Commentary

Bradley inspires M'gladbach to safety

Updated: February 16, 2010, 3:51 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

So far, so good for Freddy Adu and Eddie Johnson in Greece. Both scored their first goals for Aris. Landon Donovan, meanwhile, is impressing in England, while Brad Guzan edges closer to his date at Wembley. Over in Scotland, DaMarcus Beasley is looking for a new car.

[+] EnlargeMichael Bradley
Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty ImagesU.S. midfielder Michael Bradley, right, has been instrumental in M'Gladbach's recent good form.
Here's a brief roundup of notable Americans in Europe.

England

Premier League

GK, Brad Friedel, Aston Villa: They weren't exactly howlers, but Friedel finally had an off day against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Given the nod ahead of Brad Guzan in the fifth round of the F.A. Cup, Friedel was caught in no man's land on a corner that led to Palace's opener and beaten from 35 yards by Darren Ambrose in the second half. Sure Ambrose let rip with a rocket, but from that distance, you'd expect Friedel to stop it.

Villa rallied twice to earn a replay at Villa Park.

In the midst of Friedel collecting four straight shutouts -- against West Ham, Arsenal, Fulham and Tottenham -- Villa manager Martin O'Neill paid tribute to the 38-year-old ironman, comparing him to England's probable No. 1 in South Africa this summer.

"There's no reason why Brad can't continue this fine form for an indefinite length of time," O'Neill told reporters. "If you look at David James, he must harbour strong ambitions of being the No. 1 keeper to go to the World Cup and the two keepers are roughly the same age."

Villa remains in the hunt for the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Season: 26 games played (0 substitute appearances): 0 goals

GK, Tim Howard, Everton: The bad news for Howard and the Toffees was losing to arch-rival Liverpool -- again. Despite playing with an extra man most of the game, Everton looked sluggish at Anfield on Feb. 6 and a static Howard was beaten by Dirk Kuyt's header early in the second half for the lone goal.

Everton has only lost twice in the last 12 Premier League games, both times to the Reds.

However, Everton bounced back with a comeback 2-1 win against league leaders Chelsea last week, and Howard blanked Manchester City, Sunderland and Wigan in the past month.

There's another big one Saturday -- Howard faces former club Manchester United (7:45 a.m. ET, ESPN2) at Goodison Park.

Season: 35 (0): 0

M, Clint Dempsey, Fulham: The knee injury Dempsey suffered against Blackburn on Jan. 17 isn't as serious as first thought.

Surgery wasn't required, and U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who visited Dempsey in Europe, says he could return next month.

"Probably somewhere mid-to-late March," Bradley told Goal.com. "Possibility that he could always beat that."

Fulham is short up front, given the absences of Dempsey, Andy Johnson and Diomansy Kamara. The Cottagers, though, still advanced to the quarterfinals of the F.A. Cup by easing past Notts County.

Season: 24 (3): 7

GK, Brad Guzan, Aston Villa: Ten goals is great for the fans, not keepers.

At least Guzan was on the winning side.

Villa's starter in the Carling Cup, Guzan allowed four goals in the second leg of the semifinal against Blackburn, but Villa scored six at Villa Park on Jan. 20 to advance 7-4 on aggregate.

Guzan was out of position on a corner kick that led to the opener in the first half and looked shaky on Brett Emerton's scruffy effort late in the second.

He kept his place in the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, when Vila beat League 1 Brighton in another goal fest, 3-2.

"The last two games have been a bit tricky," Guzan told the club Web site. "I'm sure they are exciting for the fans to watch, but for players and management, I think they have a different feeling."

He's likely to start in the Carling Cup final Feb. 28 versus United, but there's a chance that O'Neill could choose Friedel.

Season: 8 (0): 0

D, Jonathan Spector, West Ham: Herita Ilunga's hamstring injury allowed Spector to make four straight starts at left back for the relegation threatened Hammers -- against Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Burnley. He also came on at halftime last week against Birmingham when Ilunga's hamstring malaise resurfaced.

In the five games, West Ham lost one and conceded three goals.

Bradley watched Spector, who'll no doubt be in South Africa, against Blackburn.

"It's nice to get a run of games in one position, so I can grow into it," Spector, who actually had his eyes on the right back slot this season, told West Ham's Web site. "At the same time, we've got a lot of good defenders and competition for places, which is really good for the squad."

West Ham's win over Birmingham meant respite from the bottom three.

Season: 13 (4): 0

F, Jozy Altidore, Hull (loan from Villarreal): Altidore scored his first league goal in English soccer, curling a shot past Shay Given in Hull's surprising 2-1 win over moneybags Manchester City on Feb. 6.

"He needed that," Hull assistant manager Brian Horton told reporters. "His displays have been good but to get his first league goal is just what he wanted and he was a handful all round. He's a young lad and we've probably heaped a lot on him, but he's shown glimpses of what people have bought him for."

Altidore also started in a 2-2 draw with fellow relegation contenders Wolves, an uplifting 1-1 tie against Chelsea and 1-0 loss versus Blackburn.

