Maurice Edu's season finishes on a high, plus more Americans Abroad
Maurice Edu's up-and-down season ended with him standing on the winner's podium yet again.
Rangers FC won its third consecutive Scottish Premier League championship over the weekend, and Edu has been a part of all three ever since he joined the club in 2008 from Major League Soccer's Toronto FC.
This season hasn't always been a walk in the park, for Edu or Rangers, though.
Edu took on more of an attacking midfield role in his third year at Ibrox Stadium than he ever had before. The Fontana, Calif., native scored a couple of highlight-reel goals, maintained his status as a hawk in the 6-yard box, became the first American to tally in the UEFA Champions League since 2007 and scored a crucial goal that kept the club's UEFA Europa League hopes alive for one more round.
He also went through a dip in form that aroused quite a bit of negative reaction from the Rangers faithful in recent weeks.
While both Edu and Rangers ended up on top of the table, there was a time when the club dropped to an unthinkable third place during the season. The team also lost to rival Celtic twice in a two-week span, one of those games coming in the Scottish Cup.
On top of all that, there was the added dynamic of knowing that manager Walter Smith would make way for assistant Ally McCoist at the end of the season.
"It's been a long season for the club," Edu told Rangers' team website. "We've had a lot to deal with, but we've dug deep and got some great results in difficult circumstances. Now we have the chance to celebrate the success that we worked so hard for."
Between the league championship and League Cup double and the spot in next season's Champions League, Edu's perseverance has been rewarded with first-place glory.
The same cannot be said for Sacha Kljestan and Oguchi Onyewu, who both had chances at earning league titles slip away.
Kljestan's Anderlecht got tripped up yet again in Belgium's top-flight playoffs and will finish in third place, thus missing out on the Champions League.
Although Onyewu's parent club, AC Milan, won a league title, his current team, FC Twente, fell from first place on the final day of the season. A win or a draw in the season finale would have cemented a second consecutive league crown, but the club's 3-1 loss to Ajax dethroned Twente and banished it to second place.
Robbie Findley is another American whose club came close to achieving success only to fall short. His Nottingham Forest dropped its promotion semifinal tie to Swansea City on Monday, settling for another season in the League Championship instead of playing for a chance to reach the Premier League. Findley didn't take part in the playoffs at all, as he battled through a lingering thigh injury that cost him three months of the season after his transfer in the winter.
Freddy Adu is still alive in the promotion hunt, though, as his Caykur Rizespor clinched a place in Turkey's 1. Lig promotion playoffs with a win over the league champion in the regular-season finale.
On the complete other end of the spectrum are Ricardo Clark and Jonathan Spector, who both had their teams relegated from top-flight status over the weekend. While Clark has two more years on his deal at Eintracht Frankfurt and figures to be part of the effort to get the club back to the Bundesliga, Spector is out of contract, and his future is very much uncertain as West Ham will look to shred salary while preparing for life in the Championship.
No Americans scored goals during the past week, but there were some notable appearances, including Michael Bradley's first for Aston Villa in more than two months. Here's how he and the rest of the Americans playing abroad fared over the past week (statistics encompass all competitions):
Carlos Bocanegra, D, St. Etienne - Started, played 90 minutes in St. Etienne's 2-1 loss to Lille on Tuesday. Bocanegra also started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in St. Etienne's 2-1 loss to his former team, Stade Rennes, on Sunday.
Oguchi Onyewu, D, FC Twente Enschede - Not in the 18 for Twente's second-ending, 3-1 loss to Ajax on Sunday. The loss dropped Twente from first place to second on the final day of the season and ended the team's quest to repeat as league champion. Twente will have to go through the qualifying rounds to be entered into the UEFA Champions League draw.