Drew Heatley looks back on the phenomenon of ‘Fulhamerica’ to rank our best players from across the pond.
The fabled relationship between our little club from SW6 and the global behemoth that is the United States of America is well documented. In the past 25 years, 12 USA internationals have pulled on the famous white shirt, to varying degrees of success. But how do they rank from least successful to the greatest? Don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work and created the definitive list of Fulhamericans. Now, where’s my tin hat…
12. Marlon Fossey (2020-2022) 1 appearance
It never quite happened for Marlon, did it? An academy graduate full-back who had all the tools to soar up these (prestigious) rankings, he arrived at an unstable period for the club as we bounced between the Premier League and the Championship (and, to be fair, we’ve not stopped yet).
He impressed on loan at League One Bolton Wanderers in the 2021/22 season, leading to hopes he could link up with Marco’s first team, but a post-deadline day move to Standard Liege ended his Fulham journey, having made just one first team appearance. Sadly for Marlon, it was as part of the shitshow that was Crawley Town in the League Cup at the start of this season.
11. Eddie Johnson (2008-2011) 22 appearances
Johnson arrived in January 2008 with big expectations. He’d come off a 2007 MLS campaign in which he scored 15 goals in 27 games for the Kansas City Wizards, and at 23 years old, he was an up-and-coming talent. But he never fulfilled that potential – not at the Cottage, anyway.
Fulham were in the midst of a relegation battle, which had not yet developed into the great escape, and there wasn’t much scope for blooding a young talent. Johnson would have to wait until the 2010/11 campaign to make more than 10 appearances, but he just couldn’t find the net. Not great for a striker. He left in 2012 for the Seattle Sounders, and showed that there’s really no place like home, bagging 23 times in 49 appearances.
10. Luca de la Torre (2013-2020) 14 appearances
File Luca in the same folder as compatriots Fossey and Hyndman (more on him later). The San Diego-born midfielder won the CONCACAF U-20 Championship with the US U20s in 2017, and lined up alongside players like Marek Rodak, George Williams and Hyndman for Fulham U21s in the PL2. But he couldn’t quite break through to the first team, making just a handful of appearances in the Championship and League Cup from 2017 to 2020. He headed to the Eredivisie that summer, signing for Heracles, and he now plies his trade in La Liga with Celta Vigo.Embed from Getty Images
9. Eddie Lewis (2000-2002) 22 appearances
A tricky winger who loved a free-kick, Lewis signed for Fulham in the spring of 2000, as we were wrapping up a rather dull campaign under Paul Bracewell. He featured seven times the following season as we reached the Premier League. And amazingly, he actually started a top flight game for us – the final game of our maiden campaign, against Blackburn. Lewis would go on to play for Preston, Leeds and Derby, before returning to the US. He called time on his career in 2010 after a couple of seasons playing alongside David Beckham for LA Galaxy – who reportedly wouldn’t let him take free-kicks. Well, you can’t argue with that, can you?
8. Marcus Hahnemann (1999-2002) 4 appearances
The man who started it all. I’m sure the keen hunter and heavy metal fan from Seattle didn’t think he’d be the spark that caused a revolution when he arrived at First Division Fulham from the Colorado Rapids in the summer of 1999. And neither did anyone else; Marcus made just four appearances for the Whites, all in our title-winning campaign, but he couldn’t dislodge Maik Taylor in between the sticks. Marcus is ranked where he is for being the first American at our club, and for winning silverware, which – let’s face it – is a bit rare.Embed from Getty Images
7. Emerson Hyndman (2011-2016) 28 appearances
Hyndman was one of eight debutants at the start of a brave new Championship era that quickly turned into a nightmare. We lost 2-1 to Ipswich Town in our first game outside the Premier League in 13 years. Sadly, it wouldn’t get much better for Emerson at Fulham.
His best moment was a last-minute winner at the Cottage against Cardiff. It was his 20th birthday, he won man of the match, and we moved 10 points clear of the Championship drop zone. Halcyon days indeed. Two months later he signed for Bournemouth. And now he’s back in MLS, playing for Atlanta United.Embed from Getty Images
6. Kasey Keller (2007-2008) 14 appearances
A legend of US football – and of the Premier League – Kasey Keller wrote his name into Fulham folklore in 2008, despite playing less than 20 games for the Whites. He told me in 2018 his arrival 11 years earlier had everything to do with compatriot Brian McBride. “I saw Brian had injured his knee (against Middlesbrough). We are great friends, so I gave him a call. We got on to a conversation about Fulham. Brian said, ‘Would you come?’ I said ‘That’s not what we’re talking about!’ But he said ‘I’m going to go into the club tomorrow and tell them you’re available’. And I said, ‘OK Brian, you do whatever you want to do’.”
