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Preseason analysis

Americans abroad preseason: Horvath moves while other potential deals draw closer

It's time for our second installment of ASN's European Preseason watch where we look at potential player movement as well as progress on the field. It is an important time for numerous players as they look to make their case for playing time in the 2021/22 season.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 13, 2021
11:00 PM

AT ASN, WE like to run updates on a Americans abroad in the European preseason once or twice a week to cover results on the field to see whether or not players are helping their case for playing time in the coming season. We also take a hard look at transfer rumors to give our thoughts on the latest.

We’ve seen a lot of news this past week both in terms of performances as well as concrete transfers, as opposed to just rumors.

One thing we constantly hear is that it is a slower market in Europe right now given the cash-crunch left by COVID. For many clubs, they can only buy players once they've sold other players. This has slowed some deals and forced other deals to fall through. More clubs are looking for loans and full transfers are harder to come by. 

Here is the latest.

 

Horvath to Nottingham Forest

 

The biggest news dropped on Tuesday when it was announced that U.S. national team goalkeeper Ethan Horvath has signed for Nottingham Forest in the Championship. In his career he has been a starter at Molde and then Club Brugge but in Brugge he was moved to the bench when the club bought Simon Mignolet.

There will be competition for Horvath at Nottingham Forest, although not at the level of Mignolet. Brice Samba and Jordan Smith are the current keepers at the club and Horvath will look to overtake them.

 

"We are delighted to be signing somebody of Ethan's caliber," Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton said. "He has plenty of valuable experience in Europe with clubs of good pedigree and in European competition. He will give us valuable competition in the goalkeeping department and we look forward to working with Ethan."

Unseating Samba will be tough as the Congolese goalkeeper has made 85 appearances for Nottingham Forest since 2019 and was named to the PFA Championship Team of the Year for the 2019–20 season.

The Nations League final against Mexico proved that Horvath can be an exceptional goalkeeper at any given moment. It remains to be seen how he can play right now on a consistent basis since he has rarely played for the past two years. He desperately needs to play regularly and perhaps he seems the possibility to overtake Samba, or perhaps this opens the door for the club to sell Samba. 

It’s good for him to finally put the uncertainty of his club situation to rest but now the hard work begins. He’s at a stage right now is that this move is only going to be successful if he plays. Anything else and it isn’t a success.


Sargent rumors and hat trick

 

Josh Sargent, 21, scored a hat trick for Werder Bremen on Tuesday in a 12-0 blowout over FC Oberneuland – a small club that was recently promoted to the Regionaliga Nord. The game was 120 minutes and Sargent played a 60 minute half.

It's always misleading to read too much into these games. In Germany, early preseason games often pit big teams against overmatched teams and the scores are sometimes comically lopsided. Still, for Sargent it is important for his confidence that he scores.

As for rumors, the latest have indicated there is interest from Bayer Leverkusen but that club’s striker situation is very good right now with Lucas Alario and Patrik Schick as the top two options. After a successful Euros, Schick could be on the move – but that still represents another hurdle to bringing Sargent in.

Staying in Werder Bremen might not be the worst thing for Sargent either as helping that club to promotion would be a massive accomplishment for the St. Louis native. It would also give him the chance to score goals and be on a team that is not overmatched like it was in the Bundesliga.

 

Wright moving to Antalyaspor?

 

The latest, and credible, reports out of Turkey and Denmark have linked American forward Haji Wright to a transfer from Sonderjyske in to Antalyaspor. According to the reports, the club has agreed to personal terms with Wright but the clubs are still negotiating a transfer price.  

Last season in the Danish Superliga, Wright scored 11 goals in 29 appearances. It was his first season in Denmark. Prior to that, Wright had struggled mightily with VVV Venlo in the Eredivisie, with Schalke in the Bundesliga, and on loan to Sandhausen in the 2.Bundesliga.

 

Wright, 23, is still an unproven forward and one good season in Denmark doesn’t change that. In heading to Turkey to a team which finished 16th in the 21 team league, Wright is going to be under pressure to deliver and score goals. This isn’t about development anymore, this is about actual production.

Wright will now have to prove that his season with Sonderjyske will translate to success in Turkey – a typically older and more physical league. Wright will probably find it harder to use his speed and athleticism to his advantage and will have to rely on his skill and his ability to read the game.

As for national team hopes, they seem remote now since he’s aged out of youth national teams. The U.S. team is preparing for World Cup qualifiers and it’s unlikely he’s going to pass Sargent, Pefok, Dike, Zardes or Hoppe (the players involved in Nations League or the Gold Cup). After that contingent, he’s competing with surging players like Ricardo Pepi or other younger options like Sebastian Soto, Jesus Ferreira, or Jeremy Ebobisse.

This move will tell us a lot about Wright and whether or not last season was a legitimate reflection where he is as a player – or was it an anomaly.

 

Tyler Boyd rumors

 

It’s been a rough summer for Tyler Boyd. Last summer he was unwanted by Besiktas and his loan to Sivasspor has some great moments and some moments where he disappeared. When the loan expired, he was not listed on the preseason roster for Besiktas. He’s in complete limbo and was not even included on the USMNT Gold Cup roster – which was short on wingers.

Boyd, 26, has struggled with consistency throughout his career. When he’s in form, he’s explosive and extremely effective.

The latest rumors in Turkey have linked him back with his former club in Portugal, Vitoria Guimaraes. Of course, most of Boyd’s time in Portugal came when he went on loan from Guimaraes to Tondela.

Right now, Boyd is at a stage where his next move has to both give him minutes and provide him with financial security. He essentially has one more peak-level contract left in him.

 

Busio, De Vries and Weah

 

Last week on Twitter, ASN was able to break two bits of information on transfer/training moves involving two young players in MLS.

Philadelphia Union midfielder Jack De Vries, 19, appears likely to earn a loan to newly promoted Serie A side Venezia. The necessary requirement is that De Vries safely exit concussion protocol, which has sidelined him since April.

Minnesota United forward Patrick Weah, 18, is headed to Spain for a two-week training stint with Real Betis. For now, the club is bringing him in to take a look at him. Any talk of a loan or transfer is very premature.

The big transfer out of MLS this summer could be Gianluca Busio and ASN can confirm the report from MLS Soccer that Venezia is indeed in the lead.

 

Mueller and Gomez

 

The Athletic dropped a big news update on Tuesday for two American players – Jonathan Gomez and Chris Mueller.

 

Jonathan Gomez, a 2003-born Mexican-American left back, is apparently closing in on a move from Louisville City in the USL to Real Sociedad in Spain. He’s highly rated and him making a move has been anticipated since he opted to sign in USL.

For Gomez, his national team decision is still to be determined. He’s played for the U.S. youth teams in the past but recently trained with Mexico this summer. After that, he was part of Berhalter’s provisional roster for the Gold Cup.

Mexico has recently been making a big push for young Mexican-Americans who have been involved with the U.S. set up. David Ochoa is currently training with Mexico. Julian Araujo turned down a spot on the Gold Cup team due to it being a cap-tying event. There are rumors that Ricardo Pepi will entertain Mexico approaches this year – at least to train. Gomez, Pepi, Araujo, and Ochoa represent four of the most talented and highly rated Mexican-American prospects. This comes on the heels of Efrain Alvarez finally ending his decision with a Gold Cup invite.

It’s too early to say how any of these four players will decide. But the Mexican national team is massively influential and immensely popular within the United States among Mexican Americans. At this point, it seems unlikely the U.S. team will be able to win all four – even though all four have played for the U.S. youth teams in the past.

As for Chris Mueller, the report is that he is being monitored by several Belgian clubs including Anderlecht and KV Oostende (which finished 5th in the league last season). OH Leuven, which finished last season in 11th place in the 18-team league, has reportedly made an offer.

This is going to be an interesting transfer to follow. Mueller’s contract expires at the end of the season and he can leave on a free transfer soon. OH Leuven is probably not going to be able to offer what Orlando can, but will Anderlecht and KV Oostende step to the plate? Also, will Orlando be able to break the bank and keep him?

Part of what makes this interesting is that Mueller will turn 25 next month. MLS clubs have been able to sell kids, and that is important. Part of also becoming a selling league is being able to sell older, prime-age players. Can it sell players that are “finished products” who are not projects and can help a club immediately? That would be a big testament if Mueller can go to a top Belgian club and immediately help it compete for a spot in Europe.

Mueller is a good winger who had a great 2020 season. He was not in good form to start 2021 but has since returned to a high level.

Orlando is also in a tricky spot. With its best players, it should compete. But Daryl Dike might move and now Mueller might move. Perhaps it keeps both players for the season and gives it a shot to win a title. The loss of either Mueller or Dike crushes it s title hopes.

As for whether or not Mueller leaves or stays with Orlando for a lucrative deal, it seems like it could go either way.

On another note, Mueller's omission from the Gold Cup team continues to be one of the most controverial decisions Berhalter made when picking his team. 

 

Pefok scores for Young Boys

 

On Tuesday, BSC Young Boys played France’s Strasbourg to a 2-2 draw. The Swiss champs took a 2-0 lead in this game on a goal from U.S. national team forward Jordan Pefok. He has been a regular starter for the team heading into its Champions League qualifier against Slovan Bratislava on July 21.

 

Regarding the national team, it’s an interesting battle between Sargent, Dike, Pefok, and Zardes with likely only 2-3 getting selected for a World Cup qualifying roster.

 

Lichaj and Koffi on 3rd tier moves

 

A pair of American players appear to be heading on moves to third-tier levels.

Patrick Koffi, 19, is definite. He has been loaned from Ligue 2 side Paris FC to US Créteil Lusitanos of France’s third tier. Koffi made a few appearance’s in the early parts last season with Paris FC but struggled for playing time following a red card.

Former U.S. national team fullback Eric Lichaj, 32, was last with Fatih Karagümrük in Turkey’s Super Lig but his contract was terminated by mutual consent midway through the season. Now the Chicago native (and former captain of Hull City), will apparently trial with Sunderland which is in third-tier League One but has strong hopes of promotion this season.

 

De la Fuente, Olosunde, and Scally

 

A trio of American players and former U.S. youth internationals who are all looking for first-team breakthroughs this season with new clubs are currently involved in big preseason.

Konrad de la Fuente is now training with his new club Olympique Marseille and the club has been heavily promoting his arrival.

 

Matthew Olosunde, 23, sealed a move to Preston North End to remain in the Championship after his previous club, Rotherham United, was relegated. Olosunde made his first preseason appearance for Preston North End on Tuesday when he played the first half of a 1-1 draw with St. Johnstone (his team was winning 1-0 when he left the game).

 

One American who is sometimes overlooked given the number of quality right backs in the national team player pool is Joe Scally. Earlier this year, Scally made a transfer from New York City FC to Broussia Monchengladbach and played 12 times for their reserve team to conclude the 2020/21 season. Now he has the chance to play in his first preseason in Germany and has been with the first team.

So far, so good. Scally, 18, started for Gladbach on Saturday in a 2-2 friendly draw over Viktoria Koln of the 3.Liga.

 

As for the national team, he’s one for next cycle. It’s too bad about his birthday. Born on 12/31/2002, he is just hours away from being eligible for the 2023 U-20 team.

 

Champions League: Wingo & Cohen

 

It’s not the preseason for a pair of Americans who were involved in Champions League qualifying this past week.

Josh Cohen, 28, was recently named the Israeli Premier League Player of the Season in 2020/21 for his effort to help Maccabi Haifa win the title. Unfortunately for the former Sacrament Republic and Phoenix Rising goalkeeper, it was a quick exit in UEFA Champions League qualifying as Maccabi Haifa fell to Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty 2-0 on Wednesday for a 3-1 aggregate loss.

The news was far better for Henry Wingo who started both legs for Hungarian champs Ferencvaros against FC Prishtina. Ferencvaros won the first leg 3-0 and then on Tuesday won the second leg 3-1 for a decisive 6-1 aggregate victory. Next Tuesday it will open up its second qualifying round against FK ┼Żalgiris.

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