Americans abroad preview
Big matchups, possible debuts in busy weekend for Americans abroad
October 01, 2020
YET ANOTHER BUSY week is ahead of us across the globe as it relates to American soccer. On the domestic front, a congested schedule pushes team’s depth ahead of the playoffs and opens doors for numerous players. Meanwhile abroad, it continues to be an exciting time as players continue to push forward at top clubs. Last weekend showed that this path is never smooth but the potential benefits are enormous.
There are many, many games to follow for American players at the first team level. Here is my notebook in terms of what I will be watching and what I will be looking for in many of these games where Americans are likely to feature.
RB Leipzig - Schalke
Saturday, Oct. 3: 12:30am EST
Entering into this game, Champions League-bound Leipzig is the heavy favorite against a very poor Schalke team that has been blown out in the first two games and recently sacked its head coach – former U.S. national team forward David Wagner.
U.S. international Tyler Adams, 21, should start in central midfield in this one as he has in the first two games this year. One thing to watch is how Leipzig focuses its attack and how Schalke defends Adams. In Leipzig’s 3-1 opening win over Mainz, Adams was terrific as he touched the ball 92 times over 90 minutes and had a chance to have a massive footprint on the game. Last weekend, however, in a 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen, Adams only touched the ball 40 times over 90 minutes and made fewer than 20 completed passes. It was an effective approach from Leverkusen to push the game out wide and limit Adams.
Schalke has surely been paying attention but the question is whether they have the talent to play like Leverkusen did defensively or whether the interim staff can implement such an approach. My guess is probably no and Schalke will be outmanned where it will have to be more reactionary defensively than Leverkusen. If Schalke can pull it off, how will Leipzig respond and adjust to other team’s playing like Leipzig?
I think the stage is set nicely for Adams in this one but moving forward, Leipzig will have to make adjustments to play through the middle.
Borussia Dortmund - Freiburg
Saturday, Oct. 3: 9:30am EST
Gio Reyna, 17, and Borussia Dortmund began the season with a bang in a 3-0 win over Champions League-bound Borussia Monchengladbach. In that one, Reyna was brilliant as he scored his first Bundesliga goal and then drew a penalty which Erling Haaland converted. The teenage American has lived up to his reputation as one of the top players in Germany of his age where he occupies the No. 10 position for one of Germany’s most powerful clubs.
But last weekend was a bit of a learning lesson as Augsburg came into the game with a well-executed defensive setup in its midfield. Reyna struggled to get going and Augsburg pulled off a 2-0 upset.
On Saturday, a well-managed Freiburg team (four points from its first two games) will probably try to adopt Augsburg’s approach with a compact midfield and an aggressive counterattack. It will be interesting to see how Dortmund responds.
VfB Stuttgart - Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday, Oct. 3: 9:30am EST
Last week, Pellegrino Matarazzo became the first American born and raised manager to win a Bundesliga game when his Stuttgart team easily downed Mainz 4-1. In the opener, his team outplayed Freiburg over long-stretches but fell 3-2 due to mistakes. Bayer Leverkusen will be the biggest test for Matarazzo and newly-promoted Stuttgart.
Stuttgart’s goal this season is to survive in the Bundesliga. A midtable finish would be a huge, but attainable success. It is early but early season games are often critical for newly-promoted teams to set a tone and expectations that they belong.
Chelsea - Crystal Palace
The Premier League
Saturday, Oct. 3: 7:30am EST
Christian Pulisic, 22, could make his first appearance of the season for Chelsea on Saturday at Stamford Bridge when his club hosts Crystal Palace in a London Derby. Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has admitted that his club has been extra cautious with Pulisic but that the Hershey native is “very ready to play.”
Pulisic played some of his best soccer when the Premier League restarted from the COVID shutdown in June. His return will be welcome news for a Chelsea team that has just four points from its first three games. Last week, it rallied from a three-goal halftime deficit to draw West Brom 3-3 away. Midweek, it bounced out of the League Cup at the hands of Tottenham in a shootout after a 1-1 stalemate.
