• Hit or Miss?

Will Gerrard bend it like Beckham in the US?

Alex Perry
January 3, 2015
David Beckham is Britain's best MLS export to date © Getty Images
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With Steven Gerrard announcing he is off to the United States to join Major League Soccer in the summer, ESPN analyses 10 other players from the UK and Ireland (and Frank Lampard) whose Stateside examples he could follow:

Beck and beyond


"I'm not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America - that would be difficult to achieve."

Where else could we possibly start but David Beckham? And he sure had a good go at it when he joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007.

Beckham-mania took over the US and when he made his Galaxy debut in a friendly against Chelsea the 30,000 capacity crowd was joined by the likes of Tom Cruise, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Beckham made his full debut in an astonishing 5-4 defeat to New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium in front of almost 80,000 screaming fans. The Red Bulls' normal attendance averaged around the 15,000 mark.

Hit or miss? Hit. The biggest to date by far.

Another LA king


Robbie Keane knows where the net is - there's no doubt about that. A career spanning three decades in England, Italy, Scotland and the United States, as well as being Ireland's all-time leading scorer, has seen him notch almost a goal every other game.

But the former Spurs, Liverpool and Inter hitman was unknown Stateside when he signed for LA Galaxy in 2011 - and was left embarrassed when a local newspaper captioned a picture of Keane with "Soccer player David Beckham, actor Russell Brand and an unidentified fan pose for a photo during the NBA game between the LA Lakers and Dallas Mavericks".

With 60 goals in 96 games for the Galaxy, they certainly know who he is now.

Hit or miss? A big hit

Former Derby County starlet Giles Barnes has rebuilt his career in the US after serious injury © Getty Images
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Miller time


Like Keane, Kenny Miller was a huge hit wherever he went - including three separate spells with his beloved Rangers.

But unlike Keane, Miller failed to get to grips with the American top flight and returned to Scotland having scored just 13 goals in almost 50 games for Vancouver Whitecaps.

Hit or miss? A rare miss for Miller.

Houston, we don't have a problem


Giles Barnes was the only spark in Derby County's ill-fated 2007-08 season that saw them win one game and ending with just 11 points on the board.

Then 17, Barnes was the latest in a long line of wunderkind tipped to be England's World Cup saviour. Instead, a run of serious injuries saw him head to Houston Dynamo in a bid to rebuild his career.

He won't be on Roy Hodgson's radar any time soon, but the midfielder has started almost every game in his two full seasons in Texas, scoring 20 goals.

Hit or miss? A huge hit - and a few Premier League managers alerted.

Defoe or not Defoe?


Jermain Defoe didn't exactly get off to the best start when he announced he was "delighted to be in the US" - despite the fact he had signed for Canadian side Toronto.

And it all went downhill from there. Defoe suffered from injury and only played 19 of the 34 games as Toronto finished seventh in the 10-team Eastern Conference.

His 11 goals have not been enough and the club's president Tim Leiweke even questioned his commitment, saying: "If you don't want to be here, get the hell out of our way."

Hit or miss? Miss. It was doomed from the start and Defoe is expected to return to the Premier League in the January window.

Mo problems


Mo Johnston caused one of the biggest controversies in British football history when he left Celtic for Nantes before returning from France to become Rangers' first high-profile Catholic signing.

So it was perhaps understandable when Johnston skulked off for a quiet life in the US when he signed for Kansas City Wizards - now Sporting Kansas City - in 1996, scoring 31 goals in 149 games and winning one MLS title.

Johnston joined the coaching staff at New York Red Bulls before becoming manager for the 2006 season, but was fired after seven defeats in his first nine games. Johnston then took over at Toronto where he lasted two seasons before being given the boot.

Hit or miss? A hit as a player, a miss as a manager.

Mo Johnston spent five years at Kansas City Wizards - but his reputation went downhill after a disastrous spell in management © Getty Images
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Sure-fire Earnshaw


Robbie Earnshaw is perhaps best known for being the subject of an impressive piece of football trivia: Which player has scored in all top four English divisions, the FA Cup, the League Cup and for his country?

Add to that stat Major League Soccer, after the Welshman left boyhood heroes Cardiff to sign for Toronto, scoring eight goals in 26 games, before heading back to England for a short-term deal at Blackpool. He then jetted back across the Atlantic to link up with Chicago Fire, where he scored three goals in five for the team second-bottom in the Eastern Conference.

Hit or miss? The trivia doesn't lie, and Earnshaw has been a hit wherever he goes - even on short-term deals

Reo Grande


Nigel Reo-Coker was somewhat of a journeyman in England, turning out for Wimbledon, West Ham, Aston Villa, Bolton and Ipswich, and his time in the US hasn't been any different.

Reo-Coker left Portman Road to join Vancouver Whitecaps before being traded to Chivas USA midway through his second season in MLS. When the LA side folded at the end of the 2014 campaign, Reo-Coker was not selected in the main draft, but was picked up by Montreal Impact in the secondary draft.

Hit or miss? Reo-Coker's whole career can probably be best described with a shrug of the shoulders. Miss.

All's well that ends well for Caldwell


Though not as successful as younger brother Gary, Steven Caldwell was a reliable centre-half for several Premier League and Championship teams, including notable stints at Sunderland, Burnley and Birmingham City.

When the latter decided not to extend his contract, Caldwell headed to Toronto where, despite playing just 23 games in an injury-hit first season, he was voted by the club's fans as their player of the season.

Hit or miss? Like his defending, a solid but unspectacular hit.

I heart Huckerby


When Norwich City star Darren Huckerby signed for San Jose Earthquakes in 2008, a television reporter raved about the player "from the North Folk team in the North East of England" before describing him as an "English legend" on several occasions.

Huckerby brushed aside the inaccuracies and hyperbole to win the MLS newcomer of the year award in his maiden season across the pond, but he underwent surgery in 2009 and was forced to retire from the game after nine goals in 28 goals for the Earthquakes.

Hit or miss? A hit. Just. If only from the YouTube hits

... And the one who got away?


Along with David Villa, Frank Lampard was a marquee signing for the latest franchise New York City - but the Chelsea legend has instead headed to sister club Manchester City where he has now decided to spend the rest of the season. New York City's fans are furious, while Manuel Pellegrini has questioned whether he will ever head to the Big Apple ...

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has questioned whether Frank Lampard will ever play for the MLS side who signed him © AP
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Alex Perry tweets at @AlexPerryESPN

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