- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2007

With two more players joining the growing list of Americans playing in the English Premier League, the bosses at U.S. Soccer should schedule an exhibition game for the United States in London. It would be the ideal situation for coach Bob Bradley to check out Americans playing in Europe and avoid them having to make the long trip back to the States.

London is fast becoming the ideal place for national teams to play games because so many foreign stars compete in the EPL and other European leagues. In the coming week London will play host to four international games. The premier event will see Brazil play Portugal at Arsenal’s 60,432-seat Emirates Stadium, while at other venues in the metropolis, Nigeria plays Ghana, Greece meets South Korea and Australia plays Denmark. Jamaica, Ghana, South Africa, Egypt and Togo all held games in England in recent years. The United States last played in London in 1994 when John Harkes was one of the few Americans playing in England.

Talented American midfielder Clint Dempsey signed with EPL club Fulham last month, while sought-out defender Oguchi Onyewu was loaned to Newcastle. The Web site Yanks-abroad.com lists 58 Americans playing in Europe — many with Scandinavian clubs that are often feeder teams to the bigger European clubs.

Bradley almost has a complete lineup competing in the top flight of English soccer, including goalies Tim Howard (Everton) and Marcus Hahnemann (Reading); defenders Jonathan Spector (West Ham), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham) and Onyewu (Newcastle); and midfielders Dempsey (Fulham), Bobby Convey (Reading) and DeMarcus Beasley (Manchester City). What’s missing are some talented forwards. Brian McBride (Fulham) has retired from the national team, but the American coach has German-based forwards Josh Wolff (1860 Munich) and Conor Casey (Mainz) available. There’s also forward Jemal Johnson, who plays for Wolverhampton in the Championship — a division below the EPL — and has yet to play for the U.S. team, and winger Eddie Lewis (Leeds United).

On a sad note, American defender Cory Gibbs, who joined Charlton Athletic in EPL last summer, has been ruled out for the season after undergoing surgery on a knee that kept him off the World Cup team last year.

For now, the U.S. team must focus on dealing with Mexico on Wednesday — no doubt before a hostile crowd — in Glendale, Ariz., (ESPN2, 9 p.m.). Four D.C. United players — Josh Gros, Bobby Boswell, Bryan Namoff and Brian Carroll — have been named to the 20-man roster for the game. The match will be the first real test for Bradley.

In other news, two American tycoons are on the verge of taking over EPL giant Liverpool. George Gillett, who owns the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, and Tom Hicks, who owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers, will finalize the $940 million takeover of the Reds next week, according to reports.

Women’s notes — The U.S. women beat China 2-0 Tuesday to win the Four Nations tournament in China and preserve American coach Greg Ryan’s stunning 27-0-7 record. The big surprise at the event was the No. 12 ranked and upcoming England team, earning ties with top-ranked Germany and the second-ranked Americans.

England’s Kelly Smith, who played at Seton Hall, was the MVP at the Four Nations event. The U.S. women begin their domestic program with a game against Mexico on April 14 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., as the team prepares for the 2007 World Cup in China in September. The game will open a doubleheader featuring the New England Revolution against Toronto FC.

Not worth its salt — How long will Real Salt Lake, who recently acquired Freddy Adu, be staying in Utah? The club saw its hopes for a new stadium shot down this week, when Salt Lake County denied public money for a new stadium. Team owner Dave Checketts has threatened to sell the team to investors in St. Louis.

United heads south — D.C. United headed to Bradenton, Fla., to train and prepare to play CD Olimpia in Honduras on Feb. 21. Tickets for the return game with Olimpia at RFK Stadium on March 1 are now on sale. United reacquired midfielder Rod Dyachenko from Toronto FC this week.

Roundup — The Washington Freedom will play a home schedule of eight games at Germantown SoccerPlex in the W-League beginning June 9. … Bids for the 2014 World Cup, expected to be held in Brazil or Colombia, must be entered by April 16. The winning bid will be announced in November.

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