Stuart Holden, Bolton: The 25-year-old midfielder has been plagued by injuries that have interrupted his international career, but he was something of a revelation for Bolton in the Premier League last year. Holden led Bolton to an impressive 7th place finish in the Premiership and was voted the 2011 Bolton Wanderers Player of the Year, even though he missed the final two months of the season with a nasty knee injury that was the result of a dirty tackle from Man U’s Jonny Evans. With the whole offseason to recover, look for a healthy Holden to build on his impressive coming-out party with another great year. He should be a staple in the starting line-up at center-mid like last year if healthy, and he could even lead Bolton to Europa League Qualification if the team performs to their potential.
Clint Dempsey, Fulham: “Deuce” was named Fulham’s Player of the Season last year as he led the team in goals with 12. Often deployed as a center forward, Dempsey became Fulham’s all-time leading scorer in the Premiership last season and also scored the most goals ever by an American in a Premier League season. Clint has steadily increased his goal tally every season since he joined Fulham, and I don’t see that changing this year. At age 28, Clint has a few good years left if he can stay healthy, so look for another memorable campaign for Clint full of impressive goals and nifty foootwork.
Tim Howard, Everton: Since joining Everton in 2006, Howard has consistently been one of the best keepers in the Premier League year in and year out. His goals-against average was 1.18/game last year, one of the best in the EPL. With Everton a young and talented team as a whole, it should be an exciting year for The Toffees. Howard is the team’s unquestioned first-choice keeper, and this season he will again be one of the best goalies in the league.
Brad Friedel, Tottenham: The 40-year-old keeper hasn’t suited up for the US National Team in six years, but that hasn’t stopped him from maintaining excellent form for his club team. With another steady and even surprisingly impressive season between the posts for Aston Villa, the American signed a two-year deal for Tottenham this offseason. The Spurs other keeper, Heurelho Gomes, had a mistake-filled and disappointing season at White Hart Lane, so many expect the goalkeeper position to be Friedel’s job to lose this season. Look for Friedel to have another steady season between the posts, and he may just get the chance to qualify for the Champions League with the Spurs, which would be an incredible feat for a 40-year-old.
Brad Guzan, Aston Villa: With fellow-American Brad Friedel leaving on a free transfer to Tottenham, it looked as though Guzan would finally get his chance to shine for Aston Villa. That looks unlikely now that Villa are set to sign Manchester City back-up Shay Given to be their starter. Instead, it looks like it may be another season either on the bench or on loan for Guzan. However, if Given gets injured or suffers a dip in form, look for Guzan to finally get his first crack at impressing in the Premiership.
Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa: The 22-year-old American defender had a great Gold Cup this summer, as he established himself as Bob Bradley’s first choice left back. He hasn’t had too many chances to shine for his club Aston Villa, but when he has been in the line-up, he invariably has impressed. He started against Tottenham last season and shut down superstar Gareth Bale before being sent on loan to Leeds United later in the season. Since he is still relatively young, Villa may loan him out again this season, most likely to Leeds. If Villa choose to keep him, expect him to see first-team football and to start a lot of games for the club.
Zak Whitbread, Norwich City: A member of newly-promoted Norwich City, Whitbread is defender who has bounced around in English football a bit before settling in at Norwich last year. Whitbread is a player almost all Americans have never heard of, but he will get a chance to shine on the big stage this year. He is likely to be one of Norwich’s first-choice center backs, and it will be awesome to see Whitbread ply his trade against the best of the best in the Premier League this season.