Americans abroad analysis
Club debuts for Richards & Yedlin in otherwise lackluster weekend for Yanks
February 08, 2021
THE WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS abroad had its moments but was generally mixed with a lot of mediocrity, average outings, suspensions, benchings, and cancelations to make it a rather dull weekend. It was a slow period even among the most typically reliable American players.
The biggest news was that Christian Pulisic did not dress for Chelsea on Sunday for its 2-1 win over Sheffield United and this was due to what manager Thomas Tuchel said were “family issues.”
But when you look at those involved with the U.S. national team in November, there is a long lost of players who were out of action this weekend. Sergino Dest was an unused sub for Barcelona in a 3-2 win over Real Betis and Dest has hit a rough patch the past two month. He has the ability to climb out of it and he likely will, but this is a challenge for him and he is not the only American doing so. Konrad de la Fuente, meanwhile, was with Barcelona B.
The goalkeeping situation isn’t great at the moment for American keepers in Europe. Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath continued their backup positions over the weekend for Manchester City and Club Brugge respectively.
For some young players, minutes are proving tough to come by. In addition to Konrad de la Fuente, Uly Llanez is struggling to see any kind of plying time and his loan to Heerenveen is woeful. Owen Otasowie, meanwhile, only rarely plays for Wolves and it was unfortunate that he did not go on loan for the second half of the season. While he did not play, it was a positive sign for winger McKinzie Gains, 22, to make the bench for Hannover but went as an unused sub.
In terms suspensions, Julian Green was suspended for Greuther Furth’s win on Sunday while Nicholas Gioacchini served the final game of his suspension for Caen and missed out on Friday’s 1-1 draw. Emmanuel Sabbi was also suspended for OB in a 2-0 win over Nordsjaelland.
Poor winter weather postponed games for Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen and Daryl Dike and Barnsley. Indiana Vassilev and Cheltenham Town also had their game postponed in England’s fourth tier.
A pair of national team defenders remained on the bench this weekend as Mark McKenzie did not play for Genk in a loss to Anderlecht and Tim Ream did not play for Fulham’s draw with West Ham. Former U.S. national team defender Timmy Chandler was an unused sub for Eintracht Frankfurt in Sunday’s win and Chandler has not started a Bundesliga game this season.
There were also a few players at various levels of the player pool who played, but probably wish they did not over the weekend.
Reggie Cannon gave up a penalty for Boavista on Friday in a 2-1 loss to Gil Vicente. Andrija Novakovich was pulled at the half for Frosinone in a 2-1 loss to Venezia. One game after registering a hat trick, Jordan Siebatcheu was back on the bench for BSC Young Boys and didn’t really do much in his 19 minutes of action in a 4-2 win over Lausanne. In Scotland, Dundee United defeated Ross County 2-0 but Ian Harkes only played the final 10 minutes and Dillon Powers the final eight minutes in the win.
While Chris Durkin has been playing well recently for St. Truiden as the club has begun to win regularly, Saturday's 3-1 loss to Oostende was a step back. Staying in Belgium, Joe Efford played just the final five minutes for last-place Waasland Beveren in a 2-0 loss to Club Brugge.
In Turkey, Tyler Boyd made his first start for Sivasspor but is still finding his form after not playing at all from the beginning of October through the end of January due to his messy situation at Besiktas. On Saturday, he played just the first half in a 4-1 win over his former club Ankaragucu. The score was 1-0 for Sivasspor when he left and Boyd was eager but still rusty.
In Denmark, Haji Wright hit the post but did little else for Sonderjyske in a 1-0 loss to Vjle Boldklub.
In England, Matthew Olosunde lost his starting spot and came off the bench for the final 24 minutes for Rotherham United in a huge 2-1 win over Preston North End.
But with all that said, there was plenty of substantive performances over the weekend to break down.
Richards sharp in Hoffenheim debut
Fresh off joining Hoffenhiem for the remainder of the season on loan from Bayern Munich, young American defender Chris Richards was in the starting lineup for Hoffenheim on Sunday when it hosted Eintracht Frankfurt (where Timmy Chandler did not get off the bench).
This game was a bit of a mismatch and Eintracht Frankfurt won 3-1 to move into fourth place of the Bundesliga and continues to be a strong contender for a Champions League spot next season.
While Richards was a bit slow to react to Eintracht’s second goal, he was very strong defensively to keep Hoffenheim in this game as long as it was. He made several strong defensive plays over a full 90 where he showcased his aerial ability, tackling, the ability to close down passing lanes, and emergency clearing that saved Hoffenhiem from a lopsided loss. His passing out of the back was strong and he will only continue to get sharper the more he plays in the coming months.
This has all the elements of a strong loan as Hoffenheim manager Sebastian Hoeneß was previously the manager for Bayern Munich’s U-23 team where he coached Richards. Hoffenheim likely won’t be in danger of dealing with a relegation battle but win soon would go a long way as it is currently five points clear of the zone.
Reyna off in BVB’s Freiburg loss
Since Lucien Favre was dismissed as Borussia Dortmund’s manager in December, U.S. national team midfielder Gio Reyna hasn’t been having the typical impact he has shown earlier this season and throughout 2020.
On Saturday that continued as Reyna wasn’t great for Borussia Dortmund and was subbed out in the 70th minute with Dortmund down 2-0 to Freiburg. His team would go on to lose 2-1 and Borussia Dortmund fell into sixth place. It’s hopes of a Champions League berth are taking hits nearly every week.
Reyna, 18, is definitely hitting a rough patch and people shouldn’t be surprised when considering the high level he’s at, the fact Dortmund has an interim coaching staff, and that many of his teammates are struggling as well. But he’s not having much of an impact in recent games and offensively the team is not finding ways to be among the better teams in the Bundesliga.
