In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more talking heads giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.
Of the six Americans competing in the English Premier League, we asked you to choose who will make the biggest impact in the second half of the 2003-04 season. Your answer? All six, with B-Mac (not to be confused with crappy former British boy band BBMak) and Timmy grabbing a slight edge over the rest. Below are the best of the best responses:
“I have to give the nod to Brian McBride. American fans are bursting with pride over the quality of our ‘keepers in England, and American midfield and defensive players have shown they can compete in other countries with Stewart, Joe Max, O'Brien and Reyna carrying the torch thus far. However, fans know and love strikers. Before I can walk into a bar as a U.S. fan and get respect, the world needs to see an American produce goals. I think Brian McBride has the World Cup experience, some Priemership confidence and the personality to change Euro fans minds. I look forward to seeing Brian fly through the air, head it upper 90 and bring U.S. players to a new level. All the best, Brian. Make us proud.”
--Kevin Sorg / 28 / Miami, Fla.
“Brian McBride at Fulham is well-positioned to have the best second half of any American in England. Fulham played well in the first half of the season as the goals flowed in from their front man, Louis Saha, but they sold him to Man-United during the January transfer window. Since signing Brian McBride a week or two after selling Saha, Fulham have put him out there for the full 90 in each of their EPL games, and Brian has responded by scoring one game winner and hitting the target several other times, although to date he's still looking for his second goal. [Editor’s Note: McBride got his second goal last week.] It's clear that McBride is the only replacement Fulham has for Saha. Like Saha, McBride has the ability to play the target man role, and combines the ability to win balls in the air along with excellent control on the ground to take half chances. The former Crewman lacks the blazing foot speed of Saha that so terrorized EPL defenses, and for that reason McBride might not make the Fulham supporters forget about their lost Frenchman, but he should be able to score a half dozen goals or more in the second half of the season, which would solidify his place in the Fulham first team and help Fulham hold onto the valuable UEFA Cup place they currently hold. Maybe the true measure of success in the Premiership is how often your club's supporters sing your name, and the Fulham supporters will be singing Brian's song often this season.”
--Andrew Montz / 32 / Mesa, Ariz.
“Let's face it--to be considered one of the best you have to play for a winner, and the only American playing abroad for a winning side is my man Timmy Howard. I know it's not fair, but Reyna, Keller, Friedel, Bocanegra, McBride are representing the U.S. and doing a great job, but they will all be struggling to survive relegation. Tim Howard and Man-U will be making a run at the Premiership and the Champions League. Every one of these games will be televised all over the world and everyone will notice how Timmy will either win those games or keep Man U in every game. It's a no-brainer--Tim Howard will be and is the best American playing the world's game for the second half of the (EPL) season. Also, he will win awards for Best Foreign Player, Best Goaltender and Best Newcomer in the Premiership.”
--Frank Ficarra / 33 / Lynbrook, N.Y.
“My vote goes to Reyna. He continues to impress me at both the club & country level. His years of experience will help better direct Man City's midfield as they come back to finish in the top half of the EPL. Howard looks solid and has already proven himself as a world class goalie, but let’s not forget that he's playing behind probably the most experienced and quality defense the EPL has. McBride is a hard worker, but isn't the answer for Fulham nor the replacement for Saha. And lastly, Bocanegra is too young and inexperienced yet to judge him. So far, however, he has done better than I expected. I look forward to seeing him play in the future.”
--Tony Garcia / 35 / Anaheim, Calif.
“Claudio Reyna will have the biggest impact as long as he stays healthy. He looked great in the Holland-U.S. friendly and if he keeps up his good form, he can lead Manchester City away from the bottom of the table. City is only four points clear of the relegation zone, so they need guys to step up, and Reyna looks poised to do so.”
--Matt / 17 / Lima, Ohio
“While Brian McBride certainly has the opportunity to score a bunch of second half goals with Fulham's former number one scoring option shipped off to Manchester United, look to Kasey Keller to be the strongest American performer in England's second half. With several prolific strikers and an obscenely porous defense, Keller has a chance to make the biggest impact than the other Americans at their respective clubs. Watching his superb performance for team USA against the Netherlands only further convinced me that he is one of the most consistent keepers in the Premiership when it comes to performing at his best. If the defense at `Spurs can get their act together and Kasey continues to keep the ball out of the net (when his defense isn't collapsing on him), they have the firepower to score a ton of goals and put together a string of badly needed victories.”
--Kevin Pugliese / 24 / Nutley, N.J.
"Although I love what I've seen of Tim Howard in the first half of the season, and agree that all the publicity that he's gotten along the way is well-deserved, I think people are forgetting about last year's Goalkeeper of the Year: Brad Friedel. How quickly people forgot how amazing this giant in goal performed throughout the entire 2002-03 season for Blackburn. Howard has been amazing at times, but let's not forget what he has to work with in front of him. Brad is simply less fortunate in that department. While on paper it looks like he's had a shocker this year, he's just been the victim of a porous defense and is virtually helpless on a lot of the goals he has conded. I expect him and Rovers to finish strong, push to the middle of the table and have no problem avoiding relegation."
--Jeremy Wilkinson / 22 / Sunset Hills, Mo.
“I believe that Bocanegra will have the most effective second half. Howard and Man-U really miss Ferdinand. Watching Man-U play right now is kind of painful, even if you are not a Man-U fan !! I feel for Howard as much as I feel for Freidel and Keller. These three are all great keepers but have no
real consistent defense in front of them right now. As for Boca, he seems to fit in really well with Fulham. He definitely has the skills for that position and for the EPL. Not much learning curve for him except for, possibly, the actions that the refs will take. I believe that he learned quite a bit from his red card. And his reaction/response to it was tremendous! He really got some good cred throughout EPL for his respose to that.”
For March, the question is: Who will be the MVP of the 2004 MLS season?
With last year’s MVP Preki down with a pre-season injury and with big-time players like Mathis and McBride off to new territory, we’ll have a new MVP in MLS this year, but who will it be? Will Carlos Ruiz be able to return to the incredible form that helped him grab the league’s highest honor and help the Galaxy to the 2002 title? Or will another foreign star like Scotsman John Spencer rise to the occasion? Could Landon Donovan finally grab the award after being the best American in the league across the last three years, or will the Fire’s Damani Ralph or Ante Razov recreate their scoring success in 2004 and lead Chicago back to MLS Cup? And please, folks, no votes for Freddy Adu.
E-mail your BRIEF, but well-crafted rant to firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, AGE AND CITY OF RESIDENCE. Feel free to submit responses for as many months as you wish, but in the interest of sharing the spotlight, we will be giving space to different respondents from month to month.
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