Fulham’s American contingent could have a vital role to play as the club try to climb out of the Barclays Premier League hole they have dug for themselves.
Second-bottom and six points adrift, they tackle fifth-placed Everton at Craven Cottage on Sunday having collected a mere five points in nine games since Roy Hodgson replaced Lawrie Sanchez just after Christmas.
Kasey Keller, now 38, was preferred in goal to Antti Niemi for the draw at Blackburn last weekend and joined Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson in the starting line-up, while compatriots Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra were on the bench.
Hodgson said: “I’ve not named the team yet, but basically it would be a surprising decision if I put Kasey in and then took him out again. Even I don’t make that many bad decisions!
“Kasey was in the team and was doing well, but then he got injured and was out for a long time. He’s been fit and able to play for three to four weeks, but we stuck with Antti at first.
“It was the consensus of opinion in my staff that the time was right to make a change, especially knowing we were going to be in for a physical game against Blackburn. I thought Kasey responded very well.
“They’re both good goalkeepers. It’s very difficult to say that one is intrinsically better than the other.
“They’re quite similar in many ways and I’m not saying Casey is 10 times better or Antti had been playing particularly badly.
“But when the team is conceding the odd goal, you think about whether it’s the right time to look at the other guy.”
McBride has managed to score only once in eight games this season and came on for just the last 26 minutes last Saturday, but Hodgson added: “Maybe Brian will find his goalscoring form and Eddie Johnson will really start to fulfil the potential that we see.”
Fulham certainly need to step things up after managing just three victories all season.
But after facing Everton, their next four games are against fellow strugglers Newcastle, Derby, Sunderland and Reading – Sunderland is the only home game, though – and Hodgson still believes there is the talent and determination in his squad to survive.
“There’s a quarter of the season left basically – 27 points – and we’ve just got to hope we have a good last quarter,” he said.
“Our work ethic and enthusiasm and energy has been very good and I don’t see any sign of defeatism or lack of belief.
“I’m hoping that we will show we are a bona fide Premier League club with the mettle, the character and the quality to stay up.”
Of his own job Hodgson, who said he instigated a visit from chairman Mohamed Al Fayed to speak to the players in training this week, commented: “I’m not aware that my position is under any threat.
“I certainly don’t feel that – I feel the support of the chairman and the chief executive. I think everybody thinks we are doing as good a job as can be expected in the circumstances.
“I’m in a world where your position is put under the spotlight when a couple of results don’t go your way.
“The chairman feels very strongly for the club and has been upset by refereeing decisions – he thinks we should be given the points back, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”