Five American footballers who made it big in Europe
The United States of America isn’t what you can consider a powerhouse in men’s football but that hasn’t stopped them from producing some top-class footballers over the years. Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Claudio Reyna, Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller are just a few names that have done the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) proud in recent years. However, here we look at five of their best talents that made Europe take notice of their ability.
The USMNT‘s joint all-time leading scorer with 57 goals and their fourth-most capped (140) player, Clint Dempsey will go down as one of the best talents to have emerged from his nation. After getting noticed by European scouts courtesy his performances for New England Revolution, Dempsey moved to England and represented Fulham before signing for Tottenham Hotspur.
During his time with Fulham, Dempsey became the club’s go-to man and was their biggest threat, scoring regularly in the league. His sole season with Spurs saw him find the back of the net seven times. Dempsey also holds the distinction of being the first American to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. On the international stage, he’s won CONCACAF Gold Cups, scored in all three FIFA World Cups that he was a part of and was also a runner-up in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A record holder for most saves (16) in a FIFA World Cup match, Tim Howard began his career with North Jersey Imperials before joining MetroStars. After impressing scouts, Howard moved to European heavyweights Manchester United in 2003 but found it difficult to break into the first team. His lack of game time with the Red Devils prompted him to move to Everton, where he enjoyed a fruitful 10-year spell.
During his time with Everton, Howard finished as runner-up in the FA Cup final – a tournament he had earlier won with Manchester United in 2003. Howard also won the League Cup in 2006 with United and on the international front, won two CONCACAF Gold Cups besides finishing as runner-up in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.
The undisputed talisman of the USMNT at present, 21-year-old Christian Pulisic seems to be just getting started after finding some consistency in his game ever since his move to Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund. Pulisic joined Dortmund’s youth set-up as a 16-year-old in 2015 and made his debut for the club in January 2016.
He won the 2017 DFB-Pokal with Dortmund but signed for Chelsea in the January transfer window last year despite only moving to the club in the subsequent summer. His first season at Chelsea has seen him set the league ablaze and he even scored a perfect hat-trick during a win over Burnley last season. He finished with 11 goals as well as 10 assists across all competitions last season and if he continues the upcoming campaign in a similar vein of form, expect him to better his numbers in the 2020-21 season.
Before Dempsey had become a hero at Craven Cottage for Fulham, another player from across the Atlantic was a fan-favourite. American striker Brian McBride came with more European experience than Dempsey though having moved to VfL Wolfsburg for a brief stint following his debut for Milwaukee Rampage.
He had also played for English outfits Preston North End and Everton before joining Fulham, but it was at the London club where McBride truly found his footing in English football. With the west Londoners, McBride scored 36 goals and provided nine assists in the Premier League. His most successful international tournament was the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which he helped America win after finishing the competition as the Golden Shoe winner and the Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Giovanni Reyna is a highly rated youngster and was a part of The Guardian's 'Next Generation 2019'. Still just 17 years of age, he is the son of former US players Claudio Reyna and Danielle Egan. Named after his father’s former Rangers teammate Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the promising youngster has followed in Pulisic’s footsteps in signing for Borussia Dortmund.
After making his debut for Dortmund in January, he broke Pulisic’s record to become the youngest American to appear in a Bundesliga game, at 17 years and 66 days of age. He’s also the youngest American to play and register an assist in the UEFA Champions League after coming off the bench and setting up Erling Haaland to score a winner in the first leg of their round-of-16 match against Paris Saint-Germain. Reyna looks primed to enjoy a bright future with Dortmund and his first-ever professional goal came in a 2–3 defeat to Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal last season.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Paul Childs