By Phil Schoen
Bob Bradley finally got his historic first Premier League win, but you knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Swansea needed two added-time goals from substitute Fernando Llorente to edge Crystal Palace 5-4. The Swans had bounced back to take a 3-1 lead, only to allow a Palace comeback, and trailed 3-4 in the 90th minute. It’s the first win by an American manager in Premier League history. Swansea remains in the relegation zone heading into next weekend’s showdown at Spurs. However, just two points south of the drop line, the Swans then head into a stretch of six winnable games.
More American soccer history was made on Monday, as 18-year-old playmaker Josh Perez made his Serie A debut, coming off the bench for the final 15 minutes in Fiorentina’s 4-2 loss at Inter Milan. Fiorentina boss Paulo Souza also named Perez to the squad, but he didn’t come off the bench in last week’s 4-0 win at Empoli.
Perez becomes only the sixth American in history, and the youngest ever, to participate in a Serie A match. Most recently, Michael Bradley suited up for Roma and Chievo Verona, while Alexi Lalas played for Padova back in 1996. New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi has played for both Parma and Fiorentina during his career, but chose to represent Italy internationally.
The first American-born player in Serie A was Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Alfonso Negro, who suited up for Fiorentina between 1934 and 1938, and for Napoli for one additional season, scoring eight times in 76 games. Like Rossi, Negro also suited up for the Azzurri, scoring against Norway during the 1936 Olympic games. Clinton, Ind. native Armando Frigo followed in Negro’s Fiorentina footsteps, playing for the Viola between 1939 and 1942, playing 46 times and scoring six goals. (At the age of 26, Frigo was shot to death by a Nazi firing squad after being captured while fighting for the Italian resistance in 1943.)
It might not be too long before another American is kicking it in Italian calcio. Miami Beach’s Sebastian Serpa has signed with Bari. Serpa’s father is Peruvian and his mother is from Venezuela, but his grandparents are Italian, which allowed the 15-year-old Weston FC defender to bypass FIFA age restrictions. Serpa has already represented the U.S. at the u-14 and u-16 level. He has been training in Italy for the past few months, continuing his school-work over the internet.
And now a look at some other on-field action:
22-year-old Florida native Kenny Saief made an instant impact off the bench. The Israeli-American came on as a sub and fifteen seconds later found the net in Gent’s 3-0 win over Kortrijk in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League. It was the third straight game with a goal for Saief, and his fourth tally of the season. The win lifts the Buffalos to fourth in the table, just three points out of first.
He might be far from home, but former national team right back Eric Lichaj shared his thoughts around Thanksgiving with beIN SPORTS and Nottingham Forest shared the news.
Not good news up in Sunderland as national team newcomer Lynden Gooch was stretchered off in the first half of the Black Cats u-23 draw with Tottenham on Monday. Gooch helped set up the first goal in the 2-2 match, but landed awkwardly on his left ankle and needed to be replaced just before the half-hour.
In League One, Duane Holmes scored his third goal of the season for Scunthorpe United, but it wasn’t enough for the win as the Iron had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Oxford United. The 22-year-old Georgia-born attacker has turned into one of the most exciting players in League One this season. The draw extends Scunthorpe’s unbeaten streak to five games and they hold a four-point lead atop the table.
At the other end of League One, two straight good performances from Gboly Ariyibi have Chesterfield on the verge of exiting the relegation zone. Back-to-back 3-2 wins over Bristol Rovers and at MK Dons have the Spireites just two points from safety. The 21-year-old winger out of Arlington, Va. set up the game-winner at Milton Keynes last week.
Palm Beach, Florida native Niko Hamalainen has signed a two-year extension to stay with Queens Park Rangers. The 19-year-old midfielder made his Championship debut last month in a win over Fulham and played the full 90 in a 1-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday four weeks ago. He has represented Finland at the u19 level.
National team right back Timmy Chandler assisted on the first goal in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund. Eintracht climbs to fourth with the win, three points back of second-placed Bayern Munich. Dortmund drops to seventh. It was Chandler’s second assist on the season.
In mid-week Champions League play, it was a goal-filled affair between Borussia Dortmund and Legia Warsaw. Christian Pulisic did not manage to find the net himself, but he did set up Dortmund’s seventh goal in the 8-4 thriller.
