It is difficult to read anything about the United States at the moment that isn’t concerned with the latest Presidential election, and perhaps rightly so. After the year we’ve had, the question of who is going to govern this global superpower for the next four years is as pertinent as ever and shouldn’t just concern Americans alone. Up until 11 December, the US states will officially certify their results while the Trump administration is busy pursuing lawsuits that could delay a formal authorisation of the vote. Still, as it stands, Joe Biden is President-Elect and is set to fulfil the spot of the forty-sixth Presidency of the United States of America. If Biden’s victory is approved, there will have been forty-five Presidents in the country’s history. Interestingly though, this is the exact same number (according to my limited Googling capacities) of American soccer players that have appeared in the Premier League to date.
For a while, I was genuinely convinced that you could only play in the Premier League as an American if you were a goalkeeper. Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard. There is a crass comment to be made in there somewhere about Americans only being able to handle the ball as “soccer” has always been a secondary sport “over there”, failing to live up to the hype of Major League Baseball, NBA, and the NFL. Unsurprisingly, these three keepers all feature in the top five rankings for the most Premier League appearances among the Yanks. This was probably made easier due to the fact that Keepers tend to have a longer shelf-life than outfield players. Friedel sits firmly in pole position with a solid 450 appearances, Howard’s loyalty to the Prem earned himself a silver medal with 399, and Keller (who sits in fourth with 201 appearances) was just pipped to his near post by Clint Dempsey, who scooped the third-place prize with 218 appearances.
Emblematic of a young, force-wielding Luke Skywalker, there is a New Hope for Americans in the Premier League – Christian Pulisic.
Alongside Keller, Dempsey’s position here confirms my second theory about American players – that you had to either be a goalkeeper OR that you had to play for Fulham. I am a big Dempsey fan, both on and off the pitch, for he was not only an intelligent midfielder and the first American to net a Premier League hattrick, but his underrated rap career under the name of “Deuce” will never fail to amuse me (I know a couple of friends who would be keen to get Don’t Tread gunning for Christmas Number One this year and it wouldn’t be the craziest event in 2020 now, would it?). Back to Fulham though and you also have Brian McBride, the fifth highest goal-scorer for the United States. Like Dempsey, McBride was much loved at Craven Cottage, so much so that the club even named their hospitality bar after him – not exactly the legacy he was hoping for I’d imagine.
Then again, the Premier League was once briefly blessed with the presence of The Great Landon Donovan on loan to Everton from 2010 to 2012. Now, he wasn’t as effective in England as he was for LA Galaxy (he might have been better off at Fulham…), but Donovan is certainly one of America’s finest. Joint with Dempsey as the country’s highest ever scorer, Donovan additionally maintains the tally for the most assists in the MLS (136), the country’s highest World Cup scorer, and has won a record six MLS Cups in his career. He was voted the US Soccer Athlete of the Year four times and is still the only American to reach fifty goals and assists. Some player. It is a shame that he finished such an illustrious career playing indoors for a team called the San Diego Sockers.
Yet, we can’t spend our lives looking backwards (ironic, coming from someone with qualifications in the academic field of History). But it is true, we must look to the future.
Emblematic of a young, force-wielding Luke Skywalker, there is a New Hope for Americans in the Premier League – Christian Pulisic. Since his Dortmund days, Pulisic has been a mouth-watering talent. Zipping up and down the wing, cutting in with pace and purpose, the Pennsylvanian looked to be a fine addition to a Chelsea squad that has continued to grow since his arrival in January 2019. For a fee somewhere in the ballpark of around £60 million, his transfer might even be considered a steal in the current market. More impressively, Pulisic is the youngest player to captain the US national team. At the age of twenty-two, he has already been awarded two US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year awards and is honing in on Donovan’s record. Frankly, he is a joy to watch. Having netted a perfect hattrick (the youngest Blues player to do so) within his first few games, Pulisic looked like a world-beater after “Project Restart”, leaving Chelsea fans wishing that they only had him sooner. Comparisons even began to surface between him and Eden Hazard – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves now. Pulling up with a nasty hamstring injury in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for the young man from Hershey, for not only was he in fine scoring form (including the first goal of this game) but he was also mid-shot at a crucial stage of the tie. I found myself empathetically clutching at my own hamstring in solidarity and, without the canned crowd noise, I swear that I heard a ping. Fortunately, Chelsea have applied two band-aids in the form of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner to cover for Captain America until his well-awaited recovery. It won’t be long now.
Spoiler alert: Luke Skywalker has a sister. Alex Morgan, formerly of Lyon and Orlando Pride, is now a Women’s Super League player here in England. Winning gold at the Olympics of 2012, she has scored a staggering 107 goals in 169 appearances for her country and is currently co-captain of US women’s team alongside former Lyon teammate, Megan Rapinoe. Morgan is somewhat of a celebrity signing. Along with Lionel Messi, she appeared on the cover of the US edition of FIFA 16 (the first woman to do so) and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2019. As if her iconic status wasn’t clear enough, she has now been made into a popular action figure worth $29.99. It is safe to say that the excitement for her arrival was unprecedented; to have another player of this calibre joining the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr, and Lucy Bronze was a huge triumph for the WSL. Strangely though, Morgan chose to sign for Tottenham Hotspur, who are currently plonked second bottom of the table and are yet to win a league game this season. Her move in September was supposedly influenced by the attraction of the capital and having frequented the club’s impressive training ground in the build-up to the latest Women’s World Cup. More importantly though, she needed minutes having not played for nearly a year, and Spurs would be foolish not to offer them to her, providing that she stays fit. Tottenham were also one of the few viable options given her wage bracket. Either way, Spurs have been crying out for a decent Number Nine, and who better than the greatest striker in the last ten years of women’s football? Fans had to eagerly await Morgan’s entrance onto the English stage for fifty-six long days after she arrived with a series of injury complications and having given birth only 184 days prior. In a terrifyingly swift return, she came on as a sixty-ninth minute substitute for a bit-part role in the recent 1-1 draw with Reading earlier this month. It seems that we are going to have to wait a little longer to see Morgan stamp her authority on the English game but, with her success rate, it is certainly a promising sign of things to come. Her Padawans and fellow US stars, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis at Manchester City are equally ones to watch.
US talent is certainly on the rise. With the two Captain Americas already a talking point here in England, it is great to see other exciting young talents filing into the ranks at other Premier League clubs; recent acquisitions include Zack Steffen at Manchester City, Owen Otasowie at Wolves and Antonee Robinson at (yes, you guessed it) Fulham. More and more Americans are rearing their heads in Europe’s top leagues too with the likes of Sergiño Dest, formerly of Ajax and now at Barcelona, Chris Richards at Bayern, Tyler Adams at Leipzig, Gio Reyna at Dortmund and Weston McKennie on loan from Schalke to Juventus. Hopefully, it is only a matter of time before some of these names reach the Premier League. So, put on your caps people because it is time to make America great again, now more than ever.