Americans at EPL Clubs Kickoff: Liverpool FC
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With the English Premier League season approaching closer each day, I decided it would be fun to take a look at various Americans scattered around the league. Once a day, I will report on a different club in the EPL for the 2013-2014 season and discuss any American footballers at the club. Being a Liverpool supporter, I believe that LFC is a good place to start.
Don’t worry though, we will eventually get to the likes of Dempsey, Howard, and Guzan. Just be patient.
Liverpool unfortunately isn’t known for signing Americans often, so it is big news when they sign even an American youth player to the club. There are currently two such players at LFC and only one notable former American with first team experience.
The two current Americans at LFC both signed in 2011 to the Liverpool Academy teams: forward Villyan Bijev and midfielder Marc Pelosi. No longer fitting under the U18 tag, they now play for the reserve team.
For those who may not know, clubs in England (at least the top tier teams) really have three teams each: a first team, reserve team, and academy team. This works a little like the minor leagues in the MLB and the NBA development league. The reserve team and academy teams play in their own leagues to give the players experience and to prepare them to graduate to the first team squad.
Let’s return to the player’s and focus on Villyan Bijev. As you may have guessed, Bijev has dual citizenship. He is an American-born Bulgarian who originally signed to play the University of Washington. However, the July before he would start his Freshman season, Liverpool offered him a spot in their Academy. He wouldn’t spend much time at the club before moving again as he was sent out on loan to Fortuna Düsseldorf the same day he was signed. In the 2011-2012 season, he scored 4 goals in 16 appearances for the reserve team. While he has never made an official appearance for Liverpool, they continue to uphold his contract til through this next season.
Internationally, he hasn’t had much to show for either. He made a total of five appearances combined for the US U18 and U20 teams with no goals. He also made 2 appearances for the Bulgarian U21 this year with no goals. A striker with 7 appearances and no goals? Doesn’t look to promising.
Predcition for Bijev: After another season with limited appearances and goals, LFC will let him walk from the reserve squad. Bijev will venture back to the US and attempt to play in the MLS. He may become a consistent player in the MLS but will probably never play for the US Men’s National Team.
Now for Pelosi. Initially, Pelosi seemed like he would turn out better than Bijev. He was the captain of the US U17 team during the 2011 U17 World Cup in Mexico. That is where he stood out enough for Liverpool to give him a chance. According to his coaches, he is a sound central midfielder and is believed to have bright future at Liverpool. Unfortunately for Pelosi though, he has caught a bit of the injury bug. In 2012 he sat out a couple months with a grade 2 MCL sprain. And in February of 2013, he broke his leg and could be out for an entire year. Liverpool did announce that the surgery went well. Before his broken leg, he had scored 3 goals in 17 appearances for the reserve team.
Due to injury, Pelosi has not many chances at playing for the US at any level. He should have been selected for this year’s FIFA U20 World Cup, but was recovering from his broken leg.
Prediction for Pelosi: With hard to find stats of his play at LFC and his limited international play, it is hard to say what will happen for Pelosi. His current injury is one that will stunt his growth as other players around him get better. The coaches at Liverpool have high praises for him so he may turn into something, but I doubt it will be at LFC. I predict he will eventually move to a English Championship or Football League 1 team such as Wolverhampton or Bristol City much like…
Former Player: Zak Whitbread, center back
Whitbread (born March 4, 1984) is the only notable American to ever come out of the Liverpool Academy. He was born in Texas but lived in England and Singapore for most of his childhood. His father, Barry Whitbread, was the coach of the Singapore national football team for 3 years. Zak Whitbread currently plays for Leicester City but made stops at Millwall and Norwich City after leaving Liverpool.
His last season at Liverpool, Whitbread made a few appearances in the domestic cup matches against lesser sides, but never made an appearance for the first team in a league match. Since going on loan to Millwall his final season officially with Liverpool, Whitbread has made 163 appearances and scored 5 goals.
I doubt many Americans have heard of Whitbread. His only international appearances were for the US U20 team in 2003. He had a total of 5 appearances with 1 goal. He will probably never appear for the MNT, but was called into the US camp in 2011. He was unable to make the team due to injury.
A slightly successful American in English football never to be known to most Americans. I’m glad that Liverpool was able to put their crest on him for a short time.
Come back tomorrow when we look at Americans at West Ham United.