Americans thrive in Germany, youth is served is Philly, and more
September 13, 2020
IT WAS QUITE AN eventful weekend for American players in Europe and on the domestic front as competitive games across Germany, Holland, Turkey, England all took place. On the domestic side of the game, it was a big game for both youth national team and senior national team players.
Was it all great news? It never is. Antonee Robinson did not make the matchday roster for Fulham in its season opener against Arsenal – a 3-0 loss. In that same game, Tim Ream was at fault for the first goal. In Belgium, Chris Durkin struggled for St. Truiden in its 3-2 loss to Royal Antwerp. In Scotland, Ian Harkes and Dillon Powers both earned the start for Dundee United which lost its third straight game – this time it was a 4-0 loss to league leading Rangers. Johnny Cardoso returned to the bench in Brazil. Leo Flach made the bench but didn't make his debut for St. Pauli.
But for the most part, it was a really good weekend. In Germany, a bunch of young Americans in particular did well although it is important to note that the opposition was mostly fourth-tier. But with the Bundesliga-opener approaching next weekend, this was important to securing momentum heading into the season.
Here were our takeaways from the weekend
Adams MOTM in Cup Win
Tyler Adams, 21, scored the big Champions League goal in the quarterfinals last month. But for him, this year it will be a goal to regain the starting position which he had when he first moved to Leipzig in 2019. After he returned from his injury in December, he has occasionally started while mostly coming off the bench. Sometimes he has played out of position at right back. But can he start every game in central midfield?
Leipzig opened its German Cup campaign against FC Nurnberg of the 2.Bundesliga. Leipzig controlled this one and won 3-0 on the road. Adams did not register a goal or an assist but was in command in the midfield. This was a game Leipzig could have won by many more goals and Adams was very comfortable. For his efforts he won the MOTM.
Heading into the season, Adams made a very nice statement to be the team’s starting right back.
Sargent scores and earns MOTM
After a big preseason, Josh Sargent carried that momentum into Werder Bremen’s German Cup opener away at Carl Zeiss Jena, a club recently relegated to the fourth-tier Regionalliga. Entering into an important season, Sargent is aiming to be the main scoring option for a Werder Bremen team that successfully avoided relegation last season via the playoffs.
In this game, Werder were stuck in a rut in the first half but Sargent scored in the 49th to give Werder a 1-0 lead. On the play, he broke free for an open-header and capitalized.
The whole performance from Werder will need to be better as this was a low-level opponent. But Sargent still found a way to give his team a big goal and there is every reason to feel confident heading into the season.
Green helps Furth avoid upset
Greuther Furth’s first game of the German Cup should have been a cakewalk against a fifth-tier Oberliga opponent in RSV Meinerzhagen which was making its first appearance in the German Cup.
But that was not the case. RSV Meinerzhagen took the lead in the 50th minute. Fortunately for Furth, it equalized on a Sebastian Ernst goal which Julian Green assisted.
Then in extra-time, Julian Green put Furth ahead 2-1 in the 100th minute with a nice low-driving shot.
Furth then continued to score in droves and win 6-1 after 120 minutes as RSV Meinerzhagen completely ran out of gas. German-American Timothy Tillman had two assists in extra time.
It was a game which Greuther Fruth can’t be too happy about but it ended well. The question will now be whether or not Furth can contend for promotion this season.
Gioacchini scores in Caen win
Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, scored a goal in just the third minute for SM Caen as it easily defeated Rodez 3-0. For the Kansas City-born, Maryland raised attacker, it was his first goal of the season. While Gioacchini can play numerous attacking positions, in this one he was playing right wing.
Gioacchini is certainly a player for American fans to keep an eye on. He’s already been mentioned by Gregg Berhalter and he could also factor into the U.S. U-23 team.
Nick Gioacchini goal for Caen vs Rodez pic.twitter.com/7ZbLCIfEfq— Matthew (@false_fullback) September 12, 2020
For now, however, he is a key part of a Caen team that has seven points from three games and could certainly be in the promotion race this year.
Johannsson keeps scoring
In any league, the most in-form American-forward at the moment is Aron Johannsson. Earning the start for Hammarby against Mix Diskerud and Helsingborg, Johannsson scored his sixth goal in seven Allsvenskan games
If Johannsson can stay healthy, he is in a position where he could be forcing his way back into the national team picture for the first time in years.
Dest takes advantage
Sergino Dest was given a huge opportunity on Sunday. There was speculation that the U.S. national team fullback had lost his starting spot at Ajax. In the club’s Eredivisie opener against Sparta Rotterdam, that appeared to be the reality as Dest was on the bench.
But Ajax-left back Nicolas Tagliafico was given a straight red card in the 32nd minute and Dest came into to play the position for the remainder of the game. Overall, he did what he had to do to help Ajax pick up a 1-0 win while down to 10 players.
