There was plenty of domestic soccer action this past weekend, but ASN's Brian Sciaretta cast his gaze overseas and discovered that eight Americans in Europe delivered praiseworthy performances.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
April 07, 2014
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has done well to draw attention to itself, and its American stars, so far this season.
And some of the league's most prominent Americans delivered strong performances this past weekend: Clint Dempsey scored a hat trick for Seattle in its thrilling 4-4 draw with Portland, Michael Bradley scored his first goal on the year, and Maurice Edu found the back of the net for Philadelphia.
Having said all of that, some Americans playing in Europe also had a strong weekend. Here's a look at eight of the top performances.
No. 8: Patrick Hopkins
Even the most die-hard American soccer fans are unlikely to follow Sweden’s second division, the Superettan. IK Sirius, however, has had great year so far and is playing the Cinderella role in the Swedish Cup. Despite having just been promoted from the third division, the small club has defeated three teams from the Swedish first division and will play in the semifinal round of the domestic cup next month.
Offseason acquisition Patrick Hopkins, 26, is set to be a big part of the team this year and was instrumental in the club’s 1-0 win over powerful IFK Göteborg in the Cup. The tall central defender who graduated from Depaul University helped preserve the shutout in perhaps the biggest-ever win in the club’s 107 year history.
On Saturday, the Superettan season opened and Sirius rolled over Syrianska FC 5-1. Hopkins was the difference when he headed home a goal in the 35th minute to give Sirius a 2-0 lead (see video below). It is indeed good times these days for the tiny club based in the academic city of Uppsala.
No. 7: Fabian Johnson
On Sunday, Hoffenheim faced Hertha Berlin away at the Olympic Stadium and played to a 1-1 draw. Fabian Johnson put in another solid performance at right back. In addition to getting forward effectively, Johnson was solid defensively and helped to limit opportunities on his side.
Johnson has played twice as a right back for the United States (both times against Mexico) and it would hardly be surprising to see him tried there again during the three send-off games.
No. 6: Alejandro Bedoya
FC Nantes is a bit of a disaster right now. The club has been tumbling down the standings and, worse, was handed a crippling 18-month transfer ban by FIFA which will make it a struggle to stay in the top division.
On Sunday, Nantes lost 3-1 away to second-place Monaco, but Bedoya played well and scored the team’s only goal when he beat his defender on a header and sent the ball into the top right corner of the goal (at 1:35 of the video below).
Nantes will likely survive relegation this year but the 2014-15 campaign should be a real struggle due to the transfer ban. Despite what's going on around him, Bedoya is a crafty player and will no doubt try to use this goal to generate some momentum heading into World Cup camp next month.
No. 5: Tim Ream
The versatile Tim Ream has had a strong season for Bolton, playing anywhere across the backline or even in holding midfield. A favorite among fans and local media, he is widely regarded as one of Bolton's best players. On Saturday, Ream was outstanding again at left back in a 1-0 win over Huddersfield. Huddersfield had little success attacking down his side of his field and Ream lead his team in tackles. His smooth passing out of the back also helped the midfield press forward.
While he has not appeared with the U.S. national team since 2012, it would not be out of the question to see Ream called up for the World Cup camp in May because of his ability to play several positions.
No. 4: Bob Bradley
I have never named a coach to this list before but Stabaek’s success in the early season warrants the break with tradition. After being named head coach of Stabaek, former United States national team coach Bob Bradley has his squad off to a nice start, winning its first two games of the Tippeligaen season.
This is no small feat either. Stabaek is a very young team still trying to put its financial difficulties behind it. Avoiding relegation was the team’s initial goal coming into this season but perhaps the club can set its sights a little higher. Though it's very early, Stabaek is in first place and former Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens is starting and playing well.
No. 3: Tim Howard
Tim Howard turned 35 last month but he is showing no signs of aging. He is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and this was evident in Everton’s 3-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday. In particular the U.S. No. 1 made lovely lunging saves in the 40th and 86th minutes, punching shots over the bar to preserve the shutout.
Helping Everton to a win could not have come at a better time. With a five-game winning streak, the club is now just one point behind Arsenal for fourth place in the English Premier League and a spot in next year’s UEFA Champions League qualifying.
No. 2: Aron Johannsson
To say Sunday’s game between AZ Alkmaar and Roda was awkward for Aron Johannsson would be an understatement. In the first half the U.S. international was molested by Cape Verde international Guy Ramos and the incident was caught on tape (see below).
Despite the bizarre incident, Johannsson scored a goal for AZ Alkmaar in the 2-2 draw. It was his 17th league goal and 26th in all competitions this year but this one was more important than most since it was his first goal from the run of play since March 8th. The goal came on a counterattack in the 59th minute as Johannsson made a nice run into the box and finished with a classy header (watch below).
No. 1: Danny Williams
With just six games left in the season, Reading is pushing for a top six finish in the English Championship and a chance for promotion to the English Premier League.
If Reading does make the playoffs, Danny Williams's game-winning goal against Charlton will be one of the most important of the season. In the 73rd minute of the scoreless match, Williams made a move into the right side of the box and unleashed a well-placed shot to give Reading the only goal it would need in a 1-0 win.
With the number of Americans in the Premier League now dwindling and Sunderland likely to be relegated, Williams could become one of only a few Americans in the English top flight next season.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.