Americans Abroad Wrap
This weekend’s action by Americans playing abroad focused almost exclusively on matches in England as many of the world’s leagues are on their winter hiatus.
Still, there was plenty of action to talk about highlighted by the efforts of Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj and Tim Howard.
Here is how the Americans playing abroad fared this weekend.
Aston Villa V. Wigan
In a matchup of managers using systems unique for the English Premier League, Paul Lambert and Villa’s 5-3-2 was matched up against Roberto Martinez and Wigan’s 3-4-3.
Wigan no doubt saw the better of the play coming away with a dominant 3-0 win.
Brad Guzan again got the start in goal for Villa, but having given up 15 goals in the last three games, there will no doubt be some speculation about the possibility of Shay Given returning to the lineup.
To be fair to Guzan, there was little he could do about any of Wigan’s three goals.
Guzan was left for dead by his defense on all three chances.
Wigan scored their first goal on an unmarked header off a corner kick.
They picked up their second as Emerson Boyce made a ridiculous run right through the heart of Villa’s back line.
Their third goal came as Arouna Koné got in behind the Villa defense, beat Guzan and slotted home on the open net.
Guzan finished with two saves—neither of which was spectacular.
Villa’s defense has been an absolute monstrosity over the past three games. Boos rained down in Villa Park when Wigan scored their third goal which also led to a mass exodus of the home fans.
Eric Lichaj again started as a wing-back in Villa’s 5-3-2, but was constantly sucked centrally in the first half leaving Wigan with loads of space down the left flank.
Lichaj did a better job staying wide in the second half and was not responsible for any of the three goals that Villa conceded, but was still withdrawn in the 64th minute.
Offensively, Lichaj had a very nice service to Christian Benteke early in the second half which Benteke headed over the goal.
Villa now sit only a single point above the relegation zone.
Tottenham V. Sunderland
Neither Clint Dempsey nor Brad Friedel were in the starting XI for Tottenham, which won 2-1 against Sunderland.
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was good again on Saturday—meaning it is getting increasingly unlikely that Friedel will feature again for Spurs this season in a meaningful game.
Although Lloris was beaten once, he made the save on Sunderland’s initial shot which John O’Shea put back for the opening goal.
Lloris also had a superb punch on a dangerous Sunderland free kick in the 70th minute.
Surprisingly enough, despite little playing time recently, Friedel inked a new deal with Tottenham this week which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2013-14 season.
Clint Dempsey, returning from a groin injury, did come into the game in the 76th minute replacing a fairly ineffective Jermaine Defoe.
Almost immediately, Dempsey and Emmanuel Adebayor got on the same page creating several dangerous chances for Spurs, including one that began with a beautiful back heel by Dempsey to put Adebayor in alone on goal.
It was a bright cameo for Dempsey who should be back in the starting lineup for Spurs next week against Reading as Gareth Bale will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation.
Everton V. Chelsea
A Marouane Fellaini-less Everton started brightly in the game opening the scoring after only 63 seconds as Steven Pienaar buried a loose ball in the Chelsea box to put Everton ahead.
Everton continued to pressure Chelsea early in the first half hitting the post on a Nikica Jelavić free kick and having Leon Osman test Petr Čech on a nice shot in the 26th minute.
Chelsea was so pushed back in the first half that they didn’t substantively test American keeper Tim Howard until the 28th minute when Howard used his legs to stop an open chance by Juan Mata.
Chelsea finally evened up the match on a gorgeous header by Frank Lampard to beat Howard in the 42nd minute. It was an attempt that Howard could do nothing to stop.
Everton continued to play well in the second half, hitting the crossbar on a Jelavić header, and Howard played well in the second half, as well.
Howard had a nice save on a shot from Fernando Torres in the 67th minute and a very nice catch in traffic on a Chelsea corner kick in the 68th minute.
However, Chelsea would have the last word as Lampard put Chelsea ahead in the 72nd minute to secure all three points.
On the play, Howard stopped the initial shot by Juan Mata and could nothing as he laid helpless on the ground watching Lampard’s put back effort go in.
Stoke V. Southampton
Neither Geoff Cameron nor Maurice Edu were in the 18 for Stoke this weekend, who tied Southampton 3-3.
Edu continues to be frozen out while Cameron missed the game due to yellow card accumulation.
The good news for Cameron is that the Stoke defense, which had been giving up only 0.74 goals per game with him in the lineup, shipped three to Southampton.
His absence from the Stoke back line (which was also missing Ryan Shawcross) no doubt made a difference, further proving Cameron’s worth to Stoke manger Tony Pulis.
In the English Championship
Zak Whitbread was not in the 18 for Leicester’s 1-0 win over Burnley.
Tim Ream and Jonathan Spector faced off in Bolton’s 3-1 win over Birmingham. Ream went the distance while Spector started and played 59 minutes.
Will Packwood, according to his Twitter account, missed the lineup due to illness, only one week after making his first 90-minute effort for Birmingham.
Being ill is the worst feeling. Especially when you run about for a living! Need to get better soon— William Packwood (@WPackwood) December 28, 2012
Enjoying Their Vacations
The German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Austrian and Scandinavian leagues are all on their winter hiatuses.
Sacha Kljestan was one of the few Europeans in action this week as Anderlecht beat Lierse midweek 4-1. Kljestan started and went the distance, posting this picture on Twitter after the win.
Champagne toast in the locker room after the game tonight to celebrate our first half of season and 10 wins in a row. twitter.com/SachaKljestan/…— Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan) December 28, 2012
Michael Bradley and Roma are training in Orlando during Serie A’s winter break. The normally ultra-hardcore Bradley, believe it or not, was actually caught smiling during the trip.
The Mexican contingent is in full preseason mode with many of the Americans tweeting pictures of their preseason efforts in preparation for the Clausura.
— clubsantoslagun (@clubsantoslagun) December 30, 2012
Follow me on Twitter @AmerTouchline
Follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline