Americans abroad analysis

A look at Soto's debut, Tyler Boyd's surge, EPB's rise, key U-20s, & much more

Erik Palmer-Brown is overlooked playing on a bad team, but he's having a great 2019. Elsewhere there was a lot of news with U-20 players Sebastian Soto, Alex Mendez, Konrad de la Fuente, Richard Ledezma, and Chris Richards. Also Dual national Tyler Boyd now has 3 goals & 4 asssists over 8 games for Ankaragucu. Will Berhalter act?
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 08, 2019
12:00 PM
THIS WEEKEND wasn’t particularly great for Americans abroad. Even when taking into consideration that key players Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, and Tyler Adams were all out injured, the entire weekend had only a few highlights.

For one, it was a major step back for Matt Miazga and Reading FC. Miazga and Reading have been playing so well to move out of the relegation zone but an inexplicable 3-1 loss to Hull City on Saturday combined with wins from Millwall and Rotherham United now has it just one point from safety. Both Miazga and the entire Reading team were not good in the effort.

DeAndre Yedlin and Newcastle United fell to Crystal Palace 1-0 and the former Seattle Sounder committed the foul that resulted in a penalty, which was converted for the winner.

Duane Holmes and Derby County will be disappointed not to walk away with three points following a 3-3 draw against midtable Brentford. As a result, Derby has now fallen two points back of the final promotional playoff spot.

The most depressing news of the day is that Holmes claimed he was the victim of racial abuse from a Brentford supporter for which Brentford has taken quick action.

After scoring midweek for Celtic in a rare start, Tim Weah returned to his role as a late-cameo substitute and played the final 19 minutes in a 0-0 draw against Livingston.

One American player who definitely deserves a break is Andrija Novakovich. Fortuna Sittard was drubbed by PEC Zwolle 5-0 on Saturday and it was due to a first-half red card. It’s the third game in a row Fortuna Sittard has picked up a first half red card (and its fourth red card in 10 games) – making life extraordinarily difficult for Novakovich. The club now sits only four points clear of automatic safety.

Despite all the rather blah news, there was still some positives to take away from Americans abroad.

Soto debuts in loss to Brooks & Wolfsburg

United States U-20 forward Sebastian Soto made his debut for Hannover 96 in a 3-1 loss to Wolfsburg – where U.S. national team defender John Brooks went a full 90 in the win. Soto came on in the 79th minute and did not do much, but it was promising to see him get on the field.

In doing so, Soto became the latest young American to play in Germany’s top flight.

It’s fair to note that Hannover 96 is a terrible team at the moment and is currently giving some of its young players experience ahead of next year in the 2.Bundesliga. The club is cruising to relegation but to understand just how bad the situations, look at the team’s goal differential. With the 3-1 loss, Hannover now has a -40 goal differential on the season. Since 1991, only one Bundesliga team has finished the season with goal differential worse than -40 (Freiburg finished 2004/05 with -45). The problem is that there are still six games to go and Hannover could be on pace for the worst Bundesliga season since the German unification – in terms of goal differential.

Getting Soto on the field is a nice first step. But to really help in his development, the club needs better structure. The current coaching staff is likely to be replaced and Hannover’s direction isn’t known (for American fans, Hannover is operating a lot like the USMNT did under Dave Sarachan where young players are being given a look but it remains to be seen how the next coach will use them).

As for Wolfsburg, John Brooks was once again very solid and effective in passing out of the back. It’s been a dramatically improved season since last year and with the win, Wolfsburg moved back into sixth place for the final Europa League spot out of Germany.

Palmer-Brown surging

The most improved American player abroad in 2019 is Erik Palmer-Brown. It is not easy to notice this because his NAC Breda team is terrible at the moment and will get relegated out of the Eredivisie. But even in losses, Palmer-Brown is right now turning in consistently strong performances on a weekly basis.

On Saturday in NAC Breda’s 1-0 loss to Heracles, Palmer-Brown completed 92.5% of his passes. He also had an outstanding 12 clearances, four interceptions, and a blocked shot. With is passing out of the back, four out his five attempted long balls were accurate.

All this is important because it will make it far easier for Palmer-Brown to find the best loan of his career next year. He’s already had stints at Porto B, Kortrijk, and now NAC Breda. Next year he should be able to find himself at a much strong team – likely either in Holland or Belgium.

U-20 trio impresses, 1 injured

On one side, U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos must be thrilled with what happened over the weekend. On another side, he should be worried.

On the positive side, three U.S. U-20 players in Alex Mendez, Konrad de la Fuente, and Richard Ledezma impressed over the weekend in Europe at youth levels. Combined with Soto’s Hannover debut, that was positive.

Mendez scored two goals for Freiburg’s U-19 team in a 3-3 draw. Richard Ledezma made his first appearance in an official game since last summer with the Real Monarchs. Konrad de la Fuente picked up an assist for Barcelona B.

The big concern, however, came from Chris Richards who was removed from the starting lineup for Bayern Munich’s U-19 team prior to kickoff.

For Ramos, having Ledezma back and playing is a potential game changer. Mendez remains the team’s playmaker and De La Fuente is one of the most promising wingers.

The injury for Richards will be important to monitor and ASN is awaiting a report as to the diagnosis and severity. But the U.S. U-20 team is extremely thin at central defense and Richards is one of the few top players at that position.

ASN will be having a U-20 stock watch up soon.

Boyd standing out in Turkey

New Zealander-American Tyler Boyd is having a great loan from Vitoria de Guimaraes in Portugal to Ankaragucu in Turkey. Over the weekend the speedy winger scored for Ankaragucu in a 1-1 draw with Fenerbahce. He now has three goals and four assists in eight games since the start of his loan in January.

Boyd has played for New Zealand in official youth competitions and is eligible to use a one-time switch with FIFA to play for the United States. In December, he told ASN that he is keeping the door open to playing for the United States, for now.

But the more he keeps impressing in Turkey, the more quickly he will likely have to decide his international future. As seen in his goal on Saturday, he has impressive speed that can open up games.

Hoyos scores for Guayaquil

Michael Hoyos, 27, was another American who found the back of the net over the weekend. The California native scored his second goal of the 2019 season for Guayaquil City in a 3-2 loss to Mushuc Runa. With 10 goals last season, Hoyos is off to a strong start this year – although Saturday’s game was also blemished for Hoyos as he picked up a red card in the second half.

Hoyos told ASN last year that he hopes his success in Ecuador can land him a job with a MLS club. If he keeps producing, there is no reason to think he won’t get his wish.

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