Jonathan Spector has said he cannot afford to show any mercy against the sizeable American contingent in the Fulham ranks when West Ham United travel to Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Fulham have five US internationals on their books - namely Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Spector is naturally eager for his compatriots to do well in their fight for Barclays Premier League survival - but only after this weekend. While Fulham need precious points, West Ham United are looking to maintain their good away record and know victory would see them finish Saturday in ninth and potentially just four points off fifth place.
"We certainly want to win, we want to push on and get a result but it is tough when you are playing against some friends and team-mates who you know are struggling down at the bottom," the versatile Spector admitted. "At the same time, you cannot have any mercy on the team you are playing against. You have got to go out and get the result."
Having established himself as a regular in the matchday 16, the defender who turns 22 on Saturday week, is especially eager to start. "I like to be involved in every game but particularly this one just because there is a big American contingent there and to play against the players I play with and have played with in the national team is always good fun. It is also good to play in London derbies."
Spector did get the chance to play against Fulham when the two sides met at the Bolen Ground on 12 January. Then the visitors took the lead through Simon Davies' speculative eighth-minute free-kick before Dean Ashton and Anton Ferdinand ensured all three points for the Hammers. Spector played the whole of that contest at right-back but his most recent outing in claret and blue came at left-back.
Against Birmingham City reserves ten days ago, Spector was the senior figure in a youthful back four that did well against highly rated forwards Mauro Zarate and Daniel De Ridder. "They had two tricky players up front but I thought we coped well and countered," Spector recalled. "When you have tricky players like that running at you, it allows you to get significantly more out of the game than when you are playing up against younger players."
That experience could stand him in good stead if selected on Saturday and he finds himself up against the lively Johnson. The striker is the most recent American recruit at Fulham, having signed from Kansas City Wizards last month, and impressed in the midweek reserve game between the two clubs. He played for an hour and showed good ability, even if he was ultimately frustrated by the West Ham United defence as the Hammers won 2-0.
The 23-year-old Johnson has scored eleven goals in 31 internationals and could form a potent partnership with Dempsey, a top-class player who Spector simply describes as "a threat", while fit-again McBride's ability is well known. Turning to Johnson, Spector concluded: "Hopefully for him and the club he will be able to make an impact." After Saturday, that is.