Crystal Palace, a former club of U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter, lost to Everton last weekend 1-2 but won its first two games of the season against Manchester United and Southampton.
Werder Bremen - Arminia Bielefeld
Saturday, Oct. 3: 9:30am EST
Last weekend, Werder Bremen rebounded from a horrible first game against Hertha BSC and pounded Schalke 3-1. In that game, U.S. national team forward Josh Sargent notched an assist. The win did not answer any of the many questions surrounding this Werder team because Schalke looks like it could be the weakest team in the Bundesliga this season. All Werder Bremen did was show it was better than Schalke, but that doesn’t prove it won’t necessarily be in another relegation battle of its own.
On Saturday, Sargent and Werder will face a Arminia Bielefeld team that is newly promoted but off to a strong start with four points from two games (albeit a weak schedule to start). Winning games against newly promoted teams are going to be a big test for Werder and a loss could sound alarm bells.
Sargent played very well last weekend against Schalke. He was dangerous, although his pass completion percentage was below 50%. At some point the goals will come and in big games like this, Werder is hoping this will be the turning point.
Juventus - Napoli
Sunday, Oct. 4: 2:45pm EST
Weston McKennie, 22, has started each of Juventus’ first two games of the 2020/21 season. In doing so, he has become the first American to ever play for the legendary Italian club that has won nine-straight Serie A titles.
The Texan was exceptional in the Serie A opener against Sampdoria in a 3-0 win but had a tougher time against a more powerful Roma team last weekend in a 2-2 draw. McKennie was far from the only player who struggled in that one. Central midfield partner Adrien Rabiot had a brutal outing committing a penalty and getting sent off.
It is far from certain that McKennie will start this game and without Rabiot, there remains a decent chance he will. If not, an appearance off the bench is certainly very possible as McKennie is in Andrea Pirlo’s plans and has unique athleticism that should help him succeed at the highest levels. A period of adjustment is always needed for a young player when switching clubs and that might be what McKennie is going through now.
Napoli will be a huge test for Juventus as it is a talented squad that has won each of its first two games by a combined score of 8-0.
FC Utrecht - SC Heerenveen
Friday, Oct. 2: 2:00pm EST
With all his work permit issues sorted, highly regarded American winger Ulysses Llanez should be on the matchday roster for SC Heerenveen for the first time in the Eredivisie at it hosts FC Utrecht. After playing in the youth system at Wolfsburg (where he recently had his contract extended), Llanez is on loan for the Dutch club and has the chance to make his first-team debut at any level.
Starting for Heerenveen at the moment will be tough as the club has a perfect nine points from its first three games. Coaches are generally hesitant to make too many changes with a winning lineup but Llanez should be able to see his minutes increase as time goes by.
Utrecht is expected to be a top-half team in the Eredivisie this season and will be a challenge for Heerenveen at home. I will guess that Llanez makes his way into this game and, regardless of the league, first debuts for young American players are always welcome news.
Moreirense - Boavista
Friday, Oct. 2: 2:00pm EST
After last weekend’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of reigning league-champions FC Porto, U.S. national team right back Reggie Cannon and Boavista will look to regroup against a Moreirense team that is beatable for Boavista. Moreirense is coming off a 2-0 loss to Benfica last weekend where it was competitive for long stretches.
Cannon, 22, looks like he will be a regular starter for Boavista – as he eyes an eventual move to a Lille team that shares owners with Boavista. While he wasn’t strong in the game, Cannon was the least of Boavista’s problems against Porto. But now in a game where Boavista is expected to remain competitive, can Cannon be a difference maker in both defending and pushing into the attack?
