respective brands worldwide. With scouting teams and systems growing season-on-season, then surely the next decade will mark the start of a golden generation for the United States and their presence of players at top clubs and not solely lower down the divisions or comfortably down home in the MLS.
Why do you think American footballers have failed to infiltrate the so-called elite clubs? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989