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Americans Abroad - English Cup Edition (1/14/05)
Manchester United played in both cup competitions this week. A dreadful goalless draw at Old Trafford against conference club Exeter in the FA Cup followed by a spirited effort against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Carling Cup which also resulted in a goalless draw. Amazing how the same scoreline can result in two completely different matches. Tim Howard started both matches and did not distinguish himself with his performances. His performance against Chelsea was fair at best as he almost gave up a great goal-scoring chance when early in the second half a bad clearance went straight into the path of midfielder Joe Cole whose attempted volley sailed off target. Howard did make a good save later on Didier Drogba parrying his shot wide of the target. His effort kept United on target as they play the return leg of this Carling Cup semifinal in more friendly surroundings at Old Trafford on January 25th.

Unfortunately, his small mistake, along with Roy Carroll’s infamous non-save against Tottenham last week has left the Manchester United goal situation in disarray. In typical fashion, the English media is fanning the flames by associating anyone and everybody as a possible successor to Howard & Carroll. Even, third-choice keeper Ricardo has gotten into the mix by saying he should be the man. My money says that Sir Alex stays put with his current situation. He has two very good young keepers who have generally played well. All you have to do is look at the results. Amazing how well Roy Carroll had done since taking the keeper’s shirt. A little research shows that having Rio Ferdinand & Gabriel Heinze at the back may have something to do with the improvement. I think if Tim plays with those two studs in the lineup, the result may very well be the same. More importantly, ManU blew their wad on Wayne Rooney so I suspect there isn’t a whole lot of money left in the kitty.

Jonathan Spector was on the verge of a loan move to Blackburn until the end of the season. He was called back by Ferguson at the last minute as United’s defense core had been weakened by injury. Spector got a start against Exeter in the FA Cup. The Red Devils kept a clean sheet in this match (to be expected) but put up the goose egg against a much inferior side in Exeter who are in 6th place in Conference. My guess is he may get a run out against Exeter in the return leg but expect Sir Alex to field a more representative side at St. James Park to avoid any further embarrassment. Jon did also make the bench as an unused substitute against Chelsea in the Carling Cup. United have quite a few games in the upcoming weeks so Jon might still get his chance to be in the matchday squad, however as the health of their defence improves, look for Ferguson to send him back to Ewood Park. Ferguson has stated the Jon is in need for first team action and a trip to Blackurn would really be feeding him to the wolves. A good situation as Jon is highly rated by United and needs the experience to push for a starting spot.

The best performance of the week belonged to Watford defender Jay Demerit. The former Chicago Fire reserves player played well in a loss (1-0) to Liverpool at Anfield in the first leg of the Carling Cup semifinal. The return leg will be played on Tuesday, January 25th at home. This was preceded by a good performance at Vicarage Road against Carlos Bocanegra and Fulham in a 1-1 draw in the 3rd round of the FA Cup forcing a return match on Wednesday, January 19th on the road at Craven Cottage. He received some rave reviews from manager Ray Lewington for his play against Liverpool.

Jay has proved himself worthy as shown by 2 consecutive starts against Premiership opponents and 3 games in row to start out the New Year. For the season, Jay has made 14 appearances for the Hornets. His team has only allowed 9 goals in that period including 4 clean sheets. We may have a new contender for the National side here in the Green Bay native who was playing for Ryman League (non-league, almost semi-pro) side Northwood as recently as a year ago. Shame on the Fire and MLS for missing out on this guy.

Ipswich’s Danny Karbassiyoon continues his loan from Arsenal as he appeared in his new club’s 3-1 loss at home to Premiership side Bolton. All 4 goals were scored within a 10-minute span. Unfortunately for the boys from Portman Road, 2 of them were scored by Bolton’s Henrik Pedersen. Danny’s loan is set to expire soon, however the Tractor Boys have been so impressed by the young defender that they have approached Arsenal about extending the loan for another 2 months.

Bobby Convey got his first start since November 2nd in a draw against Divison Two club Swansea. The Reading midfielder even received a little pat on the back for his performance by his coach. It took a late goal from Ivar Ingimarsson to force a replay at The Vetch on Monday. Fellow yank Marcus Hahnemann continued his solid play in net for the Royals. Good news for Bobby as he might get a chance to suit up for the replay.

Eddie Lewis made his 29th appearance (27 starts) for Preston in the loss (2-0) at Deepdale against Premiership bottom dwellers West Brom.

Brad Friedel was unable to make 5th minute Morten Gamst Pedersen goal stand as Blackburn drew with Cardiff (1-1) forcing a replay on Wednesday at Ewood Park. Brad has allowed just 5 goals in his last 9 games (3 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses).

In other news, congratulations are in order for Kasey Keller. He is on his way out of White Hart Lane and on his way to Borrusia Monchengladbach of the German Buindesliga. M’bach is currently in 15th place and still in the danger zone as far relegation. M’bach has also signed Belgian striker Wesley Sonck from Ajax in a deal worth £2.8 million. This team is making a real push to stay up. For Keller, a performance equal to his usual USMNT play should go along way towards securing safety for the boys from Borussia Park.

Landon Donovan has finally got in some playing time with Bayer Leverkusen. Though only a warm-up tournament in Spain, Donovan scored a goal for his new club. This is a real deep side at the BayArena so I don’t believe a starting spot is guaranteed, however, if the US Captain shows his mettle in training, he should be able to break through as his competition is no better or worse than his own skill level. The smart money says that once he gets on the field, I think they’ll have a hard time getting him out of the lineup.

John Thorrington goes in the other direction as he comes home to join the Chicago Fire. The South African born midfielder has one cap for the US and has played for Huddersfield Town & Grimsby Town

This is not really news about an American but how about some props to DC United’s Ryan Nelsen for hooking on with Blackburn. The skipper of the MLS Cup winning side will be teaming up with Brad Freidel to keep Rovers from falling into the relegation zone. The New Zealand captain will need to assist his defence in keeping opposing players from attacking the Blackburn goal.
January 14, 2005 Asif Ali


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