Dundee United - Livingston
Friday, Oct. 2: 2:45pm EST
After earning promotion to Scotland’s top flight last season, Dundee United has been competitive in the Premiership so far in 2020/21 as it looks to survive and avoid a relegation battle. Through nine rounds of play, Dundee United sit in sixth place in the 12-team league. But for survival, wins such as Friday’s game at home against eighth place Livingston are very important.
As per usual, American central midfielder Ian Harkes is likely to start in this one with fellow American midfielder Dillon Powers likely to come off the bench. Harkes, the son of former U.S. captain John Harkes, has done well so far this season but is still looking for his first goal in the top flight.
Jong PSV - Telstar
Friday, Oct. 2: 12:40pm EST
A bunch of U.S. U-23 eligible players who were all part of the 2019 U-20 World Cup team could be involved in this game in the Dutch second tier on Friday. For the guests, forward Sebastian Soto should start after scoring two goals midweek in a 6-1 rout over Den Bosch. Although his international allegiance between the U.S., Chile, and even Mexico has been called in question with reports about the Chilean national team approaching Soto, he still remains a U.S. player. His goals against Den Bosch were his first goals outside of the youth levels.
Meanwhile for Jong PSV, left back Chris Gloster and Richard Ledezma (who has been dealing with a knock) are also potential options to play as well. Ledezma has been on the verge of the first team at times having trained with the first team, played with the first team in friendlies, and made the bench once in 2020.
Norwich - Derby County
Saturday, Oct. 3: 7:30am EST
Duane Holmes, 25, is back for Derby County after coming back from injury last weekend in an appearance off the bench in a 4-0 home loss to Blackburn Rovers. The club is certainly happy to have the American attacking midfielder back but its start to the season has been poor having lost each of its first three games. Holmes is looking for his first Championship start of 2020/21 and to help give Derby its first points of the season.
Recently relegated Norwich has just four points from three games, with a 1-0 loss last weekend to Bournemouth, but should be considered the favorites against Holmes and Derby.
Charlton Athletic - Sunderland
Saturday, Oct. 3: 10:00am EST
With Santa Cruz native Lynden Gooch back in the starting lineup for Sunderland, the club has won its last two games of the season with the American having played well during that span. Sunderland is a club desperately trying to get back to the Championship and it needs Gooch to be a big part of that campaign (where he scored 10 goals last season). On Saturday, Gooch and Sunderland visit a slow-starting Charlton Athletic.
Waasland-Beveren - Genk
The Jupiler League
Saturday, Oct. 3: 10:15am EST
Little known American winger Joe Efford, 24, plays for a Waasland Beveren team that will be in a struggle to stay in the top flight of Belgium. It finished last in 2019/20 but avoided relegation via a lawsuit. Efford joined Waaland during the offseason after three seasons with Ergotelis in Greece’s second tier.
Waaland has struggled so far this season with six straight losses following an opening match win over Kortrijk. Efford, however, has been the team’s best with two goals and three assists across six games and 430 minutes. Last weekend he scored in a 3-2 loss to Beerschot.
Efford is worth watching because his success gives Waasland Beveren a chance to avoid relegation but even if they go down, he will likely find a club higher up the food chain if he continues to produce.
SM Caen - Amiens
Saturday, Oct. 3: 9:30am EST
Through five games in the Ligue 2 season, SM Caen sit in eighth place with eight points. The past two games, however, have been the most difficult as the club has been shut out over the past 180 minutes. Promising young American attacker Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, has started each of Caen’s five games this season and has played mostly right wing. He will hope to get back on the scoresheet and put his club back towards the top of the table. SM Caen also acquired Bordeaux forward Alexandre Mendy on loan this week and whether or not that is in competition with Gioacchini remains to be seen.
The Kansas City-born Gioacchini will also push for a call-up to the national team in November after Gregg Berhalter said he would have potentially been called up in March. Gioacchini has never played for the United States at any level.
Amiens has only five points on the season and has not won since the first game. Its past two games have been scoreless draws and it has scored just two goals from five games. Playing at home, this is a game Caen should expect to win – anything less would be a disappointment.
