Crystal Palace’s connections with America are pretty strong. Co-owned by Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, they also used to have an affiliated side playing in Baltimore and even have a bald eagle that flies around Selhurst Park on a matchday.
However there have been only two Americans who have represented the club during its history, and it’s been 14 years since someone from the States has pulled on the red and blue stripes. Here we profile the two men who have done just that, whose careers have invariably become entwined.
Gregg Berhalter – February 2001 to August 2002 – 21 games, 1 goal
The centre-back arrived at Selhurst Park on a free transfer towards the end of the 2000/01 campaign having been released by Dutch side Cambuur Leeuwarden. He had started his professional career in Holland also representing Zwolle and Sparta Rotterdam.
After trials with Everton and Palace, the then 27-year-old opted for the latter on a deal until the end of the season, which concluded with the famous late victory at Stockport County to seal Division One survival – a game he featured in.
Berhalter then inked a three-year extension and at the end of the following season headed to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea with the US national side where he became the first Palace player to play in the tournament’s history. However he fell out of favour under Trevor Francis and left for Energie Cottbus after 18 months in south London.
He enjoyed a much happier time in Germany, captaining his new side to promotion to the Bundesliga and then also playing for 1860 Munich before returning to his homeland to turn out for David Beckham’s LA Galaxy, who won the MLS Cup in 2011.
After hanging up his boots later that year, he became assistant manager before taking charge of Hammarby in Sweden, becoming the first American to manage a professional side in Europe. He lasted 18 months before being sacked, but was then handed the top job at Columbus Crew in November 2013, and is still in charge to this day having been reunited with the Eagles as the sides shared a 2-2 draw two summers ago.
Jovan Kirovski – August 2001 to May 2002 – 39 games, 5 goals
A former Manchester United youth product, the striker linked up with his American international colleague Berhalter in August 2001 after a successful trial at the Eagles. He brought plenty of pedigree to Selhurst Park, having left United’s youth ranks for Borussia Dortmund and featured in their successful Champions League campaign in 1997. However a disappointing spell with Sporting Lisbon saw him opt for a one-year deal in SE25.
His career began to dovetail with Berhalter’s when both were handed their first international caps in the same game against Saudi Arabia in 1994, and they were reunited again when Steve Bruce signed Kirovski having seen him up close and personal as a youngster at Old Trafford.
However when Bruce’s short tenure ended after he left for Birmingham City in October, Trevor Francis didn’t rate the attacker and brought in Ade Akinbiyi which saw the American demoted to the bench. This prompted the 26-year-old to refuse a new deal and his contract was allowed to expire.
He linked up with Bruce again at Birmingham the following summer before his time in England came to an end when he joined LA Galaxy in 2004. He won the 2005 MLS Cup before stints with Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, but he would reunite with Berhalter once again in 2009 when he returned to the Galaxy and added another MLS Cup to his honours, which includes 62 international caps.
Six months after following Berhalter into retirement, he replaced his former Palace teammate as assistant manager in California, before stepping up to be their technical director a year later.