Over seven per cent of our twitter followers live in the USA which is the highest number outside of the UK, whilst our friends at Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) continue to champion the Club and the work of chairman Barry Hearn across the Atlantic.
Last season too we of course hosted the iconic New York Cosmos in a friendly which has further spread the awareness of the Club in America. With all of that in mind and with the Yanks turning heads out in Brazil, we take a look at the few players to have made the journey across the pond to E10 over the years…
Despite brushing shoulders with the likes of Bobby Moore and Pele during his spell in the states, a 26-year-old Christopher Carenza looked set to fulfil a lifelong dream when he signed for the O’s in 1978.
Having played for San Antonio Thunder and Team Hawaii in the US, Carenza set off for England with only a back pack and a pair of football boots as he aimed to make his name in London. Carenza turned to an unlikely source in his quest for football in the capital.
Carenza recalls: “On my arrival in London I contacted Tommy Taylor having played alongside him for San Antonio Thunder. He was playing with Orient at the time and on my second day in London he set me up for a chat with the manager Jimmy Bloomfield and I was offered a short-term contract.”
Carenza went on to make his debut against Hereford United reserves before making a further six reserve appearances. However, his big moment would come against Swedish side I.F.K Gothenburg in a hastily arranged friendly in November 1978.
“That morning before the game we had a short training session and when I saw I was on the bench I was a bit disappointed, but I knew I had to show patience,” he said.
“During the match there was a good atmosphere but early in the first half our defender Paul Went went down with a twisted knee. Peter Angell immediately called for Les (Peter Bennett), my face dropped but then Jimmy (Bloomfield) quickly overruled him and shouted ‘CJ you get on.’
“I can remember time standing still for a moment and it seemed you could hear a pin drop on the bench, I did not know who was more surprised, Les – who was already warming-up down the touchline – or me. Peter (Angell) was now screaming at me to get onto the pitch.
“As I ran onto the pitch I felt a great rush of adrenaline but I soon settled down. Just a few minutes later I anticipated a pass out of the IFK’s back line and was able to intercept the ball, I burst forward beat a couple of players and then I gave a pass through to Kitch (Peter Kitchen), he hit a great shot but it curved away from goal at the last second.
“I can remember the fans chanting my name and not Peter’s, the chant of ‘CJ CJ CJ’ was spontaneous around the ground and I felt really good as we went in for half-time. We went on to lose the game 2-0 but I really enjoyed it.”
Carenza was finally offered a first-team contract with the O’s in December 1978, but a disastrous slice of ill-fortune would put paid to his chances in E10.
“During a training session on a cold and icy December’s day I got quite carried away in a five-a-side game and tore my groin quite severely. I had to be carried off the pitch and went to hospital on the same day that I was offered a first-team contract.
“I was never able to get over the injury and had to return to the States where eventually it healed. My time with Orient was even noticed by the American National team selectors and I was chosen for the squad to play Russia in the King Dome in Seattle. Sadly during practice the groin gave up on me again, so I had to pull-out of the squad a few days before the match.
“I really look back on my short time with Orient with great fondness; it was an experience with many great memories.”
Erik Burnstein: In 1993, young goalkeeper Erik Burnstein joined the O’s on trial from Toms Rover East High School in New Jersey. Burnstein had earned all-country, all-conference and all-state first team honours and was the first soccer player in the history of the school to be selected for the Mid-Atlantic All-American team. He stayed in E10 for one season but was restricted to youth and reserve team appearances.
Taylor Northrop: Also in 1993, 14-year-old Taylor Northrop spent a brief spell at Brisbane Road. He recalls, “I really enjoyed my stay with Orient. I would wake up about 9am, go practise at 12 noon and then clean the first-team boots. It was always my childhood dream to play for an English League side.” Following his brief spell in E10, Northrop turned to the more familiar US sport of American Football.
Junior McDougald: Texas born Junior McDougald joined Orient in October 1998 and would go on to make 10 first team appearances at Brisbane Road. McDougald started his career with Tottenham Hotspur and after a nine year spell at White Hart Lane the striker went on to play for Brighton, Rotherham and FC Toulon before joining the O’s. After a four year spell with Dagenham and Redbridge, McDougald spent ten years in non-league before eventually retiring earlier this year.
Sean Gainsford: 22-year-old Sean Gainsford joined the O’s on trial in 2002 and appeared in a 3-0 defeat against Bournemouth reserves before moving back to California.
Ian Feuer: 6ft 7in goalkeeper Ian Feuer joined the O’s on trial in 2002 having previously enjoyed spells with West Ham, Peterborough, Luton and Wimbledon. After playing three pre-season games, the 31-year-old was offered a contract by Paul Brush but decided to reject the deal to go on trial with Arsenal. The stopper was not offered a deal by the Gunners and retired later that year before returning to the US.
Eric Lichaj: 22-year-old defender Eric Lichaj joined the O’s on loan from Aston Villa in 2010, making nine appearances and scoring his first professional goal against Stockport during his spell in E10. After making 32 appearances at Villa Park, Lichaj was released at the end of last season and has recently signed for Nottingham Forest.
Devann Yao: 20-year-old winger Devann Yao joined the O’s on trial from Ipswich in 2010 but was not offered a contract. Most recently, Yao has been playing for Belgium side Royal Boussu Dour Boringe.