He's keen to extend his stay in Hull.

"I want to be here," Altidore was quoted as saying in the Mirror. "England is a great place to play football, and the Premier League is the best in the world."

Season: 13 (8): 2

GK, Marcus Hahnemann, Wolves: Wolves are hanging in there.

One of the firm favorites for relegation, Wolves bounced back from a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Birmingham in a Midlands derby to complete the double over Tottenham. Hahnemann earned the shutout in a 1-0 victory Feb. 10 that sent Wolves above the drop zone.

Hahnemann also blanked a befuddled Liverpool at Molineaux on Jan. 26.

Ironically, his collision with striker Christian Benitez in the second half changed the Birmingham game. On came Kevin Phillips, and the veteran scored two cracking goals in the final 10 minutes to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Season: 14 (0): 0

F, Landon Donovan, Everton (loan from L.A. Galaxy): Talk about an eventful month for Donovan.

He scored his first English goal against Sunderland, got huge praise for earning a penalty and an assist against Chelsea, and might have ended Ashley Cole's World Cup dreams.

Donovan opened his tally by beating Craig Gordon with a low-left footed shot on Jan. 27, then dazzled against the Blues.

The fans want him to stay, although Everton manager David Moyes and captain Phil Neville have both said he'll be heading back to Los Angeles.

"I don't think we'll be able to keep him when his three-month loan expires, unfortunately," Moyes told reporters.

Cole, not Mr. Popular in England, broke his ankle in a challenge with Donovan and is now questionable for the World Cup. To remind, England and the U.S. are in the same group.

Season: 7 (0): 1

M, Stuart Holden, Bolton: Holden, newly arrived from the Houston Dynamo, shook off a thigh injury to make the squad but didn't get off the bench in Bolton's 1-1 F.A. Cup tie with Tottenham on Sunday.

"There is no doubt when he is fully fit he's a talented kid," new Bolton boss Owen Coyle told reporters in early February. "He will get his opportunity like the rest of the players."

Maybe Wednesday against Wigan.

Season: 0 (0): 0

Championship

D, Jay DeMerit, Watford: DeMerit made five starts for Watford and forged a solid partnership with new arrival Martin Taylor -- yes, the same Martin Taylor who manhandled Arsenal striker Eduardo -- in the center of defense. The Hornets have collected two shutouts in the last three games.

"I think we complement each other very well," DeMerit told Watford's Web site. "During the many years I have been here I always seem to be more comfortable with a more physical player to my side, because I'm better at coming round and sweeping up and they are better at attacking the ball -- so that relationship can hopefully get better.''

Watford, out of relegation trouble, still has a slim chance of reaching the playoffs.

Season: 15 (1): 0

D, Frankie Simek, Sheffield Wednesday: After being an unused sub for four straight games, the full back entered in the 65th minute against Plymouth on Jan. 30 and subsequently started against Nottingham Forest and Blackpool.

Simek, the undisputed starter at right back prior to injuries the last two seasons, is hoping to get on the plane to South Africa, although he's a realist.

"I haven't given up," he told the Yorkshire Evening Post. "You never know what is going to happen. I'm just concentrating on playing for Sheffield Wednesday right now. To get called up to a camp before the World Cup would be great. But the priority is doing well for the club."

Season: 10 (2): 0

F, Kenny Cooper, Plymouth (loan from 1860 Munich): Cooper left 1860 Munich on loan to join Plymouth for the rest of the season, thus going from a relegation contender to even more of a relegation contender.

He made his Pilgrims debut Feb. 6, coming on in the 58th minute of a 1-0 loss to promotion favorites West Bromwich Albion and entered at halftime of a 2-1 loss to Reading three days later in a six-pointer at the bottom of the table.

Cooper set up a chance for Jamie Mackie and was involved in the buildup to Carl Fletcher's leveller in the 68th minute. The Royals netted in injury time to take all three points.

"Football in Germany and in the U.S. is different to here, but he's adjusting," Plymouth manager Paul Mariner told the Herald. "We are working with him all the time, just to let him know the harsh realities of Championship football."

Cooper was an unused sub in Saturday's morale boosting 3-1 win at Barnsley.

Season: 10 (6): 3

League One

F, Jemal Johnson, Stockport County (loan from MK Dons): When Johnson, a speedy winger, suited up against Swindon on Jan. 19, it marked his first start in three months. He made four more starts, registering five shots against Carlisle on Jan. 23.

A change of fortune at MK Dons? Nah. Johnson was loaned to Stockport -- headed to League 2, barring a miracle -- along with striker Jabo Ibehre.

"Come the end of the season, I want to know whether they are good enough and in my plans for next season and the one after that," Dons boss Paul Ince told miltonkeynes.co.uk. "And if they go to Stockport and do the business, it gives me food for thought."

Season: 19 (5): 1

F, Mike Grella, Leeds: Grella saw five minutes of action against Tottenham in the F.A. Cup -- coming on in the replay loss at Elland Road -- and another shot at playing at Wembley dissipated when Leeds fell on penalties to Carlisle in the semifinal of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Feb. 10.

