Americans Abroad: Weekend Rewind

Jose Francisco Torres 1 (AP) 

by GIANFRANCO PANIZO

With only a handful of Americans participating in this weekend's soccer festivities, most fans might assume it was a relatively quiet weekend. It wasn't. The number of players may seem miniscule but there was plenty to talk about when the weekend came to a close.

It was more of the same in England. Tim Howard picked up three points and his eighth shut-out of the season for Everton while Brad Friedel's Aston Villa topped West Bromwich. The Villans are now dead even with Manchester United at 41 points and are just five back of league leaders Liverpool.

Clint Dempsey and Fulham had their game against Blackburn postponed due to a frozen pitch caused by frigid temperatures that would've probably been better suited for penguins and polar bears than a soccer game.

Yet the biggest news of the weekend came right from the United States.

Jose Francisco Torres (pictured) and Pachuca took on Atlas in one of two InterLiga finals held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. on Sunday night and a berth in the Copa Libertadores was on the line. The Mexican-American, who was being watched closely by Bob Bradley and the U.S. coaching staff from a press box, enjoyed a solid performance showing off his offensive creativity as well as his composure on the ball.

The game was an emotional roller-coaster ride and Pachuca led 3-0 at half-time thanks in part to some creative passing by Torres. Atlas was a man down but refused to give up and somehow managed to equalize before the end of regulation. The game went to penalty kicks and took 13 rounds before Pachuca came out victorious. Torres, who recently played in the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, converted his spot kick.

Here's how the Americans Abroad did this weekend:

England

PREMIER LEAGUE

  • Tim Howard started and played 90 minutes in Everton's 2-0 win vs. Hull City on Saturday.

  • Brad Friedel started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Aston Villa's 2-1 win vs. West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

  • Brad Guzan dressed but did not play in Aston Villa's 2-1 win vs. West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

  • Clint Dempsey and Fulham's game vs. Portsmouth on Saturday was postponed due to the weather.

  • Jonathan Spector did not dress in West Ham's 2-2 draw vs. Newcastle United on Saturday.

COCA COLA CHAMPIONSHIP

  • Frank Simek did not dress in Sheffield Wednesday's 1-1 draw vs. Ipswich Town on Saturday. He is recovering from a hamstring injury.
  • Jay DeMerit started and played 90 minutes in Watford's 4-0 loss vs. Reading on Friday.
  • Eddie Johnson and Cardiff City did not play this week.
  • Marcus Hahnemann did not dress in Reading's 4-0 win vs. Watford on Friday. He is recovering from a calf injury.
  • Bobby Convey did not dress in Reading's 4-0 win vs. Watford on Friday.

Scotland

  • DaMarcus Beasley and Rangers did not play this week.

  • Maurice Edu and Rangers did not play this week.

Germany

Bundesliga 1 and Bundesliga 2 are both on winter break.

Spain

  • Jozy Altidore did not dress in Villarreal's 3-3 draw vs. Valencia on Saturday.

Italy

  • Danny Szetela and Brescia did not play this week.

France

LIGUE 1

  • Carlos Bocanegra started and played 90 minutes in Rennes' 1-0 win vs. Grenoble on Saturday.

  • Freddy Adu did not dress in AS Monaco's 2-1 loss vs. Nantes on Saturday.

LIGUE 2

  • Quentin Westberg and Troyes did not play this week.

Belgium

The Jupiler Pro League is on winter break.

Denmark

The Danish First Division is on winter break until March.

Austria

The Austrian Bundesliga is on winter break.

Mexico

  • Jose Francisco Torres started and played 90 minutes in Pachuca's 3-3 draw vs. Atlas on Sunday in the InterLiga. Torres also scored his penalty kick in Pachuca's penalty shoot-out vs. Atlas. Pachuca won the shoot-out 10-9.

American-born Players Playing for Other Countries

  • Giuseppe Rossi (Italy) started, played 90 minutes and scored a GOAL in Villarreal's 3-3 draw vs. Valencia on Saturday.