WSG Swarovski - Austria Vienna
Saturday, Oct. 3: 11:00am EST
U.S. U-23 central defender Erik Palmer-Brown is quietly flying under the radar and doing well in the Austrian Bundesliga. Two weeks ago he was named to the league’s Team of the Week and he is a big part of the club’s push to return to being among the best in Austria. Palmer-Brown is at the club on loan from Manchester City and his success could see him switch clubs in January to a more high-profile league. Palmer-Brown is also one of the players who is hoping for a call-up to the U.S. national team in November.
Swarovski and Austria Vienna are even on four points from three games and this game is an important early season test for both teams.
Wolverhampton - Fulham
The Premier League
Sunday, Oct. 4: 9:00am EST
The first month of the season has made one thing clear: Fulham has a major challenge ahead of itself if it wants to remain in the Premier League next season. It has lost each of its first three games and on Thursday it was bounced from the League Cup with a lopsided 3-0 loss to Brentford. Earlier in the week, club ownership apologized to supporters for not having been able to acquire central defenders during the summer window. The puzzling statement might have accurately reflected the team’s need but its public nature was only likely to hurt team morale – which was already low.
Directly affected by the statement is U.S. national team defender Tim Ream who has been starting in Fulham’s central defense for years. How will he respond on Sunday against Wolves? Will U.S. national team left back Antonee Robinson make his Premier League debut?
It is not a healthy environment right now at Fulham and the club badly needs a surprising victory to show some sort of sign it can compete and stay alive in the Premier League. Wolves could be the right opponent at the right time for Fulham having lost its last two games in the league.
Barcelona - Sevilla
Sunday, Oct. 4: 3:00pm EST
Sergino Dest finalized his blockbuster transfer from Ajax to Barcelona this week and while Sunday’s game vs. Sevilla might be a little too soon for him to play, Barcelona instantly becomes a unique attachment for American fans as no American player has ever featured for the club in competitive games.
There is also the chance U.S. U-20 winger Konrad de la Fuente makes an appearance as he could make the matchday roster again (he made the roster in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo), although he will probably play predominantly for Barca B once that season begins.
Wolfsburg - Augsburg
Sunday, Oct. 4: 9:30am EST
United States national team central defender John Brooks will likely start for Wolfsburg on Sunday when it hosts a very impressive Augsburg team that has won each of its first two games to start the season. Wolfsburg, on the other hand, has played to consecutive draws.
During the offseason, it was unclear if Wolfsburg would attempt to part ways with Brooks and sell him, but he once again appears to be a regular starter in the Bundesliga.
Besiktas - Genclerbirligi
Sunday, Oct. 4: 9:00am EST
In Turkey’s Super Lig, Tyler Boyd and Besiktas are coming off a tough 4-1 loss last weekend to Konyaspor and have just one win from its first three games of the season. Boyd has been a regular starter at the start of the season but the entire team is under pressure from its intense fanbase and in the Turkish media to turn things around.
Its opponent on Sunday, Genclerbirligi, has a point from two games and this is a game Besiktas is favored to win. If Besiktas lose this game, it won’t be pretty.
OB - Vejle Boldklub
Sunday, Oct. 4: 8:00am EST
United States U-23 winger Emmanuel Sabbi has looked impressive so far this season for OB, since he joined the club during the offseason from Hobro. OB has been very uneven in the first three games. A standout win in the opener vs. Copenhagen has been followed by a draw to Nordsjaelland and a loss to AGF Aarhus.
Against Vejle Boldklub, OB will be taking on another club expected to hover around midtable. But for Sabbi, he is creating a lot of chances. It seems like it is only a matter of time before his finishing improves and he scores with regularity. In this league, his athleticism is elite and he is tough to defend.
