HALEWOOD, England -- Seated in the Liverpool suburb of Halewood, Finch Farm is a 55-acre state-of-the-art training complex. It also houses Everton, currently one of the Premier League's most innovative and progressive teams when it comes to the use of performance analytics.
Veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel played his first club game as a professional in 1995. At the time, Andrew Wooten was 6, and Greg Garza was 4. Fast forward to 2012, and all three Americans can look back on this past weekend as a landmark in their careers, no matter how far along each one is.
On Dec. 19, 2010, Charlie Davies made his triumphant return to Sochaux's first team, a mere 14 months after the well-documented car accident that nearly took his life and claimed the life of another passenger. On the surface, it appeared to be a dream development, but in reality, the personnel decision was a symbolic gesture made by Sochaux's technical staff to award his progress. Davies knew he wasn't going to get on the field against Bordeaux that day, and so did his coaches.
When the NCAA men's basketball tournament takes center stage in about a month, we'll hear plenty usage of the term "blind résumé." It is a comparison method for decision-makers to look at the body of work for teams on the tournament-field bubble without being clouded by predetermined bias linked to a school's name or conference affiliation.
It would be easy for Zak Whitbread to look back at the last nine months and think about what could have been.With better-timed good health, the 27-year-old Norwich City center back may already be on his way to the international career that has yet to materialize.
The upset bug made its way around Europe over the weekend, with Mainz beating German power Bayern Munich and Getafe taming the all-mighty Barcelona, but for a few U.S. national team starters, their teams couldn't quite come up with the efforts necessary to stake claims to landmark Thanksgiving weekend victories against top competition.
With the 2011 Major League Soccer season completed and months of inactivity, regeneration and rest on the horizon, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann's message that MLS-based players need to be maintaining their match and training fitness almost year-round to stay in the mix for national-team consideration has certainly been heard.
There was a moment in Everton's insipid defeat to Bolton Wanderers three weeks ago when the camera cut to manager David Moyes on the bench. He sat hunched half forward, an expression on his face midway between disgust and resignation. He looked thoroughly fed up, and suddenly the rumors that have been circling around Goodison Park all season made sense. He may or may not be planning to quit in the summer -- only he knows that -- but it would be hard to believe he hasn't at least considered it.
In the thick of the Anfield soap opera, which has brought to the sports pages of British newspapers the orgy of hairdresser's-chair gossip usually confined to the TV mags, Sunday's Merseyside derby has become a minor subplot. New England Sports Ventures' stop-start and now concluded takeover, Tom Hicks' desperate interventions, anguished supporters' pleas ... the chronic uncertainty of Liverpool's future has left barely a column inch for the soccer.
Wayne Rooney may finally have ended his drought, but his boyhood club can't buy a goal at the moment. Three games into the Premier League season, Everton has scored a single goal and notched a single point. That return amounts to the club's worst start since 1999, but the biggest worry for Everton is that it has been unable to convert possession, often in dangerous areas, into goals.
With a week left on the Premier League clock, thoughts are starting to turn to the wheeling and dealing that the coming months will bring. Fernando Torres' scowl from the stands at Anfield on Sunday, as he watched his teammates surrender to Chelsea's endeavor, suggested his agent's phone would be buzzing before the weekend was up. The order in which the top six or seven teams finish -- not to mention the World Cup -- will help shape this summer's wish lists, so for now let's consider how the last year's signings have made an impact -- or not.
MANCHESTER, England -- U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard may have joined Everton from Manchester United in 2006, but he still lives in the Manchester area, about 35 miles from Everton's Goodison Park in Liverpool. I took the train out to see Howard on Monday, the day after Everton's 5-1 win over Hull City and five days after the U.S.' 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in Amsterdam.
LIVERPOOL, England -- It was, I have to say, one of the cooler goose-bump moments I have witnessed in a long time. As Landon Donovan took what was probably a goodbye lap after Everton's 5-1 win over Hull City on Sunday, the home fans at Goodison Park stood and cheered the 28-year-old American who came here a European washout and stands ready to depart, just 10 weeks later, as a beloved figure in this soccer-mad town.
U.S. star midfielder Landon Donovan has another big English Premier League game for Everton on Saturday against Manchester United (7:45 a.m. ET, ESPN2), which means that it will be one more chance for Donovan to continue his statement-making form during a 10-week offseason loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
By nearly all accounts, Landon Donovan was a hit in his English Premier League debut last weekend. The all-time U.S. national team's scoring leader played 68 solid minutes for Everton and served up the corner kick that lead to the Toffees' first goal in their 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
The U.S. has produced some world-class goalkeepers over the years, none more accomplished than Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, two ageless lions who are still prowling the pipes at, respectively, Aston Villa and Seattle. But if there's one American who reminds me the most of Hatch, the fearless Allied keeper played by Sylvester Stallone in Victory, it's Tim Howard.
Awaking from our slumber after one of those tedious biennial summers without a showpiece international tournament, it slowly dawned on us: the Premier League is back at last! With only one week before the world's pre-eminent league kicks off, we headed for Castle Limey to dust down the dungeon-sized supercomputer responsible for our EPL predictions.
There's cigar smoke and perfume in the evening air as the thronging masses head to Castle Limey for our annual awards ceremony. Only one man is headed the other way: a winking, temperamental, petulant, prima donna flagging down a lift to Madrid. Are you sitting comfortably now, the chilled Taittinger bubbling to perfection? Team Limey takes the stage.
Everton goes into Saturday's FA Cup final as underdogs riding on a high. After claiming the scalps of two "Big Four" teams -- Manchester United and Liverpool -- en route to the final, it clinched fifth place in the Premier League for the second year running.
MANCHESTER, England -- They make money hand over fist, drive fancy cars and generally live the high life. But anyone who's tempted to characterize English Premier League players as being arrogant, flashy, nouveau riche, tawdry or coarse should meet Tim Howard.