Leeds United and other notable US enclaves abroad
By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (February 2, 2022) USA Soccer Players – When Weston McKennie completed his move from Juventus to Leeds United on Monday, he became the third USMNT player on their roster, joining Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson. A fourth top Yank is in the form of manager Jesse Marsch. McKennie’s arrival bolsters the ‘Leeds USA’ intrigue as the LUFC climbs the list of clubs that have proven particularly comfortable homes for American players overseas over the decade.
Why do some places become USMNT overseas enclaves? Is the number of compatriots with whom you share a locker room important? Each example has its own story, and the United States is far from the only country with players experiencing this phenomenon. Those who experience it tend to extol its benefits.
Marsch’s influence matters. He and the rest of the Leeds United management certainly believe McKennie and the rest of their January acquisitions can help collect the points needed to move up the English Premier League table and out of a relegation fight. History offers encouraging signs.
“Fulhamerica”, both past and present, is an obvious starting point. Beginning with Marcus Hahnemann in 1999, 13 Yanks have called Craven Cottage home over the decades, many grouped together in a dynamic period from 2003 to 2011. First Bocanegra at the start of its European journey, then Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, and Eddie Johnson followed.
All also gained significant playing time, particularly in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns, where they played crucial roles in the Premier League’s final relegation dodges. Roy Hodgson lined up the five in a key 1-0 win over Everton in March 2008, setting a record which still stands.
The tradition-rich London club have embraced their Americans. The team’s top scorer in 2006–07, McBride got a pub inside the stadium named after him. Dempsey became a club icon, setting a string of individual records while leading the Cottagers to arguably their greatest modern heights with the memorable run to the 2010 UEFA Europa League Final.
The tradition continues today. Tim Ream and Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson are trusted regulars in the Fulham back line as they make an impressive return to the top flight under Marco Silva, currently in a surprising seventh place. Young or old, few people along this stretch of the Thames need to be convinced of the value of USMNTers.
Glasgow’s blue half has employed 10 Americans dating back to Claudio Reyna in 1999. What made Ibrox an outpost of the USMNT was the five-year run that opened with the arrival of DaMarcus Beasley in 2007 and continued through Maurice Edu, Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya. . This phase was marked by three consecutive Scottish Premier League championships, breaking Celtic’s hold on that title, as well as two Scottish Cup captures and cult hero status for some of the Yanks.
Today, James Sands and Malik Tillman have renewed that Rangers tradition. Sands helped Gers reach the UEFA Europa Cup final last year a few months after joining from New York City FC. Tillman was loaned out by Bayern Munich over the summer and is currently tied for fourth in the club’s goalscoring charts. Both retain a huge advantage given the solid first-team experience they have already accumulated at a relatively young age.
According to Transfermarkt, 18 American players have worn black and red Xolos at youth or senior level since 2010. Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Greg Garza powered a stunning run to the 2012 Apertura Championship just a year after joining the top flight , the highest achievement of Tijuana’s existence. Perhaps even more so when a deep run in the Copa Libertadores soon followed.
Herculez Gomez, Michael Orozco and Alejandro Guido also shone in Baja California, and USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann often called out Xolos on his rosters. The contributions of former players Paul Arriola and Brandon Vazquez in the last USMNT camp are testament to a lasting legacy.
BVB’s relationship with American talent is another one with both deep roots and a living present. Christian Pulisic has written his name in Dortmund and United States football lore with his rise from 16-year-old academy kid to star striker and record transfer start. He was not, however, the first Yank to wear black and yellow. It was Jovan Kirovski, a pioneer of the 1990s.
Pulisic was club teammates with Joe Gyau and Junior Flores in Germany, two highly rated prospects as they progressed through the US youth national team system. Gio Reyna followed after, one of many who have cited Pulisic’s path as influential in their own picks.
Significant successes like Pulisic and Reyna must also be taken in the wider context of the dramatic flow of American talent to the Bundesliga that accelerated in the 2010s. striking new magnitude via Adams, McKennie, Josh Sargent and many more making the most of Bundesliga opportunities.
Two years ago, Wolfsburg had five Americans in their ranks, from John Brooks in the first team to young prospects Uly Llanez, Michael Edwards, Bryang Kayo and Kobe Hernandez-Foster. While those five players have all moved on, Wolfsburg have spent big on the transfer acquisition of DC United native Kevin Paredes, and the 19-year-old winger has climbed the depth chart this season, making 12 team appearances. first and cash .
Will Leeds become more of a Fulhamerica than Fulham itself? Much will depend on their ability to avoid the drop zone and inspire the kind of euphoria that their fans took on the rise to the top of the Championship and the long-awaited return to the Premier League. As usual, nothing earns trust like positive results on the pitch.
Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/cboehm.
More from Charles Boehm:
Photo by James Heaton – News Images via ZUMA Press Wire – ISIPhotos.com