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):
Clint Dempsey, M/F, Fulham - Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on Diomansy Kamara's 30th-minute goal in Fulham's 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday. Dempsey cleverly used the outside of his right foot to slot a through ball to an unmarked Kamara in the Arsenal box. SEASON: 18 games, 15 starts, 6 goals
Brad Friedel, GK, Aston Villa - Started, played 90 minutes and made four saves in Villa's 2-1 loss to Birmingham in their League Cup quarterfinal match on Wednesday. Friedel also started, played 90 minutes and made three saves in Villa's 3-0 loss to Liverpool in league play on Monday. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 61 saves, 28 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa - In the 18-man gameday roster, did not play in Villa's 2-1 loss to Birmingham in their League Cup quarterfinal match on Wednesday. Guzan was also in the 18 but did not play in Villa's 3-0 loss to Liverpool in league play on Monday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 12 saves, 5 goals allowed
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Wolverhampton - In the 18, did not play in Wolves' 3-0 loss to Blackburn on Saturday. Hahnemann watched from the bench for the second straight week after manager Mick McCarthy elected to go with Wayne Hennessey as his starter in goal. SEASON: 14 games, 14 starts, 45 saves, 25 goals allowed
Stuart Holden, M, Bolton - Not in the 18 for Bolton's 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Saturday. Holden missed his second straight match with a thigh injury. SEASON: 14 games, 13 starts, 1 goal
Tim Howard, GK, Everton - Started, played 90 minutes, made three saves and picked up a yellow card in Everton's 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Saturday. Howard was put in a tough spot after Phil Neville's back pass forced him into colliding with Nicolas Anelka in the area, giving Chelsea a penalty just before halftime. SEASON: 16 games, 16 starts, 38 saves, 20 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Eddie Johnson, F, Fulham - In the 18, came on as an 89th-minute substitute in Fulham's 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday. SEASON: 9 games, 1 start
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa - In the 18, did not play in Villa's 2-1 loss to Birmingham in their League Cup quarterfinal match on Wednesday. Lichaj also cracked the gameday roster but did not play in Villa's 3-0 loss to Liverpool in league play on Monday. SEASON: 5 games, 3 starts
Jonathan Spector, M/D, West Ham - Started, played 90 minutes at central midfield and scored two goals in West Ham's 4-0 victory over Manchester United in their League Cup quarterfinal match on Tuesday. The appearance was Spector's first since starting in West Ham's 3-0 loss to Manchester United in league play on Aug. 28. Spector also started and played 90 minutes in central midfield in West Ham's 1-0 loss to Sunderland in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts, 2 goals
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County - In the 18, did not play in Derby County's 2-1 loss to Norwich City on Saturday. SEASON: 8 games, 2 starts
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City - Not in the 18 for Norwich City's 2-1 victory over Derby County on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Mike Grella, F, Carlisle United - Not in the 18 for Carlisle's 3-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in their North Sectional semifinal of the Football League Trophy on Tuesday. Carlisle's scheduled league match against Leyton Orient on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. SEASON: 9 games, 6 starts, 3 goals
Jemal Johnson, M, Milton Keynes Dons - Milton Keynes Dons scheduled match against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. SEASON: 15 games, 5 starts, 1 goal
Anton Peterlin, M, Plymouth Argyle - Plymouth Argyle's scheduled match against Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. SEASON: 5 games, 4 starts
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United - Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 3-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in their North Sectional semifinal of the Football League Trophy on Tuesday. Carlisle's scheduled league match against Leyton Orient on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts
Jozy Altidore, F, Villarreal - In the 18, did not play in Villarreal's 3-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb in their UEFA Europa League group stage match on Wednesday. Villarreal is atop Group D with one match to go, one point ahead of Zagreb and two clear of PAOK Salonika. Its final group stage match is against the already-eliminated Club Brugge. Altidore was also in the 18 but did not play in Villarreal's 1-0 victory over Sevilla in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 9 games, 6 starts, 2 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, AC Milan - Not in the 18 for Milan's 3-0 victory over Brescia on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Hannover 96 - In the 18, did not play in Hannover's 2-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games
