Clint Dempsey was seemingly on the path to deliver again when Fulham was on the cusp of a landmark victory. He put in the dirty work, got himself into position to make a game-winning play and then did the unthinkable.
He failed to come through.
After drawing a second-half stoppage-time penalty on new Chelsea center back David Luiz on Monday, Dempsey was granted a rare opportunity to score from the penalty spot. With the Craven Cottage crowd teetering on delirium, Dempsey stood at the edge of the 18-yard box in a spread-legged stance, catching his breath while wiping the sweat from his brow, moments away from adding another bullet point to his Fulham resume.
On the referee's whistle, Dempsey ran up and delivered a powerful right-footed kick slightly to the left, but not left enough. Goalkeeper Petr Cech guessed correctly, stuffing the goal attempt. Dempsey had a chance off the rebound, but his acrobatic bicycle kick attempt sailed high and wide, hopes of a West London derby victory going along with it. Final score: Fulham 0, Chelsea 0.
Teammates refused to lay the blame at Dempsey's feet. "Of course it's disappointing [not to have won], but the person who took the penalty for us has been fantastic for us this season, so it's just unlucky for him -- it happens," said Andrew Johnson to the club's official website. "Clint has 10 goals for us already this season and it was him that won the penalty so it made sense that he was the one to take it."
Although Dempsey missed out on a chance to cap another strong overall performance with what would have been his fifth goal in seven matches, there were two American goal scorers this past week. Carlos Bocanegra tallied his second goal of the season for St. Etienne in a losing effort, and Germany-born, 20-year-old Timothy Chandler netted his first professional goal in his first start for FC Nurnberg.
In addition to the two goals, three Americans made their debuts at new clubs, as Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa) and Eric Lichaj (Leeds United) all ended spells of inactivity. Altidore and Lichaj both started, with the striker displaying finesse moves not typically associated with his physical style of play in the run up to Bursaspor's lone goal of the match. Lichaj went the distance at right back in helping Leeds keep a clean sheet, something he'll try to do with regularity until his loan ends next month.
As for Bradley, he entered Aston Villa's draw with Blackpool after starting central midfielder Jean Makoun was sent off in the 73rd minute. With Makoun now suspended in the aftermath of his red card, the stage is set for Bradley to earn prime minutes in an attempt to win over manager Gerard Houllier and secure a constant place in the starting XI for the duration of the season.
Here is how all of the Americans playing abroad fared this past week (statistics encompass all competitions):
Michael Bradley, M, Aston Villa -- In the 18, came on as a 73rd-minute substitute to make his Aston Villa debut in a 1-1 draw with Blackpool on Saturday. SEASON: 23 games, 20 starts, 4 goals
Clint Dempsey, M/F, Fulham -- Started, played 90 minutes, drew a second-half, stoppage-time penalty but had his ensuing spot kick saved in Fulham's 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Monday. SEASON: 31 games, 28 starts, 10 goals
Brad Friedel, GK, Aston Villa -- Started, played 90 minutes and did not make a save in Villa's 1-1 draw with Blackpool on Saturday. SEASON: 30 games, 30 starts, 97 saves, 47 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Wolverhampton -- In the 18, did not play in Wolves' 2-0 loss to Arsenal on Saturday. SEASON: 17 games, 17 starts, 59 saves, 28 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Stuart Holden, M, Bolton -- Started, played 90 minutes in Bolton's 2-0 victory over Everton on Sunday. Holden took the free kick that led to the opening goal and was wrongly denied a goal of his own in the second half. His close-range finish was waved off after the ball was ruled out of bounds preceding the pass to him from Daniel Sturridge. Replays showed the call, while a difficult one to spot, was incorrect. SEASON: 24 games, 22 starts, 2 goals
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and made one save in Everton's 2-0 loss to Bolton on Sunday. SEASON: 28 games, 28 starts, 74 saves, 38 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Jermaine Jones, M, Blackburn -- Started, played 90 minutes in Blackburn's 0-0 draw with Newcastle on Saturday. SEASON: 20 games, 19 starts, 1 goal
Jonathan Spector, M/D, West Ham -- In the 18, came on as a 78th-minute substitute and picked up a yellow card in West Ham's 3-3 draw with West Brom on Saturday. SEASON: 13 games, 11 starts, 4 goals
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- In the 18, did not play in Derby County's 2-0 loss to Leicester City on Saturday. SEASON: 11 games, 4 starts
Mike Grella, F, Leeds United -- Not in the 18 for Leeds' 2-0 victory over Bristol City on Saturday. SEASON: 12 games, 7 starts, 3 goals
Brad Guzan, GK, Hull City -- Started, played 90 minutes, made four saves and earned the clean sheet in Hull City's 1-0 victory over Preston North End on Saturday. SEASON: 11 games, 11 starts, 51 saves, 12 goals allowed, 3 clean sheets
Eddie Johnson, F, Preston North End -- Started, played 90 minutes in Preston North End's 1-0 loss to Hull City on Saturday. SEASON: 14 games, 3 starts
Eric Lichaj, D, Leeds United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Leeds' 2-0 victory over Bristol City on Saturday. Lichaj was loaned to Leeds from Aston Villa for a month and will be with the club through March 10. The team's first-choice right back, Paul Connolly, has a hamstring injury, meaning Lichaj could be in line for some solid playing time while on loan. SEASON: 9 games, 7 starts
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- In the 18, came on as a 79th-minute substitute in Norwich City's 2-1 victory over Reading on Saturday. SEASON: 8 games, 6 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Plymouth Argyle -- In the 18, did not play in Plymouth Argyle's 3-1 loss to Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 4 starts
