A roundup of notable U.S. players in action in Europe over the past two weeks:
Brad Friedel, Aston Villa: Villa and Arsenal met Dec. 26 in a game with huge Champions League implications. It ended 2-2 in Birmingham, with both sides kicking themselves for not taking all three points. Villa hit three posts and saw another shot cleared off the line in the first half before Friedel was beaten in goal on Arsenal's first real opportunity. The Gunners made it 2-0 in the second half, only to concede the tying goal in injury time.
Friedel got away with one in a 1-0 win at slumping Hull City on Dec. 30. Within the first 10 minutes, he lost the ball in a 50-50 aerial challenge with veteran Nick Barmby and it ended up in the net. Referee Steve Bennett, though, disallowed the goal.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill vowed to field a first-choice side for Sunday's visit to League Two Gillingham in the third round of the F.A. Cup, and that meant Friedel got the nod ahead of Brad Guzan.
Awarded a contentious penalty late in the second half, Villa prevailed 2-1. Friedel had no chance on Gillingham's leveler in the 57th minute.
Season: 25 games played (0 substitute appearances).
Tim Howard, Everton: After a shaky defensive start to the season, Howard and the Toffees are turning it around.
Howard collected four clean sheets, making it five straight overall, against Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Macclesfield.
Noteworthy contributions included denying Chelsea's Ashley Cole and acrobatically turning away Middlesbrough's Gary O'Neil. Largely untroubled in a convincing 3-0 win over Sunderland on Dec. 28, Howard preserved Everton's 1-0 F.A. Cup victory at League Two Macclesfield on Saturday by making a comfortable diving save off forward Simon Yeo in injury time.
Everton, without many noticing, trails fourth-place Villa by only six points and fifth place Arsenal by three in the Premier League.
And guess who's up next in the Cup? Only Liverpool, at Anfield.
Season: 24 (0)
Clint Dempsey, Fulham: Dempsey and Fulham are rolling, too.
The undoubted highlight for the attacking midfielder was netting both goals in Fulham's 2-2 draw against West London rivals Chelsea on Dec. 28. He opened the scoring with a flick facing away from goal in the first half, then earned the Cottagers a point by depositing a header into the corner of the net in the dying minutes. It was no easy header, either, as Dempsey was moving away from goal and the ball lacked zip.
"He's someone we expect to chip in with goals, and long may it continue,'' Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said. "He's done very well, and he's doing a wonderful job defensively as well.''
In a 0-0 draw at Tottenham on Boxing Day, Dempsey's scissor kick forced Heurelho Gomes into a diving save, and he fired six shots on target against Sheffield Wednesday in the F.A. Cup on Saturday. Dempsey was involved in the buildup to Andy Johnson's winner in the 88th minute.
Unbeaten in 10, the threat of relegation is all but gone.
Season: 11 (7) -- 4 goals.
Brad Guzan, Aston Villa: Backing up Friedel, Guzan was on the bench against Arsenal, Hull and Gillingham.
Season: 4 (0)
Jonathan Spector, West Ham: Spector, recovered from a serious hip injury that required surgery, made his first appearance since April, coming on as a substitute in the 89th minute as part of West Ham's bizarre 2-1 win over Stoke on Dec. 28. Stoke's Jamaican striker, Ricardo Fuller, was dismissed early in the second half for slapping teammate Andy Griffin in the face.
Spector, at home in defense or midfield, was an unused substitute in Saturday's 3-0 F.A. Cup win over Barnsley.
Season: 0 (1)
Jay DeMerit, Watford: Watford recovered from a 4-2 loss at home to Bristol City on Boxing Day, holding playoff chasing QPR to a 0-0 draw away on Dec. 28 and beating Scunthorpe 1-0 at home Saturday in the F.A. Cup.
Fully recovered from a minor groin injury, DeMerit started all three games in the center of defense and made a vital last-ditch challenge to prevent a scoring opportunity for Scunthorpe in injury time.
Season: 21 (1) -- 0
Marcus Hahnemann, Reading: Hahnemann remains on the sidelines with a calf injury sustained in the middle of December. His replacement in goal, Aussie Adam Federici, has looked sharp -- and even scored Reading's tying goal in a 1-1 league draw against Cardiff on Boxing Day. His save off defender Roger Johnson early in the second half kept the game scoreless at the time.
"Everybody will be talking about Fed's goal, but his fantastic save from Johnson just after the interval was just as important," Hahnemann said.
Reading, still second in the Championship, exited to Cardiff, last year's finalist, in the F.A. Cup on Saturday.
Season: 23 (0) -- 0
Bobby Convey, Reading: Reading manager Steve Coppell made eight changes to the lineup for the F.A. Cup encounter in Wales, and that gave Convey, a winger, his first start since Sept. 23. Convey missed from 12 yards in the first half and failed to hit the target again when presented with a better chance later in the opening interval. He was substituted in the 74th minute.