Hammarby - Djurgarden
Sunday, Oct. 4: 8:30am EST
There is no American forward more in-form right now than Hammarby’s Aron Johannsson. The Alabama-born, Icelandic raised striker has eight goals in his last nine Allsvenskan games. He has been one of the best forwards in the league and his Hammarby team sits in seventh place in the 16-team league. The Allsvenskan is a calendar-year league so as it heads into its home-stretch, a midtable finish for Hammarby is likely the best it can do. Djurgarden sits in fifth-place, and is even on points with Hammarby but has played one fewer game.
For Johannsson, 29, the past few months have seen a revival in his career after the past five seasons have seen him miss extensive time with a variety of injuries. As a result of his run, it is realistic that Johannsson could be in the mix for a return to the national team in November.
Elsewhere around the globe
Elsewhere around Europe and the globe, there is a lot follow.
In France’s Ligue 1, U.S. international Tim Weah will hope for more than token minutes when his Lille team visits Strasbourg on Sunday.
Haji Wright has three goals in limited time on the young Danish Season and the Californian will be looking four his fourth on Sunday when his Sonderjyske team visits Lyngby.
Over in Norway’s top flight, Brann hosts defending champion Molde which narrowly missed out on the Champions League when it lost on away goals to Hungary’s Ferencváros. American right back Henry Wingo was injured for that game but will hope to be back for Mold on Sunday.
In the Bundesliga, Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt host Hoffenheim on Saturday.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green and Greuther Furth will look for their first win of the season when they visit a poor Wuersburger Kickers team that is pointless and goalless through two games in the early game on Sunday. Staying in the German second tier, United States U-20 midfielder/left back Leon Flach and U-23-eligible German American Kevin Lankford will both hope to play for St. Pauli on Friday when they visit Sandhausen. Flach made his first team debut last weekend as a late sub in a 4-2 win over Heidenheim. Finally, United States international Alfredo Morales went as an unused substitute last week for Fortuna Dusseldorf but will hope to play on Sunday when they visit Holstein Kiel.
United States U-20 attacking midfielder Indiana Vassilev (on loan from Aston Villa) has been making regular sub appearances early in the League One season for Burton Albion and they will host Portsmouth on Sunday.
United States U-23 central defender Chris Richards will hope to sneak into Bayern Munich’s matchday roster when the European champions host Hertha BSC on Sunday. He could also feature for Bayern Munich II on Friday.
One of the most under-the-radar American stories (probably because the player is over 30) is Eric Lichaj. The fullback from Chicago and his new club, Fatih Karagumruk, are atop the Turkish Super Lig after three games. They will host Fenderbahce on Saturday.
Richmond native and U.S. U-23 defensive midfielder Chris Durkin and struggling St. Truiden hosts Kortrijk in Belgium’s top flight. Colorado defender Brenden Hines-Ike will hope to get off the bench for Kortrijk.
In the Eredivisie on Saturday, U.S. U-23 eligible attacking midfielder Luca de la Torre will hope to feature for Heracles when it travels to Vitesse on Saturday. Also in the Eredivisie, Desevio Payne is playing more for FC Emmen and it will travel to face FC Twente on Sunday.
United States national team right back DeAndre Yedlin will hope to make the bench for Newcastle United when it hosts Burnley in Saturday’s Premier League action.
Queens Park Rangers and its American captain, former U.S. international Geoff Cameron, visit Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday in the Championship
In the fourth-tier League Two, United States U-20 national team forward Charlie Kelman and his struggling Southend United side visit Crawley Town on Saturday. Southend reportedly rejected a bit from QPR for Kelman recently.
In Brazil’s top flight, New Jersey teenager Johnny Cardoso will hope to make the matchday roster for Internacional when it visits Gremio on Saturday.
In Serie B, Wisconsin forward Andrija Novakovich and Frosinone will travel north to Venice to take on Venezia on Saturday.
U.S. U-20-eligible attacker Patrick Koffi is back from his suspension and will hope to take part in Paris FC’s matchup against Le Havre in France’s Ligue 2.