Friedel posts three more shutouts as Aston Villa climbs in English Premier League.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Thursday, December 24, 2009) -- United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel recorded three more clean sheets, running his shutout streak to four as Aston Villa challenged for the lead in the English Premier League.
Villa (10-3-5, 35 points) has won four in a row and is unbeaten in seven (5-0-2) as it is tied for third place, six points behind league-leading Chelsea (13-3-2). Villa trails Manchester United (12-5-1, 37) and is even with Arsenal (11-4-2), though Arsenal holds a game in hand.
On Saturday, Friedel did not need to make a save in a 1-0 defeat of visiting Stoke City. He did get some help from the referee when Mamady Sidibe headed home a cross from Matthew Etherington in the 32nd minute, but the Stoke striker was adjudged to have fouled Stephen Warnock when challenging for the ball and the goal was disallowed.
On December 15, Villa cruised to a 2-0 decision over Sunderland. Friedel was called on for just a pair of stops; his best a kick save on Andy Reid. Three days earlier, Villa slipped past host Manchester United 1-0 with Friedel coming up with five saves, giving his side its first victory at Old Trafford since 1983.
U.S. keeper Brad Guzan continues in his role as Friedel's backup.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard and Everton tied their last two outings, On Saturday, Everton drew 1-1 with visiting Birmingham City at Goodison Park.
Everton took 24 shots, but only six were on goal and only an early strike by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov found net. Howard was not credited with a single save as a strike by Sebastian Larsson beat him in the 22nd minute with the only shot on target
The match contrasted greatly with the previous game, a 3-3 draw at Chelsea. Howard had four saves, but could not deny Didier Drogba a pair of goals and Nicolas Anelka one in a match that featured some loose defending by both teams.
American keeper Marcus Hahnemann is making the most of an opportunity to start with Wolverhampton Wanderers, registering clean sheets in two consecutive games. On Saturday, he had five saves in a 2-0 victory over Burnley.
A week earlier, he made seven saves in a 1-0 shutout of host Tottenham Hotspur. Hahnemann made fine saves on Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, prompting Wolves manager Mick McCarthy to say, "Marcus Hahnemann's been diving around making saves everywhere. I expect my keeper to have to make saves when we go to Spurs."
The two triumphs followed a 3-0 loss at Manchester United where McCarthy did something odd, starting mostly reserves. Hahnemann made eight saves.
On Saturday, U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey went the distance, assisting a pair of goals in helping Fulham register one of its most satisfying wins at Craven Cottage in a while, soundly defeating visiting Manchester United 3-0.
That followed a 1-1 draw at Burnley.
American striker Eddie Johnson did not dress for Fulham for either match and he has been listed as available for transfer when the window opens in January.
U.S. forward Jozy Altidore seems to be the odd man out for Hull City these days. On Saturday, he was not dressed for a 3-0 loss to Arsenal with Daniel Cousin returning from injury and replacing Altidore.
In the preceding match, Altidore came on for the final 26 minutes of a 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers. In the 75th minute, Altidore went down in the Rovers box, but instead of earning a penalty kick, Altidore was booked for diving.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector also is a bit out of favor with West Ham United. With Matthew Upson back from injury, Spector did nor dress Sunday for a 1-1 draw with Chelsea. Spector sat on the bench for a 1-0 loss away at Birmingham and 3-1 home setback to Bolton Wanderers.
In second-tier League Championship, U.S. defender Jay DeMerit is back to full-time duty going 90 minutes in a pair of Watford losses, 2-1 to Peterborough United Saturday and 1-0 to Derby County a week earlier.
American defender Frank Simek remained on the bench during Sheffield Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Swansea City Saturday, a week after he did not dress for a 3-0 loss at Leicester City.
American striker Mike Grella scored his first goals for Leeds United of the third-tier League One, recording a pair of tallies in a 5-1 win over visiting Kettering Town of the Conference National in a second-round FA Cup replay at Elland Road.
Leeds will next face Manchester United, a long-time rival when both teams were in the Premier League.
Grella did not play in Leeds' 1-0 decision over Southampton or a 0-0 draw at Brentford.
In France's Ligue 1, U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra was on the bench for Stade Rennes in a 1-0 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.
Prior to that, he also sat when Rennes was surprised 1-0 by Monaco. That followed him sitting out a yellow-cards suspension when Rennes defeated Nancy 2-1.
In Germany's second-division 2. Bundesliga, American keeper David Yelldell injured his knee in the 59th minute of TuS Koblenz's 3-0 loss to FC Kaiserslautern. That led to him not dressing for last weekend's 1-0 setback to FSV Frankfurt.
American attacker Matt Taylor dressed, but did not play, for Frankfurt against Koblenz. He also sat for a 0-0 tie with Ahlen.
American Luis Robles was in his usual role as backup keeper for Kaiserslautern.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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