Massachusetts native Ryan Malone scored the equalizer for Stuttgarter Kickers in a 1-1 draw at Kaiserslautern II. It was the fourth goal of the season for the Springfield College grad, and lifts Kickers to 12th in the Regionaliga Southwest.
U.S. youth national team goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg saved a penalty and kept a clean sheet in Fortuna Dusseldorf II’s 3-0 win over Bonner SC. The win snaps a six-game winless run and gives Fortuna a four-point cushion from a direct drop, standing 15th in the Regionaliga West. The 19-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif. native left UC-Santa Barbara after his freshman season to head to Germany.
Three upsets out of four in the Liga MX Apertura quarterfinals, and none bigger than Club Leon’s ousting of regular season leaders Tijuana. With national team goalkeeper William Yarbrough in net, Leon snuck into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, but pounded the Xolos 3-0 in their home leg. Tijuana bounced back with a 3-0 lead of their own at halftime of the second leg, but two late goals lifted Leon to the semifinals.
They will face Tigres, the only favorite to advance. After drawing at 2-2 in their first leg match at Pumas, Tigres slapped UNAM with a 5-0 win in the return leg.
The other semifinal pits Club America against Necaxa. U.S. national team defender Ventura Alvarado helped the Aguilas edge Chivas in Guadalajara 1-0, giving them a 2-1 aggregate win. Alvarado had been limited to a single 45-minute appearance in the regular season, but former Tri boss Ricardo LaVolpe gave the Phoenix, Ariz. native the start in Club America’s biggest game of the year so far.
Necaxa rounds out the final four, holding Omar Gonzalez and defending Clausura champions Pachuca to a scoreless draw after winning the opening leg at home 2-1.
An American showdown in Portugal as Porto B and central defender Erik Palmer-Brown drew 1-1 at Varzim, who started Keaton Parks yet again in central midfield. Varzim followed up with another 1-1 draw against Vitoria Guimaraes II, while Porto II fell 1-0 at Gil Vicente. After 16 rounds, Porto II stands 12th in the table, with Varzim 15th, just above the drop line.
Hearts pounded Motherwell 3-0, and 25-year-old Norwegian-American forward Bjorn Johnsen netted two of the goals for the Edinburgh side. Fellow American Perry Kitchen captained the side again and helped set up Johnsen’s first. The win snaps a run of three consecutive draws and four straight without a win. The New York City-born Johnsen now has four goals on the season. Hearts stand fourth in the Premiership, three points out of second.
Under-20 national team right back Shaq Moore knocked in a late own goal to end any hopes of an Atletico Levante comeback in a 2-1 loss at Villarreal B. Levante’s reserve side stands 16th in Segunda B’s Group 3, in danger of relegation despite the best defense in the group.
Long Island-native Nico Gaitan scored his first goal for Spanish fourth division side San Roque de Lepe in a 1-1 draw at Castilleja last week. The result snapped a two-game losing streak for the Segunda B team, which followed up with a 2-0 home win against Los Barrios to climb up to 10th in the Group 10 standings. The 21-year old central midfielder came through the Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors systems before heading to Europe.
After leading AFC United to Sweden’s top flight as the best goalkeeper in the Superetten, Josh Wicks will be headed to the Allsvenskan, but he won’t be sticking around. The 33-year-old ex-DC United keeper will move to the only team that finished ahead of AFC, second division champions, IK Sirius.
Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe is reportedly being wooed by Celtic for a January move.
Reading midfielder Danny Williams is a transfer target for several Premier League clubs, including Swansea, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
Due to injuries and international call-ups, various reports in England say Liverpool is intent on pursuing Dortmund phenom Christian Pulisic during the winter window. Reports out of Germany say that it would take at least $31 million to pry the U.S. youngster away from the black and yellow.
These are just a few of the U.S. footballers playing overseas. We will continue to shine the light on many more in the weeks and months to come. American soccer ambassadors continue to make inroads around the globe. Feel free to add your comments below to share your thoughts, shout-outs and suggestions. We’re asking for your help to correct any errors and make sure nothing important gets overlooked. So tweet to us @beINSPORTSUSA, or to me directly @PhilSchoen and use the hashtag #beINOverseas. We’ll pass it on.