  • Brede Hangeland (Norway) and Fulham's game vs. Portsmouth on Saturday was postponed due to the weather.

  • Boaz Myhill (Wales) started and played 90 minutes in Hull City's 2-0 loss vs. Everton on Saturday.  

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What do you think of these performances? Still waiting for all the European leagues to get back in full throttle? Are you secretly wishing for Brad Friedel to come out of international retirement to provide more depth at the GK spot for USA? Think Torres' resume is getting more impressive as the weeks go by? Happy/Bitter to see Rossi hit the equalizer against Valencia?

Share your thoughts below.

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42 Responses to Americans Abroad: Weekend Rewind

  1. john godfrey says:

    Dempsey didn’t play this weekend, but he did get some good news: link to fulhamfc.com

  2. Liam says:

    Rangers did have a game it was just called off due to weather

  3. Leevi says:

    Coming from Finland, reading these kinds of reports kind of gives me some comfort.

    Finland generally sucks in football as we are more of ice hockey people. We have never qualified for any major tournament (Euros/Worlds). But seeing where the Americans are playing, or should I say not playing, tells me that success of US in international competition has a lot to do with the fact that they qualify against Guatemala and Belize. Marginals are quite small in football and sometimes teams with high spirits and good tactics can do wonders in the final tournament (see Denmark ’92 and Greece ’04).

    I’m not trying to bash American soccer by any means, but just trying to say that with consistency and some amount of luck, Finland could be there with the big boys. If we look at the positions where Finnish players are now compared to their Americans counterparts in Europe, they are quite similar. Couple of guys starting for good teams, some on the bench. Some playing for lesser teams and some even on lower levels (Championship, 2, Bundesliga). And of course couple of hot prospects in academies.

    We’ve been so close so many times, maybe we will make it soon. Last time all we had to do was win Portugal in the final fixture, but it ended in bitter 0-0.

    This was a bit off-topic, sorry.

  4. Adam says:

    I would say that the MLS is a better league than the Finnish league, while having Yanks Abroad is important to our success, having an ‘OK’ league for Americans to develop in before they leave is crucial!

  5. arkjayback says:

    Torres is steadily climbing the depth chart in the US midfield. Kljestan is great on the ball, but Torres is the most technically skilled true midfielder the US has. Couple that with his good defense, and he is the perfect player to pair up with Bradley, Edu, or Mastroeni.

    Not to mention the experience he is getting or has gotten in the Mexican league, Club World Cup, Interliga, and now the Copa Libertadores, he’ll be one of the most tested US players by the next World Cup.

  6. jddjsjsjdd says:

    Leevi, good discussion but MLS is way better than the Finnish league. Practically the Austrian/Georgian league is better than Finland. I’d say MLS is at the equivalent of the Scandinavian leagues. We’re 3rd tier European league but in a decade we could be a 2nd tier European league like say Portuguese/Turkish.

    Our players leave us for Scandinavia not because they are excellent players but because they pay marginally better and they hold hopes of advancing to bigger clubs. Might be easier to head to Holland/France to further their technique and be in the heart of Europe

  7. The Athority says:

    Leevi,

    All valid points that you have. But we didn’t “choose” what part of the world we are in and who we play to qualify for the World Cup.

    Play the hand you are dealt and quit whining.

    It’s not like you haven’t known the standard you were up against for the last 75 years. Germany, England, etc. have been world powerhouse’s forever. And it’s a lot easier for players from your country to get into the top European league’s than our’s.

  8. nate says:

    Adam – I’m not saying the Finnish league is better than MLS, but seriously, how many Finnish league matches have you seen?

  9. 2+2 says:

    The only Finnish players of note are Jussi the Legend of a GK at Bolton, Sami Hyppia who is a true Kop Legend for Liverpool and Jari Litamen who was an Ajax superstar. Even though it’s been more difficult for Americans, in the past decade we have had legends like Claudio Reyna for Rangers, Friedel for Blackburn, McBride for Fulham. Even Tim Howard had a fantastic debut season for Manchester United.