Keller was initially there to support first-team ‘keeper Antti Niemi, but found himself first choice come March, when the Whites were in the mire and Roy Hodgson was at the helm. At 39 and very much in the twilight of his career, Keller came in and kept four clean sheets in his 10-game run, as we completed the great escape on the final day against Portsmouth.Embed from Getty Images
5. Antonee Robinson (2020-present) 83 appearances
Ah, Jedi. The first of two US internationals on this list who are currently on the books, of course. English-born Robinson is this high up the list, not because he was once courted by AC Milan (a little-known fact there for you all), but because he was a vital part of a title-winning Fulham side, something we’ve only seen a handful of times. Though he’s not without his critics in the Championship, strangely, his searing pace makes him very much at home in the top flight, and he’s established himself as one of the first names on our team sheet. He’s still only 25 years old – who knows what more he could achieve at Craven Cottage?
4. Carlos Bocanegra (2004-2008) 133 appearances
Boca could do it all. Whether he was at centre-back, left-back or even holding midfield, he rarely put a foot wrong. He was Mr Dependable. Carlos arrived at Fulham in the same January window as Brian McBride, and immediately became a first-teamer under Chris Coleman. His best campaign was probably his penultimate at the club – and Cookie’s last – as Lawrie Sanchez came in for the final few games to help the Whites narrowly stay in the Premier League. Carlos even chipped in with four goals – including a late equaliser at Stamford Bridge. Lovely.Embed from Getty Images
3. Brian McBride (2004-2008) 153 appearances
The top three is where it gets tricky. I’m sure everyone will have their own podium combinations, but I’ve plumped for McBride in third.
It’s hard to believe that McBride was already 32 when he arrived at Fulham in 2004. He was even two years older than manager Chris Coleman. Brian told me how important Cookie was to his start at Craven Cottage: “As I got to know him, you could see he had a soccer brain and he had an uncanny knack of being able to get everybody feeling like they were a part of what the team was doing. His man-management was phenomenal.”
McBride bagged 41 goals in more than 150 appearances for Fulham, returning from serious injury in 2007/08 to help us avoid relegation, before heading back to MLS with Chicago Fire. He even had a bar at Craven Cottage named after him after his retirement. He’ll always be our original Captain America.
2. Clint Dempsey (2007-2012 + 2014) 232 appearances
I toyed with the top two for a while, and for many Dempsey would be top. Maybe deep down I’m still annoyed at how he left us for Spurs in 2012, or I’m thinking about his disappointing second spell in the disastrous 2013/14 season, but there’s no doubt the Texan has played an absolutely crucial role in some of our biggest moments. That chip against Juventus. Becoming the first American to hit 50 goals in the Premier League. Our leading Premier League goalscorer (for now).
He was incomparable in his final season for the Whites, bagging 23 goals in all competitions in 2011/12, before a somewhat acrimonious departure. He attempted to force a move to Liverpool, before settling on North London. Despite that little blot on his copybook, he’s still a bona fide FFC legend.
1. Tim Ream (2015-present) 276 appearances
Call it recency bias, call it sentimentality, call it whatever you like, but Tim Ream is – for me – the greatest American to ever pull on the shirt of London’s original football club. He’s helped us to no fewer than three promotions in his (so far) seven-year spell, two of which were Wembley wins. Just think about that for a second: will it ever be repeated?
Of course, with that comes two Premier League relegations, but each time he’s helped us roar back up to the promised land. There’s something to be said for that affection and loyalty from both player and club. And besides, he only played seven times in 2020/21 – and if that can be used as a mitigating circumstance for Mitro’s Premier League prowess, you can bet I can use it to defend Ream.
This year, at the ripe old age of 35, Tim’s proving everyone wrong – even Pep Guardiola said he’d have him in his team if he was 10 years younger. And now he’s representing the USMNT at the World Cup. It’s just another chapter in his storied tenure in SW6.