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Only Dempsey and Howard assured of EPL starting jobs
by Paul Kennedy, August 12th, 2011 1:27AM
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[AMERICANS ABROAD] The postponement of the Tottenham-Everton match because of the recent London riots ended the possibility of U.S. goalies Brad Friedel and Tim Howard meeting on opening day in the English Premier League. Clint Dempsey is a sure to start for Fulham, while defenders Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa) and Zak Whitbread (promoted Norwich) are battling for starting jobs. For more on the EPL's Yanks ...

Brad Friedel (Tottenham, 399 games, 1 goal)
Friedel holds the record for most consecutive appearances in the EPL -- 275 games and counting -- and is waiting to see if Harry Redknapp, his manager at Spurs, will give him the nod ahead of Brazilian Heurelho Gomes or Italian Carlo Cudicini. Friedel, for one, is ready. "Everyone wants to play and we cannot wait for the season to start," he says. "You have to do a lot of hard work and graft in pre-season but the real stuff now starts and we can all start getting excited now. It is all about getting your sharpness and myself and all the boys are ready."

Tim Howard (Everton, 231 games)
Howard warded off the challenge from Slovakian keeper Jan Mucha last season, starting every EPL game, but likes the competition. "Competition and pushing each other is important," Howard says. "We all need it and it's part and parcel of football today. You can't really rest on your laurels you have to keep pushing yourself every season, because if you stand still you're going backwards." Considering its lack of investment in new players, seventh place was a very good finish in 2011 and will be the same in 2012.

Clint Dempsey (Fulham, 147 games, 33 goals)
Dempsey set an American record with 12 EPL goals in 37 games for Fulham. There has been talk of a move to another club, but Dempsey likes new manager Martin Jol's attacking style. "We want to better what we did last season in the Premier League," says Dempsey, "and we want to make a good run in the Europa League." He impressed in his first action after an extended summer break following the Gold Cup. A 2-0 win over RNK Split of Croatia sent the Cottagers into the final round of Europa League qualifying.

Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers, 28 games, 2 goals)
Key to Bolton's success during the first half of the 2010-11 season -- his first full season in the EPL -- Holden was injured in a horrific challenge with Manchester United's Jonny Evans in March and missed rest of season. Isn't expected back until next month.

Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa, 5 games)
Made his debut with Villa's first team last season after progressing through its reserve team system but finished the 2010-11 season at second division Leeds. Played left back for the USA at the 2011 Gold Cup but finds himself in a battle for the starting job at right back with Habib Beye and Luke Young.

Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, 1 game)
Rode the pine behind Friedel, now finds himself the backup to veteran Irish keeper Shay Given since Friedel left for Spurs. Lone EPL appearance in three seasons came in a game Friedel was red carded. Played 16 games on loan at second division Hull City.

Zak Whitbread (Norwich City (0 games)
Born in Houston, where his father was a youth coach, and joined the Liverpool youth system in which his father Barry coached at the age of 8. Never made an appearance for Liverpool in the EPL, so his league debut for the promoted Canaries would come after eight seasons as a pro. Arrival of Belgian Ritchie De Laet on loan from Manchester United could jeopardize his spot in the middle of the backline. Whitbread played for the USA at the 2003 Under-20 World Cup and in 2004 Olympic qualifying.



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