Spector stars in return to West Ham lineup, more Yanks abroad
Jonathan Spector had watched from the sideline for more than three months, unable to crack West Ham's lineup in any competition.
West Ham's shirt sponsor, betting outfit SBOBET, likely couldn't set a high-enough line for how his evening at Upton Park would unfold last Tuesday.
Playing in his first game since Aug. 28, Spector, normally a fullback, started for the Hammers against Manchester United in the League Cup at central midfield.
That in itself beat some long odds. The fact that he was a talisman against his former team, scoring two goals in the first half of the 4-0 quarterfinal upset, brought down the house.
"It's been a bit frustrating and disappointing, but at the same time you have to wait for your chance, and it came on Tuesday," Spector said on West Ham's website.
Spector, who had negated a West Ham score by being offside during Victor Obinna's shot moments before his first goal, ran onto a lovely Obinna chip to the center of the area and headed the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak in the 22nd minute to open the scoring.
He added to his tally in the 37th minute, pouncing on a loose ball in the area, taking a touch to create space and finishing clinically with his left foot.
"I think he saw the Barcelona game (against Real Madrid) and thought, 'I can do that!'" West Ham manager Avram Grant said on the team's site. "He played very well. He took his chance. It was a special night."
All of a sudden, Spector, who seemed to be a sure bet to head elsewhere when the transfer window re-opens next month, now may be a lock for West Ham's starting lineup for the foreseeable future. He went the distance in central midfield on Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Sunderland in a league match, coming inches away from scoring the equalizer after a darting run down the middle of the pitch yielded a shot that just evaded the left post.
The position change could open up a world of possibilities for Spector, who may have found himself a permanent home in the midfield. Instead of being burdened by the defensive responsibility of playing fullback, Spector, a forward in his youth days, can roam around the center of the park, where he can get the most out of his burgeoning offensive skills.
Does the shift help his status with the United States men's national team? Not necessarily, especially considering the bevy of talented central midfielders that Bob Bradley has at his disposal; however, any development that allows Spector to see consistent minutes for a top-flight squad will do wonders for his confidence and has to be viewed in a positive light.
"He is a good professional who always tries hard," Grant said. "The last month we changed his position in the training to midfield, and he has done very well."
Spector wasn't the only U.S. international to find the back of the net this past week. Carlos Bocanegra scored his first goal for French club St. Etienne, and Michael Bradley tallied his fourth goal of the season for Germany's Borussia Monchengladbach, albeit in a losing effort.
Here's the rundown of how they and the rest of the Americans playing abroad fared over the past week (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Pachuca's American trio of Herculez Gomez, Jose Francisco Torres and Marco Vidal will face Congo-based TP Mazembe Englebert in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on Dec. 10. The winner will face Brazilian power Internacional in the semifinals.