FULHAM’S American contingent will again be playing their football in the Premier League next season after staging their own version of the “Great Escape.”
The west London club looked certain to be demoted from English football’s top flight when they trailed 2-0 at Manchester City two weeks ago.
But an amazing comeback resulted in them winning 3-2, they then beat relegation rivals Birmingham 2-0 at Craven Cottage, and on Saturday, a 76th-minute goal from Danny Murphy ensured survival with a 1-0 victory at Portsmouth.
That’s good news for the United States, which has no fewer than five players in Fulham first-team squad: Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra and Kasey Keller.
Keller, Dempsey and McBride all started the match at Portsmouth with Bocanegra on the bench. The evergreen Keller, now 38, managed to displace Antti Niemi in goal in March.
“Kasey was in the team and doing well, but then he got injured and was out for a long time,” said much-traveled manager Roy Hodgson, the man who inspired Fulham’s late rally.
“When he was fit again, we stuck with Antti at first. But when the team is conceding the odd goal, you think about whether it’s the right time to look at the other guy.”
Dempsey finished as Fulham’s top goalscorer with six in the Premier League, two more than McBride.
Time for Eddie Johnson to fulfill his potential
Hodgson will be looking for a much greater output from these two next season and he’s also hoping Johnson can finally fulfill his potential.
He will no doubt also be asking for further investment in the playing staff from chairman Mohamed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods department store.
Fulham’s win on Saturday, however, was bad news for another U.S. player, Marcus Hahnemann, one of four American goalkeepers in the Premier League (Tim Howard and Brad Friedel are the others).
It meant that Reading’s 4-0 demolition of Derby counted for nothing. After two seasons in the Premier League, Steve Coppell’s Royals were relegated along with their hosts and Birmingham.
Derby, whose team included two Americans – Eddie Lewis and sub Benny Feilhaber – finished rock bottom with just one win in 38 league fixtures and must surely rate as the worst Premier League team of all time.
These three will be replaced by West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and the winner of the Championship play-offs for 2008-2009.
At the other end of the table, Manchester United clinched their 10th Premier League title with a 2-0 victory at Wigan.
Runners-up Chelsea, held to a 1-1 draw by Bolton at Stamford Bridge, are now pinning their hopes of a trophy on beating United in the Champions League final in Moscow later this month.
Captain John Terry, who dislocated his elbow on Saturday, is insisting he will be fit for the final. Chelsea will be keeping their fingers crossed he makes it as they are a much more solid team with England international Terry marshaling their defense.