Lichaj Re-ups With Villa

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | View Comments
Football - Aston Villa Reserves v Sunderland Reserves Barclays Premier Reserve League Play-Off - Villa Park - 21/5/09..Eric Lichaj of Aston Villa Photo via Newscom

Aston Villa has signed American fullback Eric Lichaj to a three year extension, a good sign that the 21 year old is on the verge of breaking into the first team. That's certainly his goal after going out on loan the past two seasons. What the managerial change at Villa might mean for Lichaj is obviously uncertain; playing time is key for a player of his age, so unless he's solidified his place as a capable squad player who can step in when needed, or reserve games are enough to push him along, perhaps another loan is in the cards.

Aston Villa has committed to seeing his development through, a clear step in the right direction. Lichaj is off of the radar of many American soccer fans simply because he has yet to feature in his clubs first team; while Edgar Castillo (admittedly a natural left back, though I'm told Lichaj can play both sides) gets the hype, a player like Lichaj might end up being the better contributor in the long run.

Lichaj would be worth keeping an eye on this season even without the Villa drama; but with a new boss coming in shortly, Lichaj's fortunes could very well be tied to who it is and how they rate the young American. Lichaj's ability to impress whatever staff aids in the transition is key. I'll go ahead and speculate that the contract extension is an indication that he's done that on some level.

The x-factor in Lichaj's spot on the Villa roster is the new roster rules related to homegrown players. The best guess is that Lichaj does in fact count as homegrown, though that's tied to when he originally signed with the club (which is tough to pin down).

If you haven't already, add Lichaj to your list of Americans in Europe to watch this season; Villa fans I've talked to are high on him, and 2010 could be something of a breakout year.

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