With Tagliafico suspended, Dest should get more opportunities and the pressure will be on him to regain that starting spot.
Sergino Dest: Raw # for Ajax in 1-0 win vs Sparta Rotterdam— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 13, 2020
58 mins (32nd min sub)
1 key pass
95% passing 19/20
1 blocked shot
0/3 accurate crosses
1/1 accurate long balls
- Played LB after Ajax down to 10 players
Weah subs into Lille win
For Tim Weah, it’s about easing him back into the mix after a lost season due to hamstring injuries. On Sunday he made his second appearance of the season when he came off the bench in the 83rd minute of a 1-0 win over Metz.
The game was 0-0 when he entered and while Weah did not factor into the goal, he finished with about four touches, won an aerial, and made a tackle in his seven minutes (plus five in stoppage) on the field. The best news for him isn’t really anything he did with the ball, it was that he was moving well and looked comfortable.
Boyd scores in Besiktas win
Tyler Boyd, 25, earned the start for Besiktas in its season opener against last season’s runner’s up Trabzonspor.
Boyd’s first season for Besiktas was uneven but at times he showed the qualities that brought him to the perennial contender. In this game, Boyd was solid and scored a goal that while still pretty, was aided by a deflection.
Tyler Boyd: raw # for Besiktas in 3-1 win over Trabzonspor— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 13, 2020
75% passing (18/24)
1/1 accurate long balls
1/1 accurate crosses
6 duels lost https://t.co/RmD6DtEZCd
If Boyd is seeking an improved season, this was a strong start.
De la Fuente and Cannon in preseason
Preseason friendlies can often be misleading in terms of where players stand within their respective clubs. This weekend, however, there were two appearances that are particularly newsworthy.
Reggie Cannon arrived in Portugal last weekend to join Boavista. In his first game, he scored against Tondela in a 4-1 win. With the season getting ready to start, this was a good first step. Cannon should get plenty of minutes in Portugal.
Finally, a huge congratulations are in order for Konrad de la Fuente who subbed into Barcelona’s preseason friendly against Nastic. At one point, it appeared he scored but it was called back for an offside call – which appeared to be a wrong decision.
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens with de la Fuente in the season ahead. This friendly was a very significant step but it was decided in advance that everyone on the roster would play 45 minutes (and some starters were missing as well). Barcelona will have to make a decision to make if he is not playing regularly. Is training with the first team sufficient or would a loan make sense?
Other abroad notes
After a tough season with Rennes, American-born forward Jordan Siebatcheu will head on a season-loan to join Swiss champions Young Boys.
Die Young Boys übernehmen den 24-jährigen Stürmer Jordan Siebatcheu vom französischen Ligue-1-Club Stade Rennes leihweise bis Sommer 2021 - mit Kaufoption zur anschliessenden definitiven Übernahme. https://t.co/Fdp7aYVRYm#BSCYB pic.twitter.com/RFatR1y0OK— ???????????? ???????????????????? ???????????????? (@BSC_YB) September 13, 2020
Luca de la Torre, 23, made his Eredivisie debut on Sunday in a 2-0 win over ADO den Haag. The San Diego native attacking midfielder played the final 28 minutes and was sharp with three shots, a key pass, and 25 touches. It seems like it will be sooner than later before he’s starting.
Joe Efford, 24, picked up an assist for Waasland-Beveren in a 4-1 loss to Club Brugge. His team is struggling with four straight losses and three points from five games, but Efford’s numbers are decent. The Georgia native has a goal and two assists for the club which should be in a relegation battle this season.
Eric Lichaj made his Turkish Super Lig debut when he came off the bench in the 65th minute for newly-promoted Fatih Garagumruk in a 3-0 win over Yeni Malatyaspor.
American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and newly promoted Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart opened their season with a 1-0 away win over Hansa Rostock of the 3.Liga.
Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg opened the defense of their Austrian title with a 3-1 win over Wolfsberger.
Finally, on the topic of Dual National Panic, here is a good one (and yes, the player is currently playing for English youth national teams).
MLS Youth Numbers remain solid
In total, 51 players eligible for U.S. youth national teams played in MLS over the weekend. The numbers have been consistently strong since MLS is Back and into the restart in home markets.
Here is the list.
As always, some young players do well, some struggle.
The best player of this bunch was Anthony Fontana who came off the bench in 65th minute, scored the opening goal in the 73rd minute. Then with the game tied 1-1 in the fifth minute of stoppage time, he hit an impressive winner.
What a banger for Anthony Fontana to win the game 5 minutes into stoppage time. The 20 year old from Delaware scored both goals for Philadelphia in a 2-1 win. pic.twitter.com/cVxRgZu8Zc— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 13, 2020
For Fontana, it will be telling if he can begin earning more starts. Yes, the Union midfield is tough to crack and that is why it is one of the best in the league. But when Fontana has played, he has done well. Also, of note: if Brenden Aaronson moves to Europe, will Fontana be able to fill the void.
