From Ian McCulloch
In an event largely ignored by the British media, the USA national team won the recent Gold Cup tournament in the States. Playing a leading role for his home country as the Cup was won was Fulham's own American star, Eddie Lewis.
Fulham Today caught up with Eddie after training last week, to get the low-down.
Q: Eddie, congratulations on your success. Can you tell us exactly what the tournament was all about?
"It's a North American competition, similar to the Copa America or the African Nations Cup elsewhere. It involves all the North and Central American sides, plus there are also a few other countries invited who aren't necessarily from that region. It's held every couple of years and it's the opportunity for some of the bigger teams in North America to establish themselves as top dogs in the area."
Q: This is a tournament taken very seriously then?
"Perhaps not as seriously as something like the European Championships, but for the region, it's very important. It's the opportunity for teams like USA and Mexico and more recently, Costa Rica to show that they are a major force on the international stage. The pressure is on those countries every couple of years to do well."
Q: Those are the biggest sides involved?
"Yes, those three, and South Korea, who are in our World Cup group, were there. They weren't a bad side; they've got a Dutch coach, they were very organised, very disciplined, very fit and technically very good. Tactically they were ok, not so creative in front of goal perhaps, but very busy and definitely a hard team to break down."
Q: So USA won the tournament. How many games did that involve, and were you worthy winners?
"It took us five games, and I think that anyone who saw our matches would say that we were better in each game, and in the Final we beat Costa Rica pretty convincingly. For us it was a decent match-up - it's difficult for us to play in Costa Rica, and in America we generally get the better of them, but we felt pretty good about this game."
Q: They're close rivals then?
"To a degree, they're always tough to play in Costa Rica. They've been a bit up and down, they've been to some World Cups and missed out on others, but they're always around."
Q: Who did you beat on the way to the Final?
"Canada, El Salvador, South Korea and Cuba, and then we beat Costa Rica 2-0 in the Final. The games were played in Los Angeles, where we played all our matches, and in Miami."
Q: And what was your involvement?
"I played in all the games except for Cuba, when a few of the players, including me, were rested. I started all the other games and played quite well I think. It was a good opportunity for me because I'm not around the US team very much being over here, and because I'm not involved in the first team games for Fulham, it was important for me to show the manager what I can do."
Q: It must be satisfying being picked regularly for your country even though you're not playing for your team?
"It's a difficult situation because the manager wants me to be involved, but has some problems with me not playing regularly over here - understandably so. But as long as I'm playing well when I am involved then I think he'll be happy with that."
Q: And you were called up for the Italy game last week?
"I played the last fifteen minutes of that match, and we had a relatively good game - they were booed off at half time, which was a compliment to us! I'm sure we were more excited about the game than they were, but in the end they hit us on a good counter and beat us 1-0. As Italy normally do, they get their one goal and that's it. But it was a good experience."
Q: Any more games coming up before the World Cup itself?
"We've a couple more back at home, and we've a game in Germany at the end of March, Ireland in Ireland in April, and then a tournament in the States involving Holland and a couple of other teams."
Q: You obviously enjoyed the Gold Cup experience?
"Definitely. It's a tournament that if you don't win, then it's a little bit disappointing, but at the same time winning is not just satisfying, but also a tremendous achievement."
Q: And are you hopeful of a World Cup place?
"Absolutely. Every player in the world wants to be a part of the World Cup, and hopefully with the chances I continue to get with the national team I'll prove my worth, and be there in South Korea in May."
The fans at Fulham have really not seen the best of Eddie Lewis in his time at the Cottage. It's always unfortunate when, for whatever reason, a player does not get a decent run in the team to prove his worth, and in Eddie's case he has never had the opportunity to properly acclimatise himself to the English game.
How Fulhamish then, that when we finally get the chance to see what the talented winger can do, it will probably be on the world stage playing for his country rather than at the Cottage. It's a tremendous achievement to represent your country in the World Cup Finals, and if Eddie gets selected he can rest assured that he has the good will and support of all the Fulham fans behind him.