Michael Bradley, M, Borussia Monchengladbach - Started, played 90 minutes and scored a goal in the 18th minute of Borussia Monchengladbach's 2-1 loss to Hannover 96 on Saturday. Bradley's free kick from about 40 yards out on the left side was lofted over Hannover's last line of defense and took a bounce past the keeper into the corner of the goal to open the scoring. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 4 goals
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 - Started, played 90 minutes in Hannover's 2-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts
Ricardo Clark, M, Eintracht Frankfurt - In the 18, did not play in Frankfurt's 2-1 victory over Mainz 05 on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 - Not in the 18 for Schalke's 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday. Jones was demoted to the Schalke reserves after a conflict with coach Felix Magath and was not with the first team for the match. SEASON: 16 games, 15 starts, 1 goal
Daniel Williams, D, SC Freiburg - Not in the 18 for Freiburg's 1-0 victory over Hamburg SV on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 2 starts
Luis Robles, GK, Karlsruhe SC - Started, played 90 minutes and made six saves in Karlsruhe's 1-0 loss to Fortuna Dusseldorf on Sunday. SEASON: 9 games, 9 starts, 34 saves, 15 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Dave Yelldell, GK, MSV Duisburg - Started, played 90 minutes and made one save in Duisburg's 3-1 loss to FSV Frankfurt on Friday. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 41 saves, 15 goals allowed, 7 clean sheets
Matt Taylor, F, Rot Weiss Ahlen - Rot Weiss Ahlen plays Stuttgart II on Wednesday. SEASON: 11 games, 11 starts, 7 goals
Carlos Bocanegra, D, St. Etienne - Started, played 90 minutes in St. Etienne's 1-1 draw with Valenciennes on Wednesday. Bocanegra also started, played 90 minutes and scored a 69th-minute goal in St. Etienne's 2-2 draw with Bordeaux on Sunday. Bocanegra got onto the end of a Dimitri Payet free kick inside the box, snapping home a header from about eight yards out to give St. Etienne a 2-1 lead. SEASON: 13 games, 13 starts, 1 goal
Charlie Davies, F, FC Sochaux - Not in the 18 for Sochaux's 2-1 victory over Valenciennes on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht - Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Anderlecht's 3-1 loss to Zenit St. Petersburg in their UEFA Europa League group stage match on Wednesday. Anderlecht trails AEK Athens by three points (and one on goal differential) for second place in Group G with one group match to go. Kljestan also started and played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 2-1 victory over Zulte-Waregem in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 17 games, 14 starts, 3 goals
Liga de Honra
Bryan Arguez, M, G.D. Estoril Praia - Not in the 18 for Estoril's 1-0 loss to Santa Clara on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Greg Garza, D, G.D. Estoril Praia - Not in the 18 for Estoril's 1-0 loss to Santa Clara on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Tony Taylor, F, G.D. Estoril Praia - In the 18, came on as a 86th-minute substitute in Estoril's 1-0 loss to Santa Clara on Sunday. SEASON: 12 games, 2 starts, 3 goals
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic FC - Celtic's scheduled match against Aberdeen on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. SEASON: 0 games
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC - Rangers' scheduled match against Hearts of Midlothian on Saturday was postponed due to freezing weather. Rangers' postponed game from last week against Dundee United was rescheduled for Dec. 21. Edu did not travel with the team to Turkey for Tuesday's UEFA Champions League match against Bursaspor. According to his team's website, Edu is still working his way back to full fitness after a knee injury and is also battling a case of tonsillitis. The team claims that the Dec. 18 league match against St. Mirren is a likely return date. SEASON: 17 games, 15 starts, 2 goals
Freddy Adu, F, Aris Salonika - Not on the UEFA Europa League roster for Aris, which defeated Atletico Madrid, 3-2, in their group stage match on Wednesday. Aris and Madrid are tied for second place in Group B (Aris leads on goal differential by two) with one group match to go. Adu was also not on the roster for Aris' 1-0 victory over Asteras Tripoli in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
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.
Michael Hoyos, M, Estudiantes La Plata - In the 18, did not play in Estudiantes' 3-1 victory over Argentinos Juniors on Saturday. SEASON: 10 games, 6 starts, 1 goal
Michael Parkhurst, D, FC Nordsjaelland - Started, played 90 minutes in Nordsjaelland's 2-1 victory over Horsens on Sunday. Nordsjaelland is in ninth place in the 12-team Superliga with 22 points through 19 games as the league breaks until March. Nordsjaelland is five points clear of the drop zone but just seven short of fourth place in a very congested middle of the table. The third- and fourth-place teams in the Superliga qualify for the 2011 UEFA Europa League. SEASON: 17 games, 16 starts
Chris Rolfe, F, Aalborg BK - Not in the 18 for Aalborg's 6-0 loss to Odense Boldklub on Saturday. Aalborg is in last place in the Superliga with just 16 points ahead of the league's winter break. SEASON: 0 games
Avi Creditor is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.