Grella converted a Gary McSheffrey cross in the 86th minute to take the two-leg affair to penalties. Carlisle won the shootout 6-5.

Leeds still might play at Wembley, although they'd rather give it a miss. Playoff finals are nervy affairs.

Season: 8 (14): 5

Italy, Serie A

D, Oguchi Onyewu, A.C. Milan: Onyewu, the heart of the U.S. defense, could be back on the field next month following the serious knee injury he sustained in October.

"The thought is that he should be ready to resume regular training in the beginning of March," Bradley told Goal.

Season: 0 (1): 0

Germany, Bundesliga

D, Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96: Cherundolo is out until early March, at least, with a shoulder injury he sustained in practice Jan. 31.

Before then, he started in two losses, to last-place Hertha Berlin and Mainz.

Hannover is in deep trouble, having lost five in a row to fall into the relegation zone.

Season: 19 (1): 0

M, Michael Bradley, Borussia Moenchengladbach: The remainder of the campaign should be pressure free for Moenchengladbach, given the club moved 11 points above the relegation zone following a 2-1 win over Nurnberg on Feb. 12.

Bradley played a role in the buildup to the opener in the first half, his long pass causing havoc in the Nurnberg defense.

He made four other starts and was deprived of a third goal when Bochum keeper Philipp Heerwagen impressively kept out his header Jan. 16.

Season: 19 (1): 2

Bundesliga 2

G, Luis Robles, Kaiserslautern: Robles continues to back up Tobias Sippel, an unused sub in five more games. The frustration grows.

Kaiserslautern holds a one-point lead over St. Pauli atop the division, edging closer to the promised land.

Season: No appearances

France, Ligue 1

F, Charlie Davies, Sochaux: Will Davies make it back for the World Cup after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in October?

Bradley isn't sure.

"Charlie's situation is more difficult to assess because they were not typical soccer injuries," he told Goal. "Therefore it's harder to say."

Season: 6 (2): 2

D, Carlos Bocanegra, Rennes: Bocanegra, riding the bench recently, was linked with a move to St. Etienne, but it never materialized.

His playing time has since picked up.

The left back started against St. Etienne, Grenoble and Bordeaux in the league, although he was an unused sub against Auxerre on Feb. 14.

With Bocanegra in the starting lineup, Rennes, last season's finalist, embarrassingly fell to fourth-division Quevilly in the French Cup.

Season: 16 (2): 0

Greece, Super League

F, Eddie Johnson, Aris Salonika (loan from Fulham): Johnson was unable to score in England's top division, but he got off the mark in Greece pretty quick.

Combining with Adu, Johnson exhibited a good first touch on an Adu cross, poking the ball past the keeper before slotting into an open net in the 90th minute of a 2-1 loss to Xanthi on Jan. 31.

He then started Aris' next game, a 2-1 win over Ergotelis.

Johnson saw action as a second-half sub against Iannina and Panathinaikos and made his debut Jan. 13 in the Greek Cup.

Season: 2 (7): 1

M, Freddy Adu, Aris Salonika (loan from Benfica): Adu scored his first European goal in three years against Ergotelis, beating the keeper from close range in the 45th minute after latching on to a Darcy Neto cross.

"BIG win for us," he tweeted. "Thanks for everyone saying congrats on the goal. I am very happy as it helped the team win. Makes it even better."

Adu's assist on the Johnson goal was in his debut. His first start came in the Greek Cup on Feb. 2 versus Xanthi.

Who knows? Continued success from Adu and Bradley might just take a chance on him in the World Cup.

Season: 3 (4): 1

Scotland, Premier League

M, DaMarcus Beasley, Rangers: Beasley, sidelined since the middle of December, made his return from a thigh injury Sunday against Hibernian.

It wasn't a success, however, as the ineffective winger was yanked at halftime.

"I was a bit harsh on Beasley," Rangers Walter Smith told reporters. "He should have had more game time before throwing him into a match of such importance, but he brings something to our play that nobody else gives us and we were anxious to have that against Hibs. However he'll come back and be a big influence for us."

Rangers won 3-0 and are cruising to the title ahead of disappointing Celtic.

Off field, Glasgow police launched an investigation after Beasley's BMW was blown up Feb. 1. Yes, blown up.

Season: 6 (3): 2

M, Maurice Edu, Rangers: Edu missed a month with an ankle problem but returned to the squad against Hibs, unable to get off the bench.

He'll hope the injuries are behind him after recently recovering from a dodgy knee.

Season: 1 (3): 0

Denmark, Superligaen

Season resumes in March.

M, Benny Feilhaber, Aarhus: Feilhaber hurt his ankle in training. It's not known how bad the injury is, although Aarhus staff speculated it might be a sprain.

League: 16 (1): 1

D, Michael Parkhurst, Nordsjaelland:

League: 14 (0): 0

F, Marcus Tracy, Aalborg:

League: 3 (3): 1

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.