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Yanks Yanked Out of Craven Cottage

Despite a miracle run to remain in the Premiership, Fulham has decided to shed some of the American mainstays who helped prevent what seemed like certain relegation.

Carlos Bocanegra had been long rumored to be leaving Craven Cottage at the end of the season. He had falled out of favor with the front office and though he played efficient defense in over 100 matches for Fulham, he committed soccer’s cardinal sin: he offended his club’s fans by whining about not getting his new shiny million dollar deal when he wanted it. No one is surprised (or apparently sad) to see Boca go.

But Brian McBride had been a Cottager for what seemed like ages. He wore the Captain’s arm band, and though his goal production dropped off precipitously this season due to a knee injury, he was still widely regarded as one of the best in the entire league at winning headers. In over 130 matches with Fulham, McBride notched 32 goals, not too shabby for an American abroad.

Now, gossip is rising that Kasey Keller is also out of favor with Fulham and will be returning to the States soon. The 38 year old Keller played sparingly for Fulham last season, and all signs point to his departure from the club during the offseason.

Fulham apparently is seeking to shed its image as “America’s Team” in the EPL. In fact, only Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson will likely suit up for the Cottagers next season, and Johnson’s poor play has not exactly guaranteed his spot on the roster.

I am sad to see Fulham lose the majority of its American contingent. McBride and Keller were in the twilight of their careers so its not too shocking to see them ousted (if Keller leaves, that is). Bocanegra pushed the front office’s buttons, so it’s not surprising to see them press one of his: the ejection button, that is.

But I, for one, will miss seeing all those Yanks play together in (my opinion here) the best professional soccer league in the world (with apologies to the top flights in Italy and Spain).

So the question is: what’s next for the former Fulham contingent?

Keller, I believe, should consider retirement if he’s let go. He has nothing left to prove. If he likes, he could certainly play in the MLS. But, for the pittance he will be paid, I would imagine Mr. Magoo (as he used to be humorously referred to by opposing fans) has seen during his long career all the shots on goal he’d care to throw his body in front of. He’s got the skills to keep going, but why?

I would like to see McBride return to MLS. In fact, a return to his former squad, the Crew, could allow his career to come full circle. McBride could still be a dominant forward in MLS, despite his advanced years. Moreover, on a team like CMB, he could be invaluable to the MNT by passing on his tricks of the trade on to youngsters like Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven.

Bocanegra, I believe, still has the athleticism to play in the top flight European leagues. He may end up in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or somewhere else in the EPL, who knows? But I do believe coming back to the MLS would be a mistake for the U.S.’s most polished defender.

In the end, American soccer fans should consider this a dark day. When you only have a handful of players in the world’s most watched league, it always hurts to see one depart.

McBride no doubt took today to announce his departure to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the US v. England friendly. The timing of McBride’s announcement, like his aerial acrobatics, was impeccable.

Brian McBride will miss Craven Cottage. But, in the end, it could be Craven Cottage that misses Brian McBride even more.