After strong preseason, O’Brien is set to start for Ajax Amsterdam.By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
and Christopher Courtney (in Wuerzburg, Germany)
and Willy Calderon (in Bristol, England)
(Monday, August 7, 2000) -- It looks now as if United States midfielder John O'Brien has made the starting side of a revamped Ajax Amsterdam.
As in the Lazio match, O'Brien played a solid defensive role, but he also nearly scored on a counter, but muffed the a clear chance after a good pass from teammate Richard Witschge.
Even though Ajax did not surrender a goal in the round-robin tournament it was won by Spain's Barcelona on goal differential.
O'Brien also played last week as a reserve in a 4-0 win over Belgian first division team Liege.
Also in the Netherlands, forward Earnie Stewart is back at NAC Breda after playing for the U.S. national team in World Cup qualifiers. He started for his team in a recent 7-0 preseason drubbing of Van Baronie. Breda’s first game this season is August 19 against RKC Waalwijk.
In Scotland, it was an alls-well-that-ends-well week for U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna and his Glasgow Rangers. On Wednesday, they drew 0-0 with Lithuanian champion Zalgiris Kaunas to advance 4-1 on aggregate to the Champions League third qualifying Round. Then on Saturday, Rangers won their second Scottish Premier League outing against Kilmarnock on the road. But in doing so, they looked far from the form that so easily won them the league title last season.
Rangers controlled the match against Zalgiris throughout, but just couldn't seem to find the net. With a three-goal cushion, Rangers played five defenders, clearly playing not to give up goals.
Although technically on the back line, Reyna emerged as the key playmaker. In the 36th minute, he combined passing with Rod Wallace before putting a clever pass onto the feet of Gio van Bronckhurst whose shot was saved. Later, he set up another nice pass onto Fernando Ricksen who slammed his shot into the crossbar.
On Saturday, Rangers went 2-0 in league play by erasing a two-goal deficit and defeating Kilmarnock 4-2 on the road at Rugby Park. The four Rangers goals came after Kilmarnock had a player ejected.
Reyna again assumed a key playmaker's role as he played the full 90 minutes, making key passes and providing the link between defense and offense. Billy Dodds again had two goals which pulled his team even at 2-2 in the 72nd minute.
In England, there was some good news for American defender Gregg Berhalter who appears to have made the squad at Huddersfield Town, though no official announcement has been made.
He continues to start in pre-season matches and to play solidly, going the 90 in Huddersfield Town's final pre-season match, a 2-0 loss to Premier League power Leeds United. Ian Harte and Lee Bowyer scored in preparation for Leeds' midweek Champions League qualifying match.
Earlier in the week, in a match in which each side used five substitutes, by agreement, Berhalter played the entire 90 minutes when Huddersfield defeated second division Wigan 2-1. With all the injuries that Huddersfield has suffered in back, Berhalter looks like a shoo-in as a starter for the home opener against Watford on Saturday.
U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis played the second half and served several nice crosses from his left wing position, but teammates could not in a 0-0 preseason draw with Tottenham Hotspur, American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann occupied his usual spot on Fulham's bench.
Hahnemann then made a rare start in Fulham’s final exhibition, a 1-0 decision over second-division Bournemouth, Lewis started on the left wing and was substituted in the 59th minute by striker Luis Boa Morte. Manager Jean Tigana likely used the starting lineup to make any final
U.S. striker Joe-Max Moore continues to work himself into match fitness, playing the second half of Everton's 2-0 loss to Tranmere Rovers. He came on for Danny Cadamarteri, but didn't make much of an impact until he came close to scoring, but was off the mark in the last minute.
Everton manager Walter Smith is expected to start the season with Moore seeing action as a substitute.
American keeper Brad Friedel remains in limbo at Liverpool. Dutchman Sander Westerveld was in goal as usual for Liverpool which kept its Belfast Challenge Cup crown by goal differential after it drew 2-2 with Benfica of Portugal. Frenchman Pegguy Arphexad, newly arrived from Leicester, was the backup keeper after getting preseason playing time and appearing to take Friedel’s No. 2 spot.
Another American keeper Ian Feuer appears to have lost out in his battle with Kelvin Davis (his former teammate at Luton Town) and Paul Heald for the number one spot in goal at first-division Wimbledon.
Feuer came to Wimbledon in the off-season on a free transfer from Premiership side West Ham United. He played Sunday's preseason match against Bristol City, an impressive 5-2 win for Wimbledon in which he was only beaten on a magnificent 25-yard shot by City's Ivan Tistermitanu and a late penalty kick by Alex Meechan. Despite the impressive outing, the battle for starting goalkeeper appears to have been won by Davis.
Stefani Miglioranzi, the Brazilian-born midfielder who is eligible to play for either the U.S. or Italy at the international level, has been seeing some significant minutes in the pre-season with Portsmouth.
Drafted by Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire in 1998, he does have a good touch and good field of vision, but has been plagued by inconsistency. He started last year well with a goal on opening day, but injuries cut his season short.
It was generally a slow week in Germany while Bundesliga teams get ready for the start of the season. Bayern Munich won the preseason DFB League Cup for the fourth consecutive time. In a match with all the scoring in the second half, Bayern defeated Hertha Berlin 5-1 in front of a sparse crowd of 12,500 in the Leverkusen BayArena.
U.S. defender Tony Sanneh continues to play as a reserve in every preseason game at Hertha since his return from World Cup qualifying. His most recent appearance was Sunday in a 0-0 draw with Serie A side AS Roma.
Rated by Kicker magazine around the middle of the pack among Bundesliga players in the preseason, Sanneh has run hot and cold thus far. In Hertha's recent DFB Cup final against Bayern Munich, Sanneh came on in the 26th minute for an injured Marko Rehmer on the right side of the defense. He never integrated into the team's scheme, and made several errant passes which lost possession.
His only bright spot was a 50-yard race against Bayern striker Carsten Jancker to clear what would have been a sure goal. Sanneh was not the only Berlin player to look flat as the aggressive and hard fouling tactics of Bayern knocked the entire team off balance.
Hertha opens the season against Bayern Munich on Saturday.
At Bayer Leverkusen, U.S. midfielder Frankie Hejduk played as a reserve last weekend in a 4-0 victory over Real Mallorca, a Spanish first-division side. He looked confident on the ball, and his through pass started the sequence for Bayer's fourth goal. He nearly scored the fifth on a breakaway in injury time, but his shot was well-saved by the Mallorca keeper.
American forward Landon Donovan did not play in the match, but has been officially awarded the number 26 jersey and has been listed as a forward of Leverkusen's roster. Leverkusen opens Saturday against VfL Wolfsburg.
In the final tune-ups for VfL Osnabruck, American Joe Enochs scored a goal in a 10-0 win over Osterfeine and
then played well in a 3-1 loss to Bundesliga power Hamburg SV. His team opens the season traveling to Arminia Bielefeld on
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at
email@example.com. Christopher Courtney
is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willy Calderon, an American living in Bristol, England, writes about soccer for various
publications and netzines and can be contacted at
Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at email@example.com. Christopher Courtney is an American living in Wuerzburg, Germany where he follows the fortunes of American players in Europe. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Willy Calderon, an American living in Bristol, England, writes about soccer for various publications and netzines and can be contacted at email@example.com.