Convey didn't make the squad against Cardiff on Boxing Day or against Southampton two days later.
Season: 6 (3) -- 0
Eddie Johnson, Cardiff City (loan from Fulham): Johnson was an unused substitute against Reading on Boxing Day and Plymouth two days later. He didn't make the squad Saturday.
The good news for him, though, is that fellow striker Michael Chopra returned to Sunderland following a loan spell, meaning Johnson could get more playing time soon.
Season: 5 (12) -- 0
Frankie Simek, Sheffield Wednesday: Simek is expected to return this month from a hamstring strain he suffered Dec. 9 against QPR. Missing most of 2008 with an ankle injury, the right back is hoping for a more prosperous 2009.
"I've taken [the hamstring injury] on the chin,'' Simek said. "At least it was nothing serious, just a hamstring, my first muscle injury. Since I've been here, mostly I've had a good fitness record.''
Season: 2 (1) -- 0
Jemal Johnson, MK Dons: Johnson's good form ensues. His wicked cross led to an own goal -- and the winner -- in a 2-1 victory at Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. The winger also started in a 2-0 win over Southend on Dec. 28.
The Dons have won 10 of their past 11 and opened up a five-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Championship.
Season: 11 (9) -- 4
Spain, Primera Liga
Jozy Altidore, Villarreal: Still learning the ropes in his first season in Europe, Altidore, a forward, didn't make the squad last weekend as Liga resumed. Villarreal lost 1-0 at Real Madrid on Sunday -- a third straight defeat -- to slide to seventh in the standings.
Season: 3 (4) -- 1
Italy, Serie B
Season resumes next weekend
Danny Szetela, Brescia (loan from Racing Santander):
Season: 7 (2) -- 1
Season resumes next weekend
Gabriel Ferrari, Perugia (loan from Sampdoria):
Season: 1 (6) -- 0
Season resumes Jan. 30
Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96:
Season: 14 (1) -- 0
Michael Bradley, Borussia Moenchengladbach:
Season: 9 (2) -- 1
Bryan Arguez, Hertha Berlin:
Season: No appearances
Sal Zizzo, Hannover 96:
Season: 0 (3) -- 0
France, Ligue 1
Freddy Adu, Monaco (loan from Benfica): Adu didn't make the squad in Monaco's1-0 win against lower-division Blagnac in the French Cup's round of 64 on Sunday, though coach Ricardo Gomes is adamant the forward still has an immediate future in the principality.
"Freddy is evolving with Monaco,'' Gomes said. "He will be staying with us until the end of the season.''
Season: 1 (9) -- 0
Carlos Bocanegra, Rennes: Rennes advanced to the last 32 in the French Cup with a 1-0 win at Sochaux on Saturday; Bocanegra started and played all 90 minutes in defense.
Season: 20 (1) -- 0
Belgium, Jupiler League
Season resumes Jan. 17
Oguchi Onyewu, Standard Liege: Transfer speculation involving the towering defender continues: Reports in England suggest he could be joining Fulham.
Season: 25 (1) – 3
Scotland, Premier League
DaMarcus Beasley, Rangers: The forward is being linked with a move away from Ibrox, given he can't get into the lineup: Beasley didn't make the squad in Rangers' 1-0 loss to Celtic on Dec. 27 and in a 3-0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday.
Season: 4 (5) -- 0
Maurice Edu, Rangers: Edu wasn't in the squad against Celtic and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, either, though manager Walter Smith insists the 22-year-old midfielder and 21-year-old Northern Irish striker Kyle Lafferty, both offseason signings, have a future at Ibrox.
Former U.S. national coach Bruce Arena recently urged Smith to give Edu more playing time.
"Lafferty and Edu will play a big part for Rangers in the coming years, I have no doubt about that,'' Smith said. "But it does take them a little time to settle and at Rangers you have to have experienced players around you as well. People's expectations of the younger ones should not be the same as those on the experienced players.''
Season: 2 (0)-0
Season resumes in March
Danny Califf, FC Midtjylland:
Season: 16 games played, 0 goals
Jeremiah White, Aarhus:
Season: 17 games played, 2 goals
Benny Feilhaber, Aarhus: The international midfielder is nursing a knee injury.
Season: 1 game played, no goals
Lee Nguyen, Randers:
Season: 12 games played, 3 goals
Michael Parkhurst, Nordsjaelland:
Season: Signed in December, yet to make an appearance.
Tally Hall, Esbjerg:
Season: 1 game played
Season ended in November
Charlie Davies, Hammarby:
Season: 25 (2) -- 14
Colin Burns, Ljungskile:
Season: 14 (1) -- 0
* Ljungskile relegated
Etchu Tabe, Ljungskile:
Season: 17 (2) -- 0
Ryan Raybould, Gefle:
Season: 4 (0) -- 0
Ravi Ubha is a London-based freelance journalist covering Americans abroad for ESPNsoccernet. He also covers tennis for ESPN.com.