The Bryan Reynolds transition to right back is going better than expected. With Reggie Cannon now having left, Dallas hasn’t missed a beat. The young homegrown who is eligible for the U.S. U-20 team has moved from the forward position and now looks comfortable in the backline.
Bryan Reynolds: raw # for Dallas in 2-1 win over Houston— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 13, 2020
30/39 passing, 76.9%
1 key pass
4/7 accurate long balls
1/5 accurate crosses
- good game from the 19 year old who replaces Cannon at RB https://t.co/Fu8uvMsGDx pic.twitter.com/LhF3l5ogjU
By now, most American fans are familiar with top youth players in the league like Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie and both are linked to significant European interest. But who is next to be among the top youth players in this league? A good be might be Cole Bassett who has played very well in his minutes for Colorado. On Saturday, Bassett had a goal and an assist in a 5-0 romp over Real Salt Lake.
At 19, Bassett is close to becoming an every-game starter. There is plenty of reason to think he’ll do well. In his last four games, he has two goals and two assists and he seems to be improving with each game. Bassett should be a big part of the U.S. U-20 team and if the World Cup happens, that could be a big occasion for him to see his value climb.
Eryk Williamson has continued to put up impressive numbers for Portland Timbers both with his goals/assists but also with his passing percentage. Portland fell to LAFC 4-2 on the road on Sunday but Williamson was on target with another goal.
Red Bulls rebound
The New York Red Bulls needed a win badly after having been trending in the wrong direction all season long. The recent bad losses to DC United and Philadelphia have been telling. But in another matchup vs. DC United, the Red Bulls found a way to escape with a 2-0 win. It was the first time the Red Bulls have scored twice since opening weekend.
United States national team defender Aaron Long had a big game and scored the opening goal off a header.
But the Red Bulls also got a bit lucky. Ryan Meara had the best game of his career in this one with several point-blank saves.
Atlanta sinks deeper
In the most shocking result of the weekend, Atlanta United dropped a 4-2 decision to Nashville. This team is almost unrecognizable from 2018 and it really doesn’t look like interim manager Stephen Glass is a real contender for the permanent job.
But this team needs players and it has to really hope Josef Martinez is at 100% when he does return. There is absolutely no chemistry together and the team that won the title in 2018 has been replaced by a group that simply doesn’t play well together. The decision to even bring Frank de Boer in was one of the most puzzling decisions a team in this league has made. Most people saw early that a rigid Dutch coach wasn’t going to work well with players that prefer a free-flowing, open South American-style. Well, de Boer is gone but it isn’t clear yet if better decisions will be made in the future.
The best thing you can say to Atlanta is that if you’re going to be bad, 2020 is a good year to do that.
The next stage of games
Last week, MLS announced the next slew of games that will run up to October. For now, it remains difficult to plan things in detail with the three Canadian teams.
Here are a few thoughts on where I think a few of the teams are heading as we, hopefully, get to the playoffs.
LAFC has its issues. Offensively it has the talent to win MLS Cup but defensively it falls way short. For LAFC to contend in the playoffs and avoid what happened last year to Seattle, it is going to have to be able to absorb more attacks and I am not sure it will be able to.
Philadelphia should be the favorite to win the MLS Eastern Conference. The players seem to be growing into a set system and everyone is looking more and more comfortable with their roles. If Aaronson and McKenzie bolt, this might be their best opportunity without a complete reworking of their core.
The Galaxy remain the most improved team in the league. Despite a 0-0 draw on Saturday against San Jose, the team’s defense can still help the team get points when the offense doesn’t show up.
New York City also remains very much improved and could be a playoff threat. This team hasn’t really been tested too much since MLS is Back but it has four wins and a draw in its last five. Herber only has one goal in 12 games this year and the team succeeding without him is quite surprising. So far, it found new ways to attack through Tinnerholm and Ring (it’s only two multiple goal scorers) but it still feels like this team can hit much higher levels.
“Every time I've given a younger player an opportunity, they've proved me right.” - Jim Curtin— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 13, 2020
Aaronson: 20/21 passing tonight. 10/11 in final third
Fontana: 2 goals in 2-1 win
McKenzie: 5 aerials won, 4 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 clearances, 7/13 accurate long balls https://t.co/jzukegUdh1
If Alberth Elis leaves Houston (and it appears as if he will), it will be a major test for Tab Ramos as to how to adjust. It will also be a major test how the Dynamo front office finds a way to replace him. What is the organization’s budget for spending? It was too bad because Ramos had finally gotten Houston to move into a winning direction. But Ramos was always going to have to build his own footprint into the team.