Keller records shutout, Mönchengladbach opens by defeating Cottbus 2-0.
Turned ankle is not expected to delay DeMerit's Premier League debut.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
Jay DeMerit's turned ankle should not delay his Premier League debut.
-- Watford FC web site photo --
and Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)
(Monday, August 14, 2006) -- Jay DeMerit sat out Watford's final preseason match with an ankle injury, but there is no reason to think the American defender won't be in the center of defense when the team makes it English Premier League return Saturday at Everton, where United States goalkeeper Tim Howard guards the net.
DeMerit turned his ankle training during the week. "Jay will be OK for Everton," coach Aidy Boothroyd said yesterday. "But in terms of today, I didn't want to risk him in this game (a 2-1 home victory over Italian side Chievo Verona at Vicarage Road)."
DeMerit and his teammates realize the immense challenge they face and the team must work hard and be contunuously motivated if it hopes to make an extended stay in the league that is home to the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
"I'm just going to keep trying to improve," DeMerit, 26, told The Guardian. "I'm just starting my third year of being a professional. I realize that I have a lot to improve on. That's what I want to concentrate on, first and foremost, and then the rest can take care of itself."
Watford's ascent was improbable. After finishing in 18th place, only two points above the relegation zone in the 24-team second-tier league in 2004-05, the club finished third last season -- an improvement of 29 points -- then won the four-team playoff for the third promotion slot. DeMerit scored the decisive goal in the 3-0 triumph over Leeds United in the playoff final.
DeMerit will be one of 12 Americans working in the Premiership, with goalkeeper Marcus Hahmemann and midfielder Bobby Convey also moving up after Reading won the promotion after winning the League championship title while setting a record for most points.
Other Americans in the Premier League are Howard, midfielder Claudio Reyna (Manchester City), goalkeeper Brad Friedel and forward Jemal Johnson (both with Blackburn Rovers), striker Brian McBride and defender Carlos Bocanegra (both with Fulham), defender Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Cory Gibbs (Charlton Athletic), and Johann Smith (Bolton Wanderers).
And that does not include Manchester United's 19-year-old budding star Giuseppe Rossi, a striker who carries Italian-American citizenship.
All 20 Premier League teams open their season Saturday.
Everton ended its preseason with a 1-0 loss to visiting Athletic Bilbao of Spain at Goodison Park. Howard made his first start and appears ready to assume the starting job.
In the 19th minute, Bilbao striker Artiz Aduriz beat an offside trap and controlled a chipped ball in the penalty area. He mis-hit his first attempted shot, but with Howard moving to stop it, Aduriz then scuffed the ball into the net from close range for the only goal of the match.
Howard more than redeemed himself with three good saves before leaving in the 57th minute.
Reyna played the first 72 minutes, wearing the captain's armband in Richard Dunne's absence, in Manchester City's final tune-up, a 1-0 loss to FC Porto of Portugal. Reyna had to leave a match in China two weeks ago, the victim of a nasty tackle, but he was not badly hurt.
Smith, 18, was a surprising promotion from the Bolton Youth Academy and scored a goal in his debut for the Wanderers first team, a 3-1 loss on the road to Dutch power AZ Alkmaar Alkmaar at Reebok Stadium.
A minute after AZ took a 1-0 lead on Shota Arveladze's goal, Smith beat two defenders to a loose ball and used his first touch to drill a shot that swerved beyond the grasp of keeper Joey Didulica into the net.
Bolton, between injuries and international call-ups, was missing seven starters. Smith, who has completed two years with the youth academy side, was summoned because of his speed. He is a member of the U.S. under-18 men after playing five times for the under-17s.
Blackburn ended its preseason with a rousing 5-0 decision over New Zealand's national team last Saturday. Friedel was solid in Rovers' net, making several saves late to maintain what was then a three-goal advantage.
Blackburn central defender Ryan Nelsen, a Major League Soccer and D.C. United veteran, is also New Zealand's captain. However, while he hoped to play a half for each team, a strained hamstring forced him to watch from the stands.
Fulham drew 1-1 with Portugal's Boavista Saturday. In a match that saw liberal substitution, Bocanegra played the final 45-plus minutes, while McBride came on in the 61st minute and finished the match. Fulham scored in the first half, but was tied after intermission.
Reading moved a week closer to its return to the Premiership by edging Feyenoord of the Netherlands 2-1 with Convey assisting both of its goals.
Hahnemann and Convey both went 90 minutes, having rounded into full match fitness after an extended holiday following the World Cup. In the 21st minute, Convey was fouled on the left touchline, around 10 yards from the goal line. He took the free kick himself and put it to the back-post and on the head of Dave Kitson, who nodded the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
Ninety seconds later, the Royals increased the margin to 2-0 with Nicky Shorey winning a corner kick which Convey quickly took. He sent it into the six-yard box where Kitson shot off the post with teammate Ivar Ingimarsson stabbing the rebound home.
Convey worked hard throughout the match and created numerous other close chances. Hahnemann did not have a lot to do, making one good save on a long range shot from Pierre Van Hooijdonk, but he gave up a goal on a bad defensive lapse. A right-sided corner was flicked toward goal by Van Hooijdonk and an unmarked Benjamin De Ceulaer put it away from close in.
Leeds has disappointing stretch
Leeds, which was within one match of earning promotion to the Premier League before falling 3-0 to Watford in the promtion playoff final, is off to a mediocre 1-1-1 start in the League Championship.
The loss came yesterday when Leeds went down a man in the 15th minute and eventually dropped a 2-1 decision to host Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Palace is the only team in the Championship to win its first three outings.
U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis started and went 75 minutes for Leeds, but was forced to play more defensively than he might have hoped after striker Geoff Horsfield was sent off. Still, Leeds looked like it might escape with a 1-1 tie before Palace forward Clinton Morrison stepped off the bench to score the winner in stoppage time.
Lewis nearly found net in the 22nd minute when he volleyed David Healy's beautifully-flighted chip against the right post with keeper Gabor Kiraly beaten.
Injury-crippled Sheffield Wednesday, with a half-dozen starters missing, is also off to a disapppointing start at 0-1-2. On Saturday, American defender Frank Simek went 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Burnley at home. Steve MacLean's 66th-minute penalty kick was Wednesday's first goal of the season.
In the third-tier League One, American defender Zak Whitbread started in Millwall's revamped lineup in a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Chesterfield. Whitbread came out in the 52nd minute with his club trailing 4-0 and on its way to an 0-2-1 record.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor.
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