By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Oct 3, 2016) US Soccer Players – Often lost in the trend of American players opting to return to MLS from Europe is that there remains a steady appetite for US-born players across the Atlantic. While that number may be dwindling in places like England, the ranks of Americans have either grown or remained steady in other countries such as Germany.
One American player who recently opted for a career in Europe is Perry Kitchen. The 24-year-old defensive midfielder had previously turned down a move to Anderlecht of Belgium. Instead, he signed with DC United in 2011 and went on to become a Rookie of the Year finalist. He helped the team lift the US Open Cup in 2013. Last March, Kitchen flew to Edinburgh and signed with Scottish side Heart of Midlothian, making 10 appearances during the 2015-16 season.
This season, Kitchen has already become a starter, playing in all eight of its league games to date. At the same time, he joined an elite group of US players last month after the club named Kitchen team captain. That select group of Americans to wear the captain’s armband for a European club has included Claudio Reyna (Wolfsburg/1998-99) and Brian McBride (Fulham/2007-08).
“It’s a tremendous honor for me and I’m really looking forward to taking on the captain’s role,” Kitchen told the club’s website. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity. I’m a bit surprised, to be honest, but that being said I’m really excited to be given this challenge.”
Kitchen’s club success has also gained him National Team attention. He made his US debut in 2015, coming on as a second-half sub in a 2-0 friendly win against Panama. He was also a member of the squad that finished fourth at this summer’s Copa America Centenario. Although Kitchen has just four caps, the experience he is getting overseas has added to the National Team’s depth chart as the US enters the Hexagonal.
We recently caught up with Kitchen, where he talked about adjusting to life in Scotland, the difference in playing style with MLS, and whether he thinks he’ll be part of the 23-man roster at the 2018 World Cup.
Hearts finished third in the Scottish Premier League last season and earned as spot in the Europa League. What are you hoping to achieve this season both on a personal level and the team?
My personal goals are just to continue improving as a player and be the best I can to help this team win. For the team, we want to continue to build upon last year. We finished third last season so we want to try and get above that and also lift some trophies as that’s always your goal, as a player and as a team.
How does soccer in Scotland compare to what you are used to in MLS?
The Scottish league is a bit different, but to be honest it’s fairly similar to MLS. It’s very fast paced, you don’t have a lot of time on the ball which is comparable to MLS, except in the summer months in the MLS when it obviously slows down a bit. Overall, it’s a tough league to play in, just as the MLS is.
How have you adjusted to life in Scotland? Has it been difficult?
It’s been a good transition so far. Everyone at the club’s been very welcoming, from the staff to my teammates to the coaches. So it’s been a pretty easy adjustment so far. Life over here is great. The Scottish people are great people and it’s been a good adjustment.
Do you still watch MLS and your old team DC United?
I do still follow the MLS and DC United. I still have a lot of friends on that team and I’m always pulling for them if we get any of their games live on Sky Sports, I’ll be watching and rooting for them. I spent five years there and it’s an important part of my journey and I wish them all the best. I think it’s been a bit of an up and down year for them but they’re still in the playoff picture. They need to pick up a couple of wins out of their final few games and get in the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.
You were on the National Team roster at the 2016 Copa America. Do you hope to grab a roster spot on the 2018 World Cup team?
At the end of the day, it’s up to Jurgen (Klinsmann) and his staff whether or not I get called up. I just have to control what I can over here, which is playing well and doing what I can for the team. Hopefully, that gets some attention.
Based in New York City, Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He covers all topics relating to American soccer, including Major League Soccer. He has covered the last two World Cups for the site. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Clemente began writing for our site in July 2007. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi: