Dutch Wonderland: Can the Union recruit players from Earnie Stewart’s Alkmaar?

If you’ve ever been to Lancaster, you’ve probably seen or heard of that amusement park, Dutch Wonderland.

It doesn’t have anything to do with this article, but I thought it was a clever title. Plus, Pennsylvania “Dutch” actually refers to German heritage, so I guess it’s just one of those weird American misnomers.

Anyway, if you’ve listened to the KYW Philly Soccer Show in recent weeks, you’re aware of my fascination with the 2011-2012 AZ Alkmaar team that went to the semifinals of the Europa League. Jozy Altidore bagged goals galore, surrounded by a balanced supporting cast, a great coach, and the player-personnel executive who now works at Seaport Drive in Chester, PA.

It’s a feasible question: Would any of the players from that AZ team rejoin Earnie Stewart in Philadelphia? A good chunk of those players are now in their late twenties and fit the parameters for a typical MLS transfer. Is the American dream appealing? Did Earnie even have a good relationship with those guys?

I hope so, because there were some damn good players on that squad.

Here’s a few that I’d go for in Philly:

Maarten Martens

Martens is 31 years old, an attacking midfielder currently without a club and unsure about his future. He was most recently on loan to Cercle Brugge from PAOK in Greece, but has been a free agent for several months now. He left AZ in 2014 after an eight-year spell with the club.

The Belgian has had injury concerns over the years. There was a 2007 knee injury that kept him out for nearly two seasons. He also dealt with injuries in 2011 and 2012, which limited his contributions after taking the AZ captain’s armband.

He can play at left F/M or in the No. 10 spot, where the Union already has Chris Pontius and Tranquillo Barnetta, respectively. In a sense, he’s an older Pontius with a much better pedigree and more diverse skill set. He’s worth bringing in on trial.

Rasmus Elm

I’m high on Elm, who returned to Sweden’s Kalmar after a health issue almost forced him to quit soccer entirely. (ESPN wrote about his stomach problems earlier this year.)

Elm is a hybrid central midfielder, probably best as a No. 8, who takes set pieces and penalties. He’s rangy and lanky, and moves the ball well in a style similar to that of Vincent Nogueira. His attacking qualities from the run of play are limited, but that’s the same situation for Nogueira, who isn’t a natural goal scorer. Still, Elm’s best goal-scoring season came during that 11/12 campaign, when he bagged 10 on the year.

Elm transferred to CSKA Moscow in 2012, joining countryman Pontus Wernbloom in the move from Alkmaar to Russia.

Health concerns aside, Elm is only 27 years old. I’m not sure of his level of commitment to Kalmar, and the Union already have a No. 8 in Nogueira, but he’s a solid player with good years left in him.

Viktor Elm

Viktor Elm is Rasmus’ older brother and came to AZ just before his sibling moved to CSKA. He signed in 2012 from Heerenveen, played three seasons in Alkmaar, then recently rejoined Rasmus at Kalmar. Viktor is also a midfielder, but left-footed, and much taller at six-foot-four. Think of Ola Toivonen to get an idea of how he plays.

Both Elms are solid players, and there’s actually a third one out there, David, who also plays for Kalmar.

David is a 32 year old striker, a big man with target man qualities. He’s the oldest of the three, so he’s obviously entering the twilight years of his career.

If you’re keeping track, Rasmus Elm, Viktor Elm, and David Elm all currently play together in Sweden.

Roy Beerens

Beerens played on the AZ right flank during Jozy’s time there.

He’s a great dribbler. He’s quick and incisive with the ability to run at defenders in 1v1 situations. That’s something the Union has really been lacking for the wide midfield positions.

Beerens’ performances at AZ earned him a 2014 transfer to Hertha Berlin. He’s in year two of a three-year contract, but he’s barely played this season, limited by an early injury. His first season in Berlin was very good, with 24 starts in 27 total appearances. He’s still just 28 years old, and if he falls out of favor at Hertha, I’d go for him.

Etienne Reijnen

Reijnen was the third-choice center back on that 2011-2012 AZ team. He made 15 appearances and logged about 1,100 minutes.

He’s a big guy, too, standing six-foot-three and hitting the scale at 180 pounds. Reijnen became a starter in 2012-2013, then moved to Cambuur Leeuwarden in 2014 and now plays for Groningen. He’s 28 years old and could be a solid replacement for Steven Vitoria.

Dirk Marcellis

Marcellis was a starting CB for Alkmaar from 2010 to 2013 after transferring over from PSV for two million pounds. His career took a left turn when a knee injury caused him to miss most of the 2013-2014 campaign.

The 27 year old got back on track at NAC Breda with 1,512 minutes in the 2014-15 season. He’s now with Zwolle and playing regularly again.

He reminds me a bit of Michael Parkhurst in stature and style of play. He’s a fierce tackler but also good in passing and moving the ball from the backline to the midfield.

Niklas Moisander

Moisander is a stud center back, 30 years old, and just signed with Sampdoria on a free transfer. I doubt he’s on the move anytime soon, but I would still go for this guy at age 31 or 32 if things don’t work out in Serie A.

The Finland international was a staple at AZ for several years before moving on to Ajax. He doesn’t miss a lot of games and he’s shown to be pretty durable over the years. He became the Alkmaar captain after the departure of Stijn Schaars in 2011.

Moisander has won the Eredivisie three times, the KNVB cup once, and the Dutch Supercup three times. He’s the Finnish captain and has more than 50 caps for his national team.

Honorable mentions and/or guys that should stay in Europe:

Adam Maher, attacking mid
Nick Viergever, CB/LB
Ruud Boymans, striker
Brett Holman, striker/midfielder
Charlison Benschop, center forward


  1. Dutch actually refers to “Deutsch”, and is also used a bit when referring to Germanic people/language(s). So, there’s your linguistic lesson of the day.
    Can’t say the name Ola Toivonen actually means anything to me, and probably the majority of soccer fans out there. Just sayin’.

    • It really just depends on how much soccer you watch on TV and read about. I imagine Kevin watches and reads quite a bit. I do too and got the reference immediately. IMO Union would be fortunate to get Toivonen.

    • The Realist Brian says:

      Hit up some YouTube videos on him. He looks like Brek Shea, but certainly doesn’t play like him. You know, like a bonehead.

  2. The Realist Brian says:

    Kevin, great article. I would love a Dutch Revolution for this team. If we could get 2 of these guys- Martens and one of the Elms, would be a great start. In the future if we could get Beerens, that would be outstanding.
    I wonder how many AZ Academy picks they could bring over who are younger and need playing time?
    I also find it interesting that the AZ Academy director Aloys Wijnker was brought over by US Soccer as well as a Technical Advisor for the US Development Academy. They must be doing something right.
    Which brings me to think about the relationship between Ernie and Tommy Wilson. Will these guys get along? Ernie made the comment that guys will have to see his vision, I wonder if Tommy will make it here or if Ernie will want one of his own people coming running the Academy?

    • …. all the way from Walt Disney World a resounding, ‘yes’ to your position.

      • The Realist Brian says:

        Do tell.

      • Crush says, ‘I saw Tinkerbell fly from a castle last night so I’m a believer… anything is possible.’
        …. that said I’d pull a flying carpet out from under things in a heartbeat if I was the sporting director and my Vision wasn’t being met to the thread.
        Lots of generous, kind people willing to smile and talk to you up Academy Way in KOP and I’m sure they are working their tails off to get those boys at max of their potential but this is about continuity & cohesion at every sub-level.
        L pchydrm

    • Just curious, would you expect these AZ Academy kids play in Bethlehem because they clearly wouldn’t be good enough to play in MLS?

  3. FYI, the origin of the term “Pennsylvania Dutch” is an Americanization of “Pennsylvania Deutsch”.

  4. Lucky Striker says:

    The Scandy trees are the bees knees. A nightmare on Elm Street for the opposition.

    Hail to the Viktor in Particlor, ’cause they should be spending their schillings on the holes that need filling ! Nog insurance is OK, he has a year til he walks and there’s no caddy at present.

    With the exception of RAM ( badly needed upgrade-plus if they were to land Roy….there’s Beer in it -) it’s the left side of the team that needed to be on Mythbusters before it got canceled.

    St. Niklas for me in a heartbeat. They have two RCB’s already. Union need to stop duplicating efforts and conceding half the field every game.

  5. The local Dutch club ( would love to welcome lots of Dutch talent, but believe not all should come from AZ Alkmaar. There are plenty of other (if not better) players in Holland.

  6. Not to make too big of a stink over the language stuff on a soccer thread, but “Pennsylvania Dutch” is actually not a mishearing by English speakers as much as a great example of how the meanings of words change over time, and how we forget about those changes.
    When the ancestors of the Pennsylvania Dutch came over here in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, there was no “Germany” yet. There wasn’t a standard German language yet, either. Instead there was a patchwork of tiny principalities, free cities, and some larger states loosely thrown together with varying degrees of willingness into a jumbled mess called the Holy Roman Empire that really just existed in name only. What eventually became standard German (Deutsch) was just the dialect of one area back then, which for the most part wasn’t where the Pennsylvania Dutch came from. It’s what Luther’s Bible was translated into and printed in, so it eventually replaced Latin as the literary vernacular and gradually took over as the standard form over what eventually became Germany. There were also Swabian, Swiss German (they still pronounce the name of the language in a way that sounds more like “Dootch” than “Deutsch”), the dialect spoken in the Low Countries (what we now call the Netherlands, and what we now consider a separate language and call Dutch), Plautdietch, and a bunch of others. Speakers of what eventually became Pennsylvania Dutch actually pronounce the name of the language “Deitsch” (with a long I), not “Deutsch.”
    Back then, “Dutch” was the catch-all term English speakers used for anyone from what was then that patchwork Empire and whatever not-yet-homogenized language or dialect they were speaking. Later on, Dutch came to mean the people and language of the Netherlands specifically, but it wasn’t yet used that way early in the colonial period. That’s where the name really comes from, rather than English speakers mishearing the word “Deutsch,” since that isn’t even the word that “Deitsch” speakers use. The label “Pennsylvania Dutch” never changed, even though the meaning of the word “Dutch” did.

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