    And our younger players like Bradley, Altidore, Edu, Szetela, Adu stand to better their talent and become well known stars. Can you say the same for Finnish players?

  10. jddjsjsjdd says:

    I’m curious to how big Danny Califf is in Denmark? How big was Heath Pearce when he played there?

    I have a feeling Denmark is becoming a huge feeder system for the larger leagues. Seems like everyday a Dane or a player in the Danish league is heading to a Liverpool or a Roma.

    That’s how we need to emulate for MLS. Raise the best players and let them get the recognition they deserve and sell them off for some middle to high talent clubs.

  11. AJ says:

    I’m firmly in the keep Jozy in Spain camp, but could Villarreal please loan him out if he’s not playing?

  12. Cam says:

    The more of Torres I see the more impressed I am with his abilities. I can see him filling the void at central midfield that has been there since the US has been missing John O’Brien (World Cup 2002 version of O’Brien) It’s looking like Benny Feilhaber’s time may have come and gone.

  13. Chase says:

    Why would the performance of US internationals abroad give you comfort for the future of the Finnish national team? What kind of spurious connection are you getting at?

    Your league is ranked 30th in UEFA coefficient ratings (behind such powerhouse leagues as the Cypriot First Division and the Slovenian PrvaLiga Telekom Slovenije). I know MLS isn’t a top tier league, but I have to believe that it is better than a league this low on the UEFA pecking order. Oh course our countries population is 60 times larger than yours, so it should be better and more competitive.

    Additionally, Finland’s NT is really old. You still rely on a 37 year old Jari Litamen and Big Sami Hyypia (I love what he has done for my club, but he is 35). You have some good players in Pasanen, Tainio, and Forssell, but its not like they are any better than the Americans we have in similar positions.

    I guess I really don’t understand what you were getting at in your post? Good luck with WC qualifying, you are going to need it with Germany and Russia (though you also have Azerbaijan and mighty Liechtenstein to contend with-no different than Guatemala or Belize).

  14. HIncha Tim says:

    Leevi,

    I’ll bet Guatemala and Belize would be the Faroe Islands and Gibaltar any day of the week. UEFA’s bottom feeders are no better than CONCACAF’s.

  15. Jason says:

    Bradley has always stressed regulary playing time is necessary for players playing abroad to get serious consideration. With the amount of time Torres has gotten with Pachuca and the quality he has shown, we will see if Bradley practices what he preaches come time for the February Mexico camp.

  16. CesarMilan-ThatGuy says:

    Finland is ranked 30? I believe the Scandinavian leages are all ranked 15, 16 and 19. Jeez Finland is like 8th tier European club. Probably Vietnam has a better league.

    Finland could never qualify for a WC or Euro. Well since they increased the number of teams to 24, Finland might have a slight chance.

    If the USA played in UEFA, i have a feeling we’d be playing like a team like Switzerland/Poland. Whereas we could qualify for any tournament but it would be a hard and difficult task to get out of the groupstage.

  17. dope says:

    “Finland generally sucks”

    You should have stopped there.

  18. WorldCupHereWeCome says:

    For midfield, we have in consideration for the World Cup :

    Bradley,Edu,Torres,Adu,Kljestan,Szetela,Holden,Beasley,Dempsey,Feilhaber.

    We only need 8 on our roster for the WC. Who do you select? For me, i have

    Bradley, Torres, Dempsey, Adu, Kljestan, Szetela, Beasley, Edu.

    Feilhaber has fallen out of the pecking oder and Holden is talented but i doubt he will get a serious look out til he leaves MLS and i don’t see him doing that til after the World Cup.

  19. KingGustav says:

    Gooch is supposedly heading to PSG/Marseille come the end of the season for him at Standard Liege. Here’s hoping he can win another league or lead his team to the QF of the UEFA Cup.

