Yanks Across the Pond: Weekend Preview

Former New York Red Bull striker Jozy Altidore is back from compassionate leave and will be eligible to play for Hull City when the Tigers host U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann and Wolverhampton on Saturday in a key game for both relegation-battling clubs. Altidore is still looking for his first Premier League goal.

In another Saturday meeting of EPL teams with Yanks on their rosters, Clint Dempsey’s Fulham and Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa square off at Craven Cottage. Unfortunately, Dempsey will sit out the game (which is on ESPN2 at 10:00 a.m. EST) with a knee injury.

Jonathan Spector looks to get his third consecutive start at left back (watch out, Jonathan Bornstein) for West Ham as the Hammers host Blackburn on Saturday, while Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Everton travel to face Wigan.

There’s a new Yank in the Prem to keep tabs on, though he’s unlikely to see the field this weekend. Former Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden has signed with Bolton, but he is nursing a slight thigh strain, and will probably not play as Bolton visits Anfield to take on fifth-place Liverpool. Bolton is just one point above the drop zone.

The biggest game of the weekend, Arsenal v Manchester United, features no Americans, but it will be televised in the U.S., on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. EST, on Fox Soccer Channel (FSC). Clear your schedule, or set your DVR, for that one.

FSC is televising two games on Saturday as well: Birmingham v Tottenham at 10:00 a.m. EST, and Burnley v Chelsea at 12:30.

Sunday’s Manchester City-Portsmouth match is on Setanta, which, by the way, is transferring its U.S. rights to soccer broadcasts to FSC at the end of the month.

Week 24 continues into next week, and Americans will be involved then as well. On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Altidore and Hull will host Chelsea, and Dempsey’s Fulham will get a visit from bottom club Portsmouth the following day.

Enjoy the games.

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Red Bulls Open Balloting for Club’s Alltime Best XI

Clint loved New York, and New York loved Clint.

The headline above cues so many potential gaglines it could keep Conan O’Brien’s recently unemployed writing staff busy night and day until they landed their next full-time gig.

But it’s true: Red Bull New York announced today that it will “conduct an on-line fan voting contest to elect the club’s all-time First XI lineup.”

And franchise history aside, it’s not as laughable as it might seem. There have been a surprising number of quality players to pass through the MetroBull-itan area. Of course, that’s part of the problem: how has a franchise that has fielded so many talented players (not to mention coaches and front-office types) underachieved so consistently?

But that’s a question for another time. Check out the candidates below. As we said, it’s a surprisingly impressive group:

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Juan Pablo Angel, Rodrigo Faria, Clint Mathis, Giovanni Savarese, Adolfo Valencia, John Wolyniec.

Midfielders: Mark Chung, Youri Djorkaeff, Roberto Donadoni, Eddie Gaven, Amado Guevara, Tab Ramos, Seth Stammler, Dave van den Bergh

Defenders: Kevin Goldthwaite, Steve Jolley, Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke, Mike Petke, Eddie Pope.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Tony Meola, Jonny Walker.

Fans can cast their ballots right here, and should vote for one keeper, three defenders, four midfielders, and three forwards.

We’ll pick our lineup in a minute, but first let’s take a closer look at the candidates: 

All three goalies have been capped by the U.S., along with two of the defenders (Petke and Pope).

Every one of the midfielders has played for his country except one—Seth Stammler—and two of them, Djorkaeff and Donadoni, played in the World Cup semifinals. Djorkaeff went one better, too, winning it all with France in ’98. (And yes, van den Bergh has two caps for the Netherlands.)

Among the forwards, Altidore, Angel, Mathis, Savarese, and Valencia have all played for their national teams, and Faria is one of the great overlooked foreign stars in MLS history: he was Rookie of the Year in 2001, and scored 12 goals in 2002, before his commitment mysteriously fizzled and he petered out in Chicago and San Jose. Hustling Everyman John Wolyniec is a fan favorite, and scored one of the greatest goal in club—and league—history, right here:

So, on to our ballot. It looks like this:

GK: Tim HowardNo less a club than Manchester United plucked him from MetroVille. Nuff said.

Defenders: Parke, Petke, JolleyEddie Pope is the best defender on the ballot—by far—but, like many excellent players before and after him, he was not at his best for this club. This is also, maybe not surprisingly, the weakest bunch on the ballot.

Midfielders: Chung, Djorkaeff, Guevara, RamosSome tough calls here. Donadoni has a world-class pedigree, obviously, but it’s not clear his head was ever really in it for the MetroStars. He scored just six goals in 49 appearances for the club. Guevara was a petulant head-case much of the time, but he was also the 2004 MLS MVP. Chung was remarkably consistent and productive.

Forwards: Angel, Mathis, Valencia. The other candidates, particularly Altidore, are strong, but this was the easiest group to pick: Angel and Mathis are the best players in franchise history, and El Tren was a beast who scored 21 goals in all competitions for the Metros in 2000.

That’s our First XI. What do you think of the choices? Are we crazy to leave off Donadoni? Crazier still to select the volatile Guevara—or the journeyman Jolley over World Cup star Pope in defense? RBNY fans have at it in the comments.

Donovan Bags First Goal for Everton

Steven Pienaar, Cahill, and Louis Saha (l to r) congratulate LD (9) on his account-opener.

