American Goalkeepers in the Premier League
For people growing up in the United States they’re predominantly raised handling a different type of football to what we in the UK know. Despite that, there have been several who have come to British shores to stand between the sticks in the best football league in the world. Here we rank the best American Goalkeepers in the Premier League.
Number 9. Ian Feuer
First up in our list of American goalkeepers in the Premier League is Ian Feuer; it’s highly plausible you’ve not heard the name. The 6’7 keeper spent his youth career with the Las Vegas Generals before move to Belgium where he joined Club Brugge. In 1994 Feuer rocked up in England for the first time via a one year spell back in the States; West Ham signed him. It wasn’t until six years – and six clubs – later that though that he made his first appearance in the Premier League; ironically, that appearance came with the Hammers who signed him for a second time from Cardiff City.
Feuer was seen as third choice behind Shaka Hislop and former Ipswich Town keeper Craig Forrest. Hislop was already injured and Feuer’s opportunity finally came when Forrest too suffered a knock. His grand tally for West Ham stood at three games; he dropped out of the top flight before a loan spell with Derby saw him make a further two top flight appearances. He managed one clean sheet in that time; ultimately, his time in England was very much forgettable.
Number 8. Juergen Sommer
Juergen Sommer might have been the first American goalkeeper in the Premier League but he doesn’t come close to being the best. All of his 33 appearances came in one season with QPR in the 1995/96 season as they suffered relegation with Sommer collecting a joint American goalkeeper low 0.9 points per game; the national team weren’t turned off though as he earned 10 caps.
Sommer remained with the R’s for a few more seasons but – a short loan spell with Bolton aside – spent the rest of his career back in his homeland. Prior to his time with QPR, Sommer had only played in England. Luton Town signed him after he’d impressed for Indiana University; his other experience in England came courtesy of temporary spells with Brighton, Kettering and Torquay. They were all short lived during his time with the Hatters.
Number 7. Espen Baardsen
Espen Baardsen is another name that might test your obscure Premier League knowledge; the Norwegian international, who was born to Norwegian parents in San Rafael, California, spent the majority of his career in England’s top tier. His career only lasted seven years though as the then 25-year-old called time on football having ‘lost interest’ in the sport.
When a teenager Baardsen was plying his trade in what is now the USL in America; it was there he was spotted by Tottenham. He actually impressed when the opportunity to play came his way but with Ian Walker also on the books at White Hart Lane those chances were limited. Not that it’s reflective of American goalkeepers in the Premier League but Baardsen did play a big role in Spurs winning the League Cup in 1999; he played three of the eight games. After Tottenham, the four cap Norway international joined Watford and Everton. In total, he made 24 appearances and kept eight clean sheets; that’s a 33.3% ratio – the second highest of all American goalkeepers to have played in the Premier League.
Number 6. Zack Steffen
Next up in our list of American goalkeepers in the Premier League is Zack Steffen. In time, we suspect he might jump higher – as long as he gets the chance to play. Steffen is extremely highly rated and is already the US first choice having earned 25 caps to date. The Man City goalie has only made two top flight appearances in England keeping a clean sheet in one but, at 26-years-old, does need to start playing games.
The most prestigious period of Steffen’s career has come in his native America where he starred for Columbus Crew; he was named the best goalkeeper in the MLS in 2018. A move to City was next on the journey before a loan spell with Fortuna Dusseldorf again showcased his talents. Will he opt to leave City where Ederson, who is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, is clear number one? It could define how the game in England remembers him.
Number 5. Brad Guzan
With Brad Guzan in at number five in our list we’re really stepping it up in our review of the American goalkeepers in the Premier League. Guzan made 154 appearances in England’s top flight; the vast majority came for Aston Villa, which is a club where he is somewhat of a cult hero after scooping their Player of the Year award in 2012/13. Guzan isn’t unfamiliar with recognition though having earned multiple honours in the MLS and for the US team.
