Young Americans receive plaudits
By Chris Bergin (ussocceruk.com)
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
As the senior US national team looks towards qualification for Germany 2006, two of the players looking to be in the mix for 2010 are finishing their overseas seasons on a high note.
While much of the recent US focus at Manchester United has been on impressive keeper Tim Howard, Jonathan Spector's season was rewarded with team's Jimmy Murphy Award for the outstanding academy player.
Past winners include current Reds first-teamers Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville.
Stoke City's Jay Denny is also on a similar path of progression.
Hailing from Chicago, Spector began his career as a striker, but was converted to a defender in 2002. Academy coach Brian McClair described him as 'quick-thinking, reliable and enthusiastic.'
Despite the lofty review, Spector recognises he has a way to travel before gaining American stardom.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity I have," he told United's official site. "I want to show how much American soccer has grown in the last few years, because I still don't think we get the credit we deserve.
"I'd also like to play for (the) first team."
In England's Midlands, midfielder Denny - a product of Los Angeles - joined the outfit's reserve side in 2002, and impressed on their Under-19 team, before finding a home in their reserves this season.
Denny helped his cause by scoring a late a goal in the championship game, a 3-1 victory over Rotherham United.
Winning the club's Young Player of the Year award, Denny has been suitably impressed with his progression this season.
"I think I have progressed at a good rate," he said. "I've played a lot of games this season and feel I have been consistent for both academy and reserves. Winning the reserves league was a bonus, my US Under-20 international call up and getting my first taste of being around the first team.
"Spector has had a similar season to me, I know he's looking forward to going home - he deserves his break."
Like future team-mate Spector, Denny realises that his success is only a first-step towards international honours with USA. Both 18, Spector and Denny represent the next wave of American youngsters - along with Manchester United's Kenny Cooper, Arsenal's Frank Simek and Under-18 Danny Szetela - who are passing up both MLS and college opportunities to take their talents directly to Europe.
For the possible future team-mates, their seasons were not rewarded with just verbal accolades. Both received late-season first-team call-ups. Spector was a substitute for Manchester United's 1-0 loss to Blackburn on May 1.
Denny was called up for the team's May 4 game versus West Bromwich Albion. Neither saw first team action, but even making the bench for a first-team match is the highlight of a successful campaign at the reserve level.
If 2010 qualification seems a long ways away for the duo, remember this: Both DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan were 18 when qualifications for the 2002 World Cup began.