On-loan U.S. striker Landon Donovan hit his first goal for Everton yesterday, scoring the Toffees’ second in a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Tim Cahill netted the first in the 7th minute, and then assisted on Donovan’s in the 18th, knocking the ball down into Lando’s path as he steamed down the middle, took a touch, and slotted it near-post past Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon from 14 yards, drawing chants of “USA! USA!” out of the Goodison Park faithful.

Donovan nearly scored a second goal after the break, again getting set up by Cahill, who slipped a nice ball into his path in the box. The American rounded the keeper and punched it toward the open net … only to see it cleared away by scrambling defender George McCartney, who slammed into the post after stopping the sure goal.

Everton’s New Jersey-born keeper, Tim Howard, made two excellent saves in the match.

How much do Everton fans love Yank footballers? From Joe-Max Moore to Brian McBride to Howard and now LD, they have not gotten a dud yet.

They are now in ninth place in the Premier League.

Click here to see the goals

In other Week 23 games involving Americans, Aston Villa and Brad Friedel fell short in their effort to score wins over each of the Premier League’s ‘Big Four’ this season, having already claimed three points off of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool. But the Villans did get a point from the Gunners encounter, which ended in a scoreless draw, one that Friedel can thank his crossbar for—after he made a fine save against Arshavin late in the second half, the ball fell for Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky, who thumped it off the bar. No goal, and the nil-nil scoreline held till the final whistle.

Friedel’s fellow Yank keeper (and fellow MLS alum) Marcus Hahnemann achieved a comparable feat, backstopping Wolverhampton to a 0-0 draw with Liverpool.

At White Hart Lane, the injured Clint Dempsey could only watch as his Fulham teammates fell to fourth-place Tottenham, 2-0.

Jonathan Spector started and went the full 90 in West Ham’s 1-1 tie with cellar dwellers Portsmouth. The result probably feels like two points dropped for the Hammers, who are now in a three-way tie for third-to-last place with Wolves and Burnley. All three teams have 20 points. Bolton and Hull City bookend the logjam with 21 and 19 points, respectively, with Pompey bringing up the rear on 15 points.

Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal are crammed together at the top of the table, with 51, 50, and 49 points, respectively.

Pele at England ’66

Courtesy of dead-sexy reader Dave L comes this link to a collection of previously unpublished Life magazine photos of Pele at the 1966 World Cup. The above shot comes from Brazil’s 3-1 loss to Hungary during group play at Goodison Park (Everton’s home stadium).

The ’66 Cup was an injury-marred one for Pele, and Brazil, the defending world champion, did not advance out of its group with Hungary, Portugal and Bulgaria, with some observers saying the Brazilians were the victims of hard fouls by opponents and poor officiating.

Nevertheless the photographs Life has unearthed are well worth checking out, as they show a young Pele in candid, portrait, and action shots, including several of him playing goalkeeper–apparently, the world’s greatest player was also Brazil’s third-string keeper at the ’66 tournament.

Charlie Davies “light years” Ahead of Schedule in Recovery

It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than a broken femur and tibia, a broken left elbow, facial fractures, and a lacerated bladder to keep Charlie Davies out of the World Cup this summer.

That, incredibly, is what Ives Galarcep found out when he paid a recent visit to the U.S. striker who was seriously injured in a car wreck that killed one of his fellow passengers on Ocotber 13.

Davies is already jogging and doing agility drills, and he expects to be back training with FC Sochaux by the end of February—and back on the field, in competitive games, by April.

The World Cup? That’s “easy for me to get back for,” says Davies.

It’s all fairly miraculous when you remember his prognosis in October. Read the entire story here.

World Cup Group C Getting Tougher by the Day

When Algeria began the African Cup of Nations with an embarrassing 3-0 loss to no-hopers Malawi, it confirmed worldwide perception that they were one of the weaker African entrants in South Africa 2010, and that Group C was a favorable draw for England and the United States.

But now, just two weeks later, that perception is being transformed, if not turned on its head: With a dramatic 3-2 win over tournament favorites Ivory Coast, Algeria is in the semifinals of the Cup of Nations, and asking its World Cup Group C brethren, “How ya like us now?”

Following that opening loss to Malawi, Algeria rebounded with a 1-0 win over Mali, then a 0-0 draw with hosts Angola that put them through to the quarterfinals, and yesterday’s riveting clash with Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Kolo Toure and Co.

Check out the highlights below, and get a glimpse of what the U.S. will face next summer:

Algeria will meet Egypt, which it eliminated from World Cup contention this past November, in one semifinal on Thursday; Ghana takes on Nigeria in the other.

Holden Bolton-Bound After All?

The U.S. midfielder is set to sign with Bolton for the remainder of the season.

Given all the conflicting “reports,” on this story, we’re hesitant to believe anything until the club officially announces it, but it now seems likely that U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden will sign with Bolton until the end of the 2010 season.

Sky Sports is claiming a deal will be announced today, along with Bolton’s signing of Slovakian midfielder Vladimir Weiss. Holden is currently sidelined with a thigh injury, so that may be the final sticking point in making the deal official, hard to say. But Bolton has announced the Weiss signing.

We’ll update when official word comes down. This move would enable Holden to compete for top-flight playing time ahead of South Africa 2010. If he regains fitness, and wins a spot with Bolton, it’ll obviously benefit the U.S. player pool, Holden’s chances of World Cup PT, and his prospects for securing a long-term contract in Europe.

UPDATE: It’s official, complete with wince-inducing pun from Bolton website. Official announcement here, and video of interview with Holden here.