    Charlie Davies is heading to a bigger club sometime this year. If he can keep his goal scoring for Hammarby, he will be heading to a German/French club.

    Sasha Kljestan’s future seems to be anywhere and everywhere. Holland, Russia, Germany, France, he could play for any mid-level team.

  20. jddjsjsjdd says:

    It’s really funny how a Finn would laugh at the state of football in the USA or our talented players. Perhaps out of smaller football nations like Denmark or Sweden have more top players at top clubs, but we hold our own. We may have 300 million people but football is not considered a high enough sport for a profession and i doubt many care about football in Europe. I still think we have accomplished talented legends like Friedel or McBride and this what at a time when it was still quite difficult for them to find a job, not to mention a starting spot in a club.

  21. beckster says:

    Ives, can you confirm whether Bobby Boswell is in Turkey playing? If so, guess we’ll have to add Turkey to the report!

  22. RK says:

    Finland, being part of the EU, has a distinct advantage over Americans when trying to play in Europe.

  23. BrianK says:

    Leevi,

    I for one am not offended by your comments because I have been somewhat dismayed with the number of “did not dress” results appearing in the recent Americans Abroad reports. I have been calling for MLS to repatriat many of these players. It would accomplish two things:

    1. Get these guys first team PT.

    2. Improve the level of play in MLS.

    But in regards to your comments about the USMNT and Finland’s national team,…I submit a couple of comments:

    1. You would be hard pressed to find a soccer federation that has come as far in the last 20 year as the USSF. Baring a debacle in 2009, the US will qualify for its 6th straight WC and is now the team to beat in CONCACAF. Please remeber, 20 years ago the US was an absolute world soccer doormat. I submit that the only team exceed the USSF’s overall development is Croatia.

    2. While the USMNT pool of players lacks truly world class talent (with the exception of our GKs – Friedel, Keller and Howard) the pool is fairly deep in terms of ‘solid’ professionals and probaly much deeper than that of Finland. Ultimately, the USMNT is going to produce some players of fairly high quality given the number of kids playing the game in the USA.

    3. In the last 20 years, the USMNT has always been greater than the sum of the parts. This is something I have always been particularly proud of. The team simply plays a level above its talent. I hope this continues to be the case in the future.

    4. The USA dominance in CONCACAF will ultimately breed success outside of the region. As we continue to distance ourselves from Mexico and the kids coming through the ranks become accustomed to dominating CONCACAF and gaining more confidence in themselves against top shelf opponents the USA will move to another level. [BTW - The USA is capable of regularly scheduling top flight opponents (Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England) for friendlies, which assists with development in the long run. Can Finland say the same?]

    So, I suppose what I am saying Leevi, is Finalnd is nothing like the USA. The USMNT is poised to become a very capable team at the world level and has all the opportunities to do so. Finland does not. Is FInland going to have the opportunity to play Italy (!), Brazil (!) and Egypt (Afrian Champions) this summer. The answer is no. The US will and regardless of the results will be better off for it. Same goes for WC experience(s). The US is getting it every four years. Finland has not and I submit will not since they will not be able to qualify. The best Finland can do is the watered down Euro Championships, where even a team like Greece can win.

    So,…if I had to choose between Finland and the USA for a team that would advance its standing in world football in the next ten years,…it would be the USA.

  24. TomM says:

    The Fins are coming, the Fins are coming!

    Seriously, does anyone truly care about this discussion?

  25. The Athority says:

    Tom,

    No, so let’s move in a different direction.

    Bobby Convey. He’s totally flailing at Reading right now, usually not even dressing in the League Championship.

    A few year’s ago when Reading got promoted and had the most points ever in the Championship, Convey was a mainstay in every match.

    1st year in Premirship he looked pretty good, but then hurt his knee and missed a lot of time. In my opinion, he has never fully recovered and has lost a full step. He was never a speedster to begin with. What a shame at such a young age.