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 3-0 loss to Huddersfield Town in the second leg of their Football League Trophy North Section final. Carlisle advanced on aggregate, 4-3, and will face Brentford in the cup final at Wembley Stadium on April 3. Simek also started and played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 1-0 loss to Southampton in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 36 games, 36 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Wycombe Wanderers -- In the 18, did not play in Wycombe's 1-0 loss to Bradford City on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 3 starts, 2 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Hannover 96 -- Not in the 18 for Hannover's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games
Timothy Chandler, M/D, FC Nurnberg -- Started, played 75 minutes, scored a 51st-minute goal and assisted on two others in Nurnberg's 4-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart on Saturday. Chandler, born in Germany to a German mother and American father, earned his first start for Nurnberg and played an attacking role. Chandler received a cross at the edge of the 6-yard box and one-timed a shot into the goal for his first tally with the club. SEASON: 6 games, 1 start, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hannover's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen on Sunday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts
Ricardo Clark, M/D, Eintracht Frankfurt -- Not in the 18 for Frankfurt's 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. SEASON: 7 games, 4 starts
Daniel Williams, D, SC Freiburg -- Not in the 18 for Freiburg's 1-0 loss to FC Schalke 04 on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 2 starts
Edson Buddle, F, FC Ingolstadt 04 -- Started, played 65 minutes in Ingolstadt's 3-1 loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games, 3 starts, 1 goal
Luis Robles, GK, Karlsruhe SC -- Started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Karlsruhe's 6-2 loss to Hertha Berlin on Sunday. SEASON: 16 games, 16 starts, 62 saves, 32 goals allowed, 4 clean sheets
Bobby Wood, F, TSV 1860 Munich -- In the 18, came on as an 89th-minute substitute in Munich's 1-0 loss to FC Erzgebirge Aue on Monday. SEASON: 3 games
Dave Yelldell, GK, MSV Duisburg -- Started, played 90 minutes, made three saves and earned the clean sheet in Duisburg's 0-0 draw with FC Augsburg on Friday. SEASON: 26 games, 26 starts, 65 saves, 21 goals allowed, 10 clean sheets
Matt Taylor, F, Rot Weiss Ahlen -- Not in the 18 for Rot Weiss Ahlen's 2-0 loss to Hansa Rostock on Wednesday or for a 1-0 loss to Wacker Burghausen on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 15 starts, 10 goals
Carlos Bocanegra, D, St. Etienne -- Started, played 90 minutes and scored the opening goal in the 13th minute of St. Etienne's 4-1 loss to Lyon on Saturday. Bocanegra one-timed a Dimitri Payet free kick from the left by the near post into the lower left-hand corner of the goal to give St. Etienne a short-lived lead. SEASON: 21 games, 21 starts, 2 goals
Charlie Davies, F, FC Sochaux -- Not in the 18 for Sochaux's 2-1 loss to Marseille on Saturday. Davies, still on trial with D.C. United, scored two goals and assisted on another in a scrimmage against the Trinidad and Tobago Under-20 team on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Oguchi Onyewu, D, FC Twente Enschede -- Started, played 90 minutes in Twente's 1-0 victory over Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Jozy Altidore, F, Bursaspor -- Started, played 76 minutes in Bursaspor's 1-1 draw with Eskisehirspor on Sunday. SEASON: 14 games, 8 starts, 2 goals
Freddy Adu, M, Caykur Rizespor -- Not in the 18 for Rizespor's 0-0 draw with Kayseri Erciyesspor on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- In the 18, came on as a 90th-minute substitute in Anderlecht's 1-0 victory over Cercle Brugge on Saturday. SEASON: 23 games, 18 starts, 3 goals
Liga de Honra
Bryan Arguez, M, G.D. Estoril Praia -- Not in the 18 for Estoril's 1-0 victory over Sporting Covilha on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Greg Garza, D, G.D. Estoril Praia -- Not in the 18 for Estoril's 1-0 victory over Sporting Covilha on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game
Tony Taylor, F, G.D. Estoril Praia -- In the 18, did not play in Estoril's 1-0 victory over Sporting Covilha on Sunday. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic FC -- Not in the 18 for Celtic's 3-1 victory over Dundee United on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- In the 18, came on as a 70th-minute substitute in Rangers' 6-0 victory over Motherwell on Saturday. SEASON: 26 games, 19 starts, 4 goals
Daniel Antunez, M/D, Estudiantes Tecos -- Not in the 18 for Tecos' 4-1 loss to Morelia on Sunday. SEASON: 2 games, 1 start
Jonathan Bornstein, M/D, Tigres UANL -- Started, played the first half in Tigres' 2-0 victory over Cruz Azul on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Edgar Castillo, D, Puebla -- In the 18, did not play in Puebla's 1-0 loss to Pachuca on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 3 starts
Herculez Gomez, F, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes in Pachuca's 1-0 victory over Puebla on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 2 starts
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante -- In the 18, came on as a 56th-minute substitute in Atlante's 0-0 draw with San Luis on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games
Sammy Ochoa, F, Estudiantes Tecos -- Not in the 18 for Tecos' 4-1 loss to Morelia on Sunday. SEASON: 0 games
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Pachuca's 1-0 victory over Puebla on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 2 starts
Avi Creditor is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.