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Americans in Europe

Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones Star Over Weekend

Americans playing overseas did not set the soccer world alight this past weekend, but Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Will Packwood, and several others put on good displays. Brian Sciaretta reports.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 02, 2013
9:30 AM
FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW the progress of American players in Europe, this weekend was mostly one to forget. Few players were part of winning efforts and not many performances likely caught the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann.

In England, Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea both saw the field for Stoke City, but the club was drubbed by Everton. Jozy Altidore failed to log a single minute for a goal-hungry Sunderland club that is spiraling towards relegation. Even without Altidore, Sunderland gave Brad Guan and Aston Villa an easy shutout in a 0-0 draw where the American keeper only had to make one save.

In the Championship, Eric Lichaj and Nottingham Forest lost at home to Reading. Tim Ream conceded a penalty for Bolton in a 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough.

In Germany, Fabian Johnson only played the final few minutes in Hoffenheim’s wild 4-4 draw with Werder Bremen. Timmy Chandler and Nurnberg remained winless on the season after falling to Bayer Leverkusen 3-0.

Perhaps one of the better stories of the weekend, however, came in Hannover’s 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, as Steve Cherundolo played the final few minutes in the victory. It was his game action since May 18.

Elsewhere in Europe, Alejandro Bedoya earned the start for Nantes in a 1-0 loss to Guingamp and Michael Bradley did the same for Roma in a 1-1 draw against Atalanta. Bradley played particularly well in the second half but the game was mostly lackluster for a Roma team which has lost its spark after a red-hot start to the season.

It wasn’t all bad for Americans in Europe over the past few days, of course. Here are the performances that stood out the most.

5) Will Packwood

At the start of 2013, Will Packwood was one of the most promising young American players around, but a broken leg in January stalled his progress and jeopardized his future. Fortunately for the young Boston native, his comeback has gone exceptionally well. Now on loan at Bristol Rovers, he looks to be in good shape when he returns to Birmingham City in January.

On Saturday, he was strong for Rovers once again in a 3-0 win over AFC Wimbledon. Most notably, in the 14th minute he made a skillful and well-timed tackle on Michael Smith from behind in the box to prevent a point-blank scoring chance. One thing is for sure, Rovers are going to be sad to see Packwood return to Birmingham in January.

4) Tim Howard

Everton is playing fantastic soccer this season under manager Roberto Martinez, and Saturday’s 4-0 win over a woeful Stoke City side was yet another sign this team will contend for a top-five finish in the Premier League.

Howard didn’t stand out against Stoke because of the easy nature of the victory, but he did make some nice saves en route to another clean sheet. Howard is now tied for the Premier League lead with seven shutouts (and four in his last five games).

3) Nermin Crkic

Few Americans have played well in the Czech Liga, but winger Nermin Crkic is quietly doing a solid job in the country’s top flight. Currently with Znojmo (on loan from fellow Czech club Jablonec), his solid play has helped lift he club from the bottom of the standings to midtable.

On Saturday, Crkic scored the opening goal for Znojmo in an impressive 3-1 road win over third place Teplice. (His goal can be seen at the 0:22 mark of the video below). Unfortunately for Znojmo, his loan is now over as the winter break in the Czech Liga is now here.

The 21-year-old Crkic has an interesting background. Born in Bosnia, he and his family fled to Germany during the civil war soon after he was born. In 2000 he moved to the United States where he became an American citizen when he was 16. He attended high school in Kentwood, Mich., and graduated in 2011.

In 2012, he played with the Michigan Bucks of the PDL. He made a name for himself that year when he scored the game-winning goal— in extra time, no less—against the Chicago Fire in the U.S Open Cup. It would prove to be the biggest upset in that year's tournament. As a dual national with Bosnia, his international future could go either way. Perhaps if the U.S. had a full-time U-23 team, he could be given a look.

2) Danny Williams

It has been a rough start to the 2013-14 season for Danny Williams thanks to several injuries that have limited his playing time at Reading. His strong game on Friday, however, stands as a reminder that the German-born Williams is a very talented player when healthy.

In Reading’s 3-2 road win over Nottingham Forest, Williams was part of the build-up on Pavel Pogrebnyak’s opening goal (watch at 0:05 of the video). On Jordan Obita’s gamewinning goal in the 74th minute, Williams had a clever dummy as the ball was played to Obita (at 1:27 of the video). Williams is certainly worth keeping an eye on as the English Championship season progresses. He is likely to be a contributor for a Reading club that is a legitimate contender for promotion back to the Premier League.

1) Jermaine Jones

Jermaine Jones is a polarizing player among American fans. Some see his value as a player who brings defensive bite to the midfield. Others believe he turns the ball over too much and does not contribute enough in the attack.

There is no question, however, that Jones has more high-level experience than any other American player at the club level. He has been a consistent starter for a club that has finished high in the Bundesliga and has advanced out of the group stages in the Champions League.

On Saturday, Jones showed his quality in Schalke’s 3-0 win over Stuttgart. In the 79th minute, Jones hit an absolutely fantastic goal from outside the box to seal the victory. A confident Jones heading into the World Cup is great news for Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. national team.

What are your thoughts on the U.S. national team's Europe-based contingent? Tell us in the comments section below.

Brian Sciaretta is an ASN contributor. Find him on Twitter @briansciaretta.

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