    What is his next move? Back to MLS? I don’t think anyone would give him DP money here. And if he came for less, it might be a big pay-cut.

    What are everyone’s thought’s about Convey?

  26. BrianK says:

    Convey should double time it back to MLS. Pronto. $200K per year SHOULD get it done,..although he would never accept that.

  27. Steve says:

    I submit that I think everyone took too much offense to dude’s comment. I think all he was saying is he is frustrated that very few Fins are earning PT on good Euro teams, and he just learned that it is similar for us. And all things being equal, I have to agree about competition level. In WCQ’s the only team I expect to have a chance to beat us (granted weird things can happen) is Mexico. No one else frightens me, I expect to win. Pretty much expect to beat Mexico too. Germany I’d expect to lose, England I’d expect to lose, Spain I’d expect to lose, France, Portugal and the Netherlands… The conclusion is what we all know, we have come a long way and we should be proud, but we are not yet a world power

  28. Steve says:

    Bring Convey home, send Chad Barrett to Finland so he can learn to “Finish”

  29. Frank says:

    BrianK,
    I would not call the US the team to beat in the CONCACAF. I bet you many teams outside of CONCACAF would rather play against them than either Mexico or Honduras.

  30. The Athority says:

    Steve,

    Very funny actually.

    BrianK,

    No one likes pay cuts, especially you or me. What is realistic for Convey at this point?

    He was on the 2006 WC team and got valuable minutes. At this point he has fallen off the radar and is no factor in 2010.

  31. NATO says:

    Wasn’t Convey suppose to head to Scandinavia sometime this month? If not i have a feeling he will be gone at the end of the season if his play is not upped. He should head to MLS once Philadelphia arrives in 2010. I can see him leaving Reading or any new club come January 2010. Not as a DP but surely worth $300,000 or more.

  32. BuffyWasAlmostAVampireSlayer says:

    The USA is not a world power, but who would think that? We’re a regional power, yet still underappreciated and underestimated. We can manhandle any team in CONCACAF outside of Mexico/Costa Rica. Just as the same as Japan can manhandle any team in Asis outside of Iran/South Korea/Australia.

    Our standings are quite relative. England can beat any team in UEFA outside of Croatia, Holland, Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Russia, Portugal, Italy. But still England is thought of as a quite decent European power.

    The US will only get better, but Finland is in no position to judge our playing abilities.

  33. jddjsjsjdd says:

    BrianK, has made an excellent point.

    Look how far we’ve come in the past 2 decades. We went from laughing stock to an emerging regional power. We’re like the football equivalent of South Korea’s economic emergence.

    Jozy Altidore has the potential to become 1 of Europe’s best strikers within the next 5 years. But probably once that occurs, people will still underestimate us, but we will show them on the pitch.

  34. ISAF says:

    EJ finally scored for Cardiff. But it was in a reserve game against Plymouth.

    If EJ can just up his confidence and ease his skill, he might actually start scoring a few goals. If not he should pack his bags for a Scandinavian club. Surely he could play for some club there.

  35. beckster says:

    Here is deal with Convey: If Stephen Hunt goes to the EPL this month, Convey gets his place back in all likelihood. If not, Reading will want to sell him because he is out of contract this summer and they are going to want get something for him. Apparently clubs in Scandanavia and the Dutch top league are watching him – as probably are some lower level Championship teams. His agent is apparently talking to MLS but I can’t see him getting the money here that he can get abroad. His physical abilities seem back to normal but his head is not in the right place in front of the goal. He needs playing time and confidence.

  36. Scott says:

    Glad to see Torres get some recognition. From what I have seen, he’s a skillful player, playing in good league. Soon he’ll be playing against the best of South America in the Copa Libertadores. Also glad to hear Bob was there watching. If he brings him in, I think he’ll add some more skill and ball composure to our midfield, an area where I think we’ve been a little weak on since the Reyna/O’brien days…

  37. Leevi says:

    Okay!

