By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Mar 23, 2020) US Soccer Players – The USMNT was supposed to be preparing for a Thursday friendly against the Netherlands in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. It was supposed to be a big test for the Americans as they prepared for the Concacaf Nations League and World Cup Qualifying. Instead, none of this seems to matter at the moment. The USMNT last played on February 1 against Costa Rica. The 1-0 win, albeit with a largely MLS-based squad coming off January camp, was a good start to the year. A lot has changed in the world since then. The COVID-19 outbreak has sickened thousands of people, first in China, then other parts of Asia, all of Europe and now the United States.
Coronavirus has halted leagues across the world and forced FIFA to cancel the friendlies scheduled for this week. The world is a vastly different place than it was just a few weeks ago. As everyone settles into a new reality, the games that used to keep us all distracted from the realities of real life are no longer there.
That has left many fans looking to read a good book about the sport they love or re-watching classic matches at a time when millions of Americans are forced to work from home and engage in social distancing to avoid the further spread of this deadly virus. Instead of dissecting what the U.S. should do, or have done, against the Netherlands, we are left to ponder the what ifs at a time when sports is at a standstill.
Which brings us back to what we would've focused on this week. The USMNT has significant links with Dutch soccer. Sergino Dest is currently a key part of Ajax's squad, the latest in a line of familiar names playing in the Netherlands and for the USMNT. In all, 24 Americans have played for at least one Dutch club. Ahead of what was supposed to be the USMNT's friendly against the Netherlands, here's a look at five Americans who excelled in the Eredivisie.
Earnie Stewart (VVV-Venlo, Willem II, NAC Breda)
Stewart was born in the Netherlands but represented his father's country in international competition. Playing as a midfielder, Stewart scored 91 goals in 339 league matches. His 111 goals in all competitions for a Dutch club makes him the highest-scoring American in club play. Stewart played for VVV-Venlo, Willem II, and NAC Breda from 1988 to 2003. He returned to VVV for a season in 2004 after a stint with DC United before becoming the technical director at NAC and later AZ.
Highlight: On August 24, 1997 Stewart scored in NAC's 3-3 home draw with PSV.
John O’Brien (Ajax, Utrecht, ADO Den Haag)
Born in California, O'Brien made history when he signed with famed Dutch club Ajax in 1998 after he had previously had a trial with the team at age 14. The defensive midfielder became a regular for the team and captured the league title and cup double in 2002. He helped Ajax to another league title two years later. O'Brien also played in five Champions League games while at Ajax. He left Ajax for ADO Den Haag in February 2005.
Highlight: October 28, 2001 when Ajax beat Willem II 4-1 at home with O'Brien heading in the second goal in the 72nd minute.
DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven)
Beasley's 20-year career included many highs, including two seasons with PSV. During the 2004-05 season, his first at the club, Beasley played in 29 games and scored six goals. PSV won the league and cup double that year and Beasley became the first American to play in the Champions League semifinals. He scored four times in 12 games for PSV that season. PSV repeated as Eredivisie champions in 2005-06.
Highlight: 2005 KNVB Cup semifinals, where PSV downed Feyenoord on penalties. Beasley's goal in the final minute tied the game.
Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen)
Bradley became the youngest MLS player sold when he was transferred to SC Heerenveen in January 2006 for $250,000. The defensive midfielder quickly became a starter, scoring 16 Eredivisie goals the following season. In the 2007-08 season, Bradley recorded 15 goals and six assists in 33 league matches, which remains one of the best single-season performances by an American player in Europe. The season would be Bradley's last in the Netherlands.
Highlight: 2007-08 Eredivisie season (matchday 14), where Heerenveen defeated Groningen 4-3. Bradley scored a hat trick in that game.
Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar)
Altidore piled on the goals with AZ, a highlight in a career that includes stops in England, Turkey and Spain. He signed with AZ in 2012 when Stewart served as technical director. In 2012-13, Altidore scored 23 goals in 31 matches across all competitions. AZ won the league cup that season. In all, he would score 39 goals in 67 league games.
Highlight: 2013 KNVB Cup final won 2-1 by AZ against PSV Eindhoven. Altidore scored the winning goal.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- The USMNT U-23s wait for an Olympic chance
- Remembering Fred Shields, a soccer role model for Harrison, NJ
- Q&A with Red Bulls midfielder Alex Muyl
- Five things that changed MLS
Logo courtesy of the Eredivisie