Altidore, Beasley lead way in good week for Americans abroad
Veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel played his first club game as a professional in 1995. At the time, Andrew Wooten was 6, and Greg Garza was 4. Fast forward to 2012, and all three Americans can look back on this past weekend as a landmark in their careers, no matter how far along each one is.
Friedel, who turns 41 next month, made his record 300th straight Premier League start, extending his ironman stretch of almost eight years. Unfortunately for Friedel, he could not mark his milestone with a victory, as he was beaten by a free for the only goal in Tottenham's 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers, a loss that has Spurs on the outside of the UEFA Champions League picture looking in after a berth in the competition seemed like a certainty just weeks ago.
On the other end of the career spectrum, Wooten and Garza, a pair of up-and-coming U.S. prospects, celebrated some worthwhile firsts. Wooten, another in a line of German-American prospects, marked his first start in the Bundesliga with his first top-flight goal. After lighting it up as a striker for Kaiserslautern's reserve team, the 22-year-old Wooten has become a fixture on the matchday roster for the soon-to-be relegated club, and he has planted the seeds for a bigger role going forward. Garza, a 20-year-old left back/winger, is doing the same at Club Tijuana in Mexico, where he made his first start for the club at which Americans Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona are already enjoying fine seasons.
As big as the achievements were for those three players, they are not likely to be involved with the U.S. national team (Friedel is long retired internationally, and Garza and Wooten are a bit too green for the main stage) when Jurgen Klinsmann calls in his 23 players to participate in three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers at the end of May and beginning of June. For a trio in the mix for Klinsmann's roster, however, the weekend was also noteworthy.
There are few Americans not named Clint Dempsey in better form than Jozy Altidore and DaMarcus Beasley, and each scored yet again over the weekend. Altidore is doing what he can to keep AZ Alkmaar in the mix for a berth in next year's Champions League, scoring in his fourth straight league game, this one a game-winner that kept AZ in second place with three games to go. Beasley scored for the fourth time in his last seven matches for Puebla to match another in-form American, striker Herculez Gomez, with five goals in league play.
Oguchi Onyewu, meanwhile, made his return to the field for Sporting Lisbon after a two-month layoff following knee surgery, emerging from a 90-minute performance unscathed. A healthy Onyewu remains the first choice alongside Carlos Bocanegra in central defense for the national team, and he'll have as many as six more club matches -- including a potential UEFA Europa League final -- to show Klinsmann that his fitness is where it needs to be and that he merits a place on the roster for when the U.S. matches start to really matter.
Those were just some of the highlights of a productive week for non-domestic-based Americans. Here's how the above, two-goal scorer Mike Grella and the rest of the Americans playing abroad fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):