    Everybody seemed to be offended by my comments considering Finland. I was not saying that Finland is as good as USA in football. What do you expect from a country of five million and a real winter?

    USA has much bigger player pool and a better league, but players playing in Europe are pretty much in similar position. Average football fan in Europe is hard pressed to name one American player. You have a couple of solid goalkeepers but no stars. Not one. Altidore got a little buzz and Adu is slowly fading from memory after the initial hype.

    What I maybe intended to say, that when you are watching World Cup and you see teams like Iran, South Korea, Australia and yes, USA, you feel a bit bitter because their qualifying was no doubt easier. As someone mentioned, on the way to South Africa we have half of the semi-finalists of EURO ’08 in the same group. We managed a 3-3 with Germany, but were beaten by Russia.

    Someone made a point that Faroe Islands and Azerbaijan aren’t exactly big timers. That’s true, but there are always couple of good European teams in our group. Basically we need to eliminate at least one world class team to qualify. USA on the other hand has to make sure they don’t slip against Haiti and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and they are pretty much there. Mexico might be bad, but it doesn’t matter cause there’s room for both and for some football midget.

    Regarding the age of Finnish national team, the comment was correct that it’s getting old. But luckily we qualified for Euro U-21 Championship next summer. So there is some kind of future. Unfortunately our group is pretty, should I say, difficult: Spain, Germany and England. We’ll see…

  38. NOLA soccer fan says:

    How come Donovan didnt make the Americans Abroad section…i mean the guy did play for Bayern right?

  39. jddjsjsjdd says:

    True, but you can’t pick who you play against. Are the Swiss complaining that they have to play against Finland or Sweden or Russia in ice hockey when they would rather play the USA as a chance to advance? Too bad. Play the hand you are dealt.

    Some nations are champions in certain sports. Finland has champs mostly in skiing/ice hockey. The USA has champions in many sports and its only a matter of time, maybe a decade before we have football superstars.

  40. YankStuckInSweden says:

    Leevi, Finnish players in Europe are the same as Yanks?

    You have it alot easier to play in England or Spain. Now if your players are not playing there, maybe its a question of skill and desire. Our GKs are world class. Brad Friedel is a legend all over England. Tim Howard and Kasey Keller are also remarkable in their skill but i imagine are underestimated by many Europeans.

    We have bright young talent like Altidore (he’s going places), Bradley (he owned 2007-08 in Dutch football), Adu (may not be a superstar, but still has the potential, Davies (practically a star in Sweden after 1 season). Who do you Finns have at the moment that is tearing up Europe?

    Your league can not even compare to the Danish or Swedish league. Now your national team was very close to qualifying for Euro2008. Just like Norway, so close but you failed at the last moment.

    The USA is a power in our region just like Mexico/Costa Rica. You are right in that it’s tons less likely for us to fell on the road to the World Cup like say for the Netherlands or France but doesnt make it any more worthy. You in Europe have more competition which should better the skill of your best players.

  41. Scott A says:

    I agree with Steve that some people got too offended by Leevi’s comments. I thought they were friendly comments with good points from a Finnish perspective. The fact is, if the US had to qualify for the World Cup in Europe it would have a much harder time. It’s not taking anything away from our success and he wasn’t whining, it’s just a fact. And for those mentioning all of our up-and-coming stars like Adu, Klejstan and Guzan, come on. I’m sure Finland has players sitting on the bench for mid-level clubs or with interest from mid-level clubs too…we just don’t know about them. And sure, the US probably does have more room for growth. Good luck to both programs

  42. dieterhansi says:

    Leevi, master of distraction! Look at what you’ve begun, before you know it ives’ll be putting out polls handicapping Finland’s chances vs. the US.

    Seriously though, your comments are clearly balanced and you make an interesting point about how the world works in strange ways…I mean Denmark ’92, they weren’t even supposed to be in the tournament at all if I recall, right (it was only after Yugoslavia got kicked out for making war that Denmark got in).