Americans Abroad: A Look at the Top U.S. Players in Europe

Craig Hutchinson@@CragHutchinsonContributor IIIAugust 18, 2010

Americans Abroad: A Look at the Top U.S. Players in Europe

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    The U.S. national team caught the attention of the nation during this summer's World Cup in South Africa. Now the majority of that squad are kicking off a new season for their club teams in Europe.

    We take a look at some of the top stars as they prepare for their upcoming season; their teams, their roles, and what it could mean for Team U.S.A.

    Some of these players will be given special interest, considering the potential exit of head coach Bob Bradley and a new era of U.S soccer.

Tim Howard: Everton (England)

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    Tim is entering his fifth season as Everton's number one goalkeeper. The team looks to improve on last season's eighth place finish and challenge for a Champions League spot.

    He is the United States' undisputed first choice goalkeeper and regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League (and possibly the world) following his World Cup display. He will be a key element if Everton are to reach Europe's top club competition.

    What could be interesting this season is the arrival of highly rated Slovak goalkeeper Ján Mucha, who has publicly stated that he has not joined Everton to sit on the bench. For the first time since he joined the club, Howard may have a legitimate battle to stay as the team's first choice goalkeeper. Mistakes like the one against Blackburn on opening day won't help his cause.

Michael Bradley: Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)

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    Bradley has cemented himself in his father's U.S. team in recent years. His recognition is significantly rising due to his steadily improving performances.

    At one point last season, his playing time at his club, Borussia Mönchengladbach, was reduced so much that an argument with his manager resulted in Bradley being briefly suspended from the team.

    Since that incident, he reclaimed his starting spot and turned in some impressive performances leading into the World Cup.

    Although typically regarded as a scrappy ball winning midfielder, his club will be hoping he can provide more of an attacking threat this year and try and get close to his 16 goal season for Heerenveen in 2007-08.

    So far, so good, as he scored in the opening game of the Bundesliga season.

Carlos Bocanegra: Saint Etienne (France)

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    Carlos enters his seventh season in Europe and his first with his new club, Saint Etienne.

    The U.S. captain will be sporting the same number three shirt he wore this past summer during the World Cup, despite it being unclear as to whether he will be used primarily as a left back or center half this year. He did not feature in the club's opening game of the season.

    That said, he should be back in contention for a starting spot in his next game and his role of U.S. captain could be crucial over the upcoming months if current boss Bob Bradley leaves for Europe.

Jozy Altidore: Villarreal (Spain)

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    This could be the most crucial season of the 20-year-old striker's young career.

    Will he begin to fulfill the potential he showed at the New York Red Bulls before his $10 million transfer in 2008, or will he prove to be a bust on the continent?

    His loan spell to Hull City last season, which saw only one goal and a red card for a headbutt, was not enough to secure him a permanent deal. Rumors of loan deals to other clubs across Europe have yet to come to fruition.

    Ironically, he scored a preseason goal for Villarreal against one of those rumored clubs, Besiktas of Turkey. But currently, he looks unlikely to be starting for his Spanish club. If he wants to cement himself as the U.S.'s top forward, he's going to need to find himself a starting job somewhere else.

Maurice Edu: Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)

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    Injuries and even racism from his own fans have marred Edu's first couple of seasons in Scotland.

    That said, he did return from injury last season to score a 93rd minute winner against Celtic in the Old Firm, come in on Ranger's victory in the Scottish League Cup Final, and secure his second SPL Championship medal.

    There remains a debate as to whether he should be a starter in the center of U.S.A.'s midfield, so a solid season on the field for Rangers could be very important is supporting his cause.

Oguchi Onyewu: AC Milan (Italy)

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    At lot of eyes will be on Onyewu this season, after his first year with Italian giants AC Milan was ravaged by a knee injury.

    In an unheard of move in today's money grabbing sports world, "Gooch" signed an extension with Milan, but with no salary after getting paid for his missing season last year.

    Rumors have been flying around that Milan may loan the center back out this season, but Oguchi has made it clear that he wants to make it in Milan and fight for his place.

    It will be interesting to see if he succeeds.

Clint Dempsey: Fulham (England)

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    Alongside Landon Donovan, "Texas Deuce" has been one of the most reliable attacking threats for the United States in recent years.

    He excelled in the MLS with the New England Revolution and earned a big move into the English Premier League with London based club Fulham, where he has since become a crowd favorite.

    He is, however, entering the new season with a new manager, Welsh legend Mark Hughes. It will be interesting to see how "Sparkey" plans to utilize Clint, or if the rumors of a move to Milan come to fruition.

Sacha Kljestan: Anderlecht (Belgium)

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    Sacha was one of the top midfield players in Major League Soccer while captaining CD Chivas USA. He has since switched LA for Belgium, signing for Anderlecht in June.

    The young midfielder hopes this move with give him valuable experience and will develop his game to a level that will see him seriously challenge for a starting spot in the U.S. national team.

    Anderlecht also hope for big things from their new signing, especially after he scored on his debut for the team in a July 27th Champions League Qualifier. More recently, he also played the full 90 minutes in their 4-0 thrashing over Germinal Beerschot in the league.

Stuart Holden: Bolton Wonderers (England)

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    He was born and raised in Scotland until the age of 10. But he has since become an American citizen and has so far won fifteen caps for the U.S.

    He is another player to be signed to a European club after impressing in the MLS. Following the 2009 season with Houston, he trained in England during the offseason and earned a contract with Bolton. He signed with them in January 2010.

    Injury has struck Holden since, he's made only three league appearances. But he impressed manager Owen Coyle when he featured and played the full 90 minutes in Bolton's opening EPL game this season against Clint Dempsey's Fulham.

    This season could prove to be a good barometer on his future in England and for the national team.

Charlie Davies: Sochaux (France)

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    Remember this guy? You should, because the U.S. really missed him at the World Cup and will be keeping their fingers crossed that he will return the same player, following the horrific injuries he sustained during a car crash last October.

    He made a commendable effort to regain his fitness before the World Cup, but his club team did not clear him medically to participate.

    As for this season? Can he return and be the player he was?

    Early observations by Sochaux suggest he is not at that level, which is very understandable. He will be used as a bench player for most of the first half of the season.

    Given the storyline and the States' striking woes in recent games, Davies' season could be the most anticipated of any American in Europe.