Despite all the positives Guzan has enjoyed in his career the big black mark on his record in England is his win percentage; at 21.4% it’s the lowest of all American goalkeepers to have appeared in the Premier League. Guzan is still playing at present – for Atlanta United – but when he retires he may well look back with regret at not adding English silverware to his cabinet alongside three Gold Cups, a MLS Cup and US Open Cup ; he lost out in the final of both the FA and League Cups.
Number 4. Marcus Hahnemann
Putting Marcus Hahnemann ahead of Brad Guzan might be the most controversial order of our list; we’re justifying it by the fact that Hahnemann holds a vastly better win percentage and collected a better points per game ratio whilst in the Premier League. Hahnemann, who made a 115 top flight appearances, is best known in England for his time at Reading but also spent time with Wolves and, at either side of his time in the Premier League, with Fulham and Everton respectively. He didn’t make a league appearance for either.
Hahnemann, who is remembered by fans for his homemade kit alterations where he cut the sleeves of his keeper jerseys, started his career in Seattle winning back to back Championships. From there he moved to Colorado Rapids before Fulham convinced him to head across the Atlantic. A Premier League legend he is not but he’s certainly fondly remembered by many.
Number 3. Kasey Keller
In the bronze medal spot we have Kasey Keller. Keller racked up 201 Premier League appearances during his time in England keeping 55 clean sheets along with a damn sight more outside of the top flight; he’s very fondly remembered at Millwall for his performances during that period. It was those displays that earned him a move to Leicester. With the Foxes, Keller won the League Cup under Martin O’Neill.
Keller then moved away from England as he established himself as number one for La Liga side Rayo Vallecano. The lure of the Premier League proved too strong though and in 2001 Keller penned a deal with Tottenham; he was a nailed on starter for two seasons before being ousted by Paul Robinson. A loan spell with Southampton followed before Keller tasted another of Europe’s big five leagues in the shape of the Bundesliga; again, Keller was first choice. His last hurrah in Europe came back in the Premier League with Fulham before he finished up with the Seattle Sounders. On top of all that, Keller represented the USA 102 times and was in the squad at four World Cups.
Number 2. Brad Friedel
The penultimate name on our list, Brad Friedel, is another that spent a large chunk of their career at Tottenham. Friedel was a class act between the sticks though and amassed a total of 450 appearances in England’s top flight for four different clubs; it puts him amongst the players with the most appearances in Premier League history. His pro career actually started in Denmark and then Turkey before a return to the US. It proved only a small step back; Liverpool swooped in 1997 after Friedel was named MLS keeper of the year.
Game time was tough to come by at Anfield though; after three years with the Reds he had to drop a division to join Blackburn. It proved a good move; he helped the club to promotion before starring as they first remained in the Premier League and then won the League Cup. Next up was Aston Villa for three years before a move to Tottenham. During his time in England, Friedel set a number of rather unique records. They include the most consecutive appearances (310) and becoming the oldest player in Spurs’ and Villa’s history. He also became the first American goalkeeper to score in the Premier League when he notched against Charlton in 2004. He also features in our bald footballers XI discussion.
Number 1. Tim Howard
Topping our list of the best American goalkeepers in the Premier League is Tim Howard. We’ll be honest, there was a case for Friedel to sit top but Howard enjoyed longevity too in the shape of 399 appearances and with 132 clean sheets (the same as Friedel) and 1.6 points earned per game he is the most successful. He can also hold his own in the goal scoring stakes; he netted from 100 yards for Everton back in 2012. Howard grabbed three assists during his time in England too.
Of course, Howard isn’t known for that side of his game; it is his goalkeeping prowess for which he is remembered. His journey started in his homeland. It began with the North Jersey Imperials before a move to the MetroStars really put him in the window as he earned back to back All-Star nods. That attracted Manchester United. Whilst his time at Old Trafford was relatively short lived, he did earn a place in the PFA Team of the Year in his debut season and won two pieces of silverware with the club in the form of both domestic cups. The bulk of his career though was spent with Everton where he made 354 league appearances; that makes him one of the most loyal football players in Premier League history as well.
There you have it, our look at American goalkeepers in the Premier League.