With so many U.S. nationals playing abroad these days, it’s easy to forget that the process of earning respect and opportunities has been a long road paved through decades. While players are now spread out across of a multitude of countries and leagues, a handful of clubs have shown a particular faith and affinity for the American professionals.
Over the next week, we’ll take a look at clubs where U.S. players have made a particularly strong impact in numbers and performance through the years.
This week’s coverage has stretched to English Premier League club Everton FC, Germany Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg and Club Tijuana of Liga MX.
Today, we head back to England and page through the many contributions of USMNT players at Fulham FC, affectionately known as “Fulhamerica.”
Craven Cottage can rightly claim to be the home of Americans abroad, with no less than 10 of the USA’s finest having suited up for Fulham. In fact, during one game in 2008 – coincidentally a 1-0 shutout against Tim Howard and Everton – they fielded five U.S. players in the same game!
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann got the ball rolling in 1999, with Eddie Lewis joining a year later. Both moved on to make bigger impacts with other clubs in 2002, but the train had left the station and continues to roll to this day.
The next influx came two years later. Carlos Bocanegra – who captained the USMNT a record 64 times – and heralded veteran striker Brian McBride arrived from Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew, respectively, during the January 2004 transfer window. They would link up early in their Fulham tenure (see below), and both would go on to become fan favorites at the Cottage.
Just as he did when he arrived on loan to Everton the previous season, McBride found the back of the net in his Fulham debut against Tottenham, tapping home a rebound to give the Cottagers a 2-1 victory. Through the years, the target striker would chip in 41 goals in 154 matches across all competitions, notably scoring in a November 2006 victory against Arsenal – Fulham’s first against the Gunners in 40 years – as well as a crucial goal in 2008 (we’ll get to that in a bit).
A solid contributor through the years, Bocanegra often chipped in at left back and even a few times in defensive midfield for Fulham. The USMNT’s all-time leading scorer among defenders, Bocanegra’s set piece prowess also translated to his Fulham tenure, scoring eight career goals for the Cottagers.
The duo’s performances set the arrival of Clint Dempsey in 2007 and a dramatic finish that etched the names of three players in history. McBride finished with a team-high nine goals, and the defender Bocanegra came second with five, but it was Dempsey’s first goal – a game-winner in the 1-0 win against Liverpool on the penultimate matchday that staved off relegation for the Cottagers (see below).
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller and forward Eddie Johnson were additions the following year, with McBride named club captain before an injury suffered on the opening day of the season kept him out for a large part of the campaign. McBride returned in the spring and provided three goals down the stretch in wins against Everton (see below), Reading and Birmingham City to help Fulham stay up and leading to his second-straight selection as Fulham’s Player of the Year.
His USMNT roommate Keller then provided the heroics once again on the final matchday with a clean sheet against Portsmouth that once again ensured Fulham’s place in the top flight. With four Americans departing – McBride’s legacy is so strong at Craven Cottage that a bar inside the stadium was later named in his honor – it was Dempsey’s time to shine in the solo spotlight.
WATCH: Keller Comes Up Big on the Final Day of the 2008 Season
Dempsey established himself as one of the greatest Americans to ever play in the Premiership. In a six-season run, he became the Cottagers’ all-time leading goal scorer with 50 league goals and led the team to its highest-ever English Premier League finish of seventh in 2009.
The next season, Dempsey scored an unthinkable strike in a Europa League second leg fixture against Juventus and became the first American to play in a major European club final when Fulham reached the championship match where they narrowly fell to Atletico Madrid.
Dempsey also grabbed the EPL goal-scoring record for an American when he notched his 37th strike, surpassing former teammate McBride’s previous mark. Though he departed for Tottenham in 2012 and then joined Seattle Sounders FC the following year, Dempsey made a brief loan return to Fulham, playing five matches for the club in early 2014.
Emerson Hyndman kicked off the next wave in 2014, then it was Tim Ream’s turn to write his own chapter. A near constant in the Fulham lineup since arriving in 2015, Ream helped the club to successful Premier League promotion campaigns in 2017-18 and 2019-20 and also earned the 2017-18 Fulham Player of the Year award. U.S. prospect Luca de la Torre is the latest in the line and has seen some time for the club in the FA Cup, League Cup and the Championship.