While Jonathan Spector sat the bench and Jozy Altidore hit the beach (according to his Twitter, he was in LA),West Ham and Hull City played out the string in the Premier League on Sunday.
Hull of course is going down, but they still produced a decent effort against a Liverpool team that had something to play for: a chance to overtake Aston Villa—which lost to 1-0 to Blackburn—for sixth place and thereby avoid playing an extra round in next season’s Europa League.
The Reds not only couldn’t get it done against Championship-bound Hull, but were also outplayed by the Tigers in the 0-0 draw. Mark Cullen missed several clear chances and Hull took it to Liverpool for much of the game, which left the Reds in seventh, their worst finish since 1999.
West Ham also came up with a decent effort and an unexpected result in its finale, tying Manchester City 1-1. Spector dressed but did not play, and will now return to the States and join the U.S. camp in Princeton, N.J., next weekend.
His form dipped near the end (in some pretty critical games, unfortunately), but all in all, it was a decent year for the 24-year-old Spector. He established himself as a starter, and got a season’s worth of experience in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
Brad Friedel started and played 90 minutes for Aston Villa, which finished sixth in the league for the third year in a row. It was another solid year for the veteran American netminder, as Villa’s 39 goals against were fourth-best in the league, behind only Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.
Friedel’s Yank understudy Brad Guzan dressed but did not play against Blackburn. It was a mixed season for Guzan, who had some early-season Carling Cup heroics, but saw very limited action otherwise. In March, he talked about the possibility of a loan deal to get more playing time; now that the season’s over he may revisit that idea.
Tim Howard started, played 90 minutes and made four saves as Everton finished the season with a 1-0 win over Portsmouth on Sunday. The American keeper had a quality season, helping Everton overcome a slow, injury-marred start to challenge for a place in Europe. They didn’t get one, finishing eighth, but Howard played well all year, and his American teammate, Landon Donovan, excelled during a 10-week loan spell with the Toffees.
There wasn’t a whole lot at stake in Bolton’s season-ending 2-1 win over Birmingham city, but for U.S. winger Stuart Holden, the game marked a return to competitive play for the first time since he broke his leg in a friendly against the Netherlands on March 3.
Holden came on in the 65th minute and fired a shot just wide of the Birmingham post five minutes later. The appearance should boost his confidence heading into U.S. camp next weekend.
Injuries were the story of Holden’s season at Bolton, as he picked up a muscle strain at the start of his trial there, then battled through it to earn some playing time (and a contract extension), only to suffer the injury against Holland.
But he showed impressive resolve to get back into the lineup each time, and he finished the year on a positive note.
In London, Arsenal held on to third place and the final automatic Champions League berth by thumping Fulham and U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey 4-0 on Sunday. Dempsey started, played 67 minutes and picked up a yellow card.
It’s been another good season for Dempsey, and it’s not over yet: He and Fulham play the biggest match in club history on Wednesday, taking on Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final in Hamburg.
The Nacogdoches, Texas, product overcame a knee injury in January and contributed to Fulham’s cause all season long, scoring eight goals in all competitions. He also created a highlight that Fulham fans will never forget, in the Europa League Round of 16 against Juventus in March, when he did this to send the Cottagers into the quarterfinals:
U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann backstopped Wolverhampton to a 2-1 win over Sunderland in the season finale. Hahnemann, who made three saves in the game, was frequently spectacular for Wolves all season, and he’ll enter U.S. camp with a shot at the No. 2 spot on the goalkeeping depth chart.
Wolves battled relegation down the stretch, and finished with lowest goals total in the league (32), but scrapped and clawed their way to a solid 15th place finish.
As only seems proper, we’ll give the last word on this sweet, nectary achievement to Wolves coach Mick McCarthy:
“Finishing the season with a win and claiming that 15th position leaves a really nice taste in the mouth. I take a lot of personal satisfaction from what we’ve achieved.”
What about that anemic goals total?
“I wasn’t going down with this team playing nice, attractive football. I wanted to stay in the league. We had to stay in this league. Would Burnley swap our position having only scored 13 goals at home all season? Would Portsmouth? Would Hull? Is defending not an art? Is keeping clean sheets not an art? Am I bothered by what people think? If you prick me, do I not bleed?”
Okay, he didn’t actually say that last line, but all the rest was undiluted McCarthy. The man was in fine form on a fine season-ending day for his club.
That’s it for the Premier League 2009-10, it’s been—What’s that? Oh, right—the top of the table; we almost forgot.
The title chase went down to the final day for just the fifth time in Premier League history, as Chelsea led Manchester United by a point with one game left for each. Man U hosted Stoke City while Chelsea welcomed Wigan. A win for the Blues and they’d lift the trophy.
If anyone had any doubt that Chelsea would get it done (and we’re not sure anyone did) those doubts were removed six minutes in when Nicolas Anelka opened the scoring, and then vaporized as Chelsea deluged Wigan with seven more goals.
Man U also won in a rout, 4-0, but it didn’t matter. The Red Devils’ three-year reign atop the Premier League was over. Didier Drogba scored three goals in Chlesea’s victory to take the goal-scoring crown with 29 for the season. Wayne Rooney finished second with 26.