In all likelihood, Reyna will return to a high level again and he has extraordinary talent. Going through rough patches isn’t uncommon either but this is a challenge and he must respond if he wants to play in the Champions League next season.
Weah sharp off the bench
Tim Weah, 20, was strong in his 11 minutes plus stoppage time off the bench for Lille on Sunday in a 2-0 away win over Nantes. Last weekend he scored a goal against Bordeaux in a rare start and in this one, he was instrumental to the team’s second goal when he took a pass on the right wing and sent in a low pass to the middle to start the build-up to Jonathan David’s goal.
In his start the game before, Weah scored but did not touch the ball much. In this game, this was his only impactful touch – but it was still enough.
Weah needs to find a way to be more consistently on the ball because he’s doing well whenever he gets the ball at his feet. Meanwhile, Weah is also chasing impressive silverware as Lille is now two points clear of second place Lyon and three points clear of Paris St. Germain atop the Ligue 1 table. That is a huge feat considering the financial struggles the team and the French leagues have had this season due to the lack of gate and television revenue.
Adams defeats Hoppe
On Saturday, Schalke hosted RB Leipzig and the match resembled what you’d expect from the second-place team taking on the last-placed team. Tyler Adams earned yet another start for Leipzig while American teenage forward Matthew Hoppe started for Schalke. Leipzig didn’t play particularly well, but still coasted to a 3-0 win.
It has been harder for Hoppe in recent weeks because his three-game stretch last month where he scored five goals has made him a focal point for opposing defenses. He’s not taking anyone by surprise and Hoppe has few other offensive options at the moment. For opponents, stopping Hoppe means stopping Schalke.
That being said, Hoppe had one great moment in the first half when he took a long high pass and controlled it with a wonderful first touch to beat one defender. He was on the verge of beating a second defender but the ball got away from him a bit and he was flagged for offside.
Despite that, he showed an impressive display of skill on that play and seems to find moments every game, even if he isn’t scoring. His dual win percentage is down because he’s outmanned and being forced to try to do much.
As for Adams, he played on the right side of the midfield (which you can see on his touch map – attacking left).
- 67 minutes
- 35 touches
- 25/25 passing
- 1 key pass
- 4 duels won/2 lost
- 1 dribble (1 attempt)
- 1x fouled
- 2 fouls
- 1 aerial won (1 lost)
- 1 interception
Most impressive for Adams is that he was a perfect 25/25 in passing. He didn’t have much of an impact but he was quietly competent maintaining possession in the attacking half, avoiding turnovers, and in winning duels. It wasn’t easy as Schalke was bunkering for long stretches but Adams, while not exceptional, played well.
McKennie quiet in Juve win
It was a big game on Saturday for Juventus which welcomed Roma to Turin in a matchup between two teams inside of the top four of Serie A. Weston McKennie, 22, continues to be an increasingly important part of Andrea Pirlo’s plans Juventus and got the start.
For McKennie, it wasn’t a bad performance by any measure but he was also a lot more quiet than normal and did not have much of a noticeable impact either. He was part of a double substitution in the 65th minute and did not play the full 90, as he seems to typically do in big games recently.
In the end, his touch map showed just 19 touches and while his pass completion was high, there wasn’t really much bite – on either side of the ball (touch map attacking right).
- 65 minutes
- 19 touches
- 15/16 passing
- 0 duels won (2 lost)
- 0 shots
- 1 clearance
- 1 foul
- 0 tackles
- 1 dribble
In the end, Juventus won 2-0 and remained in third place, five points behind Inter Milan for second and seven points behind leaders AC Milan. Juventus has played one fewer game.
In the end, managers are not going to want to change the equation from what delivered a win over a good opponent – like this game.
Morris close to penalty call
It was a huge win for Swansea City on Friday after it posted a 2-0 win over Championship leaders Norwich. With the win, Swansea remained in third place – one point behind Brentford and two behind Norwich. Swansea, however, has played one fewer game than either of the teams it is chasing.
U.S. national team winger Jordan Morris played the final 15 minutes for Swansea in the win and was his team’s only sub in the game. It was mostly quiet for Morris although he had one big sequence where he should have been awarded a penalty. It was a nice run and sequence for the American winger.
There are still so many games remaining in the season, Morris will eventually get a chance to start once he regains his match fitness.
De la Torre assists in Heracles win
U.S. U-23 eligible midfielder Luca de la Torre, 22, had big game in the Eredivisie on Friday for Heracles in a 1-0 win over Fortuna Sittard. The San Diego native assisted on the winning goal.
His numbers accurately reflected how busy he was on both sides of the ball.
- 90 minutes
- 67 touches
- 0 shots
- 40/46 passing
- 1 key pass
- 1 assist
- 3/4 long balls
- 2 crosses
- 8 duels won (3 lost)
- 1 clearance
- 4 dribbles (4 attempts)
- 2x fouled
- 2 aerials won (0 lost)
- 1 clearance
- 0 tackles, interceptions
After a slow start to the season, Heracles has picked it up and is now in 10th place but can climb as high as seventh with another win. De la Torre is having a strong season – his first as a first-team starter. His improvement has been one of the more “under the radar” type stories for Americans in Europe.
With his significant youth national team experience, perhaps Jason Kreis will push for his release for March’s Olympic qualifying.
Yedlin makes Galatasaray debut
Galatasaray and Fenerbahce is one of the most intense rivalries in world football and the two Istanbul clubs have fan bases that genuinely do not like each other. It make for quite the opportunity for DeAndre Yedlin to make a club debut and the American came off the bench in the 82nd minute to help Galatasaray close out a 1-0 win.
The Seattle native had just eight touches and won both of his duels, his loan aerial, and completed both of his passes. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get the job done. But this is quite a stage to make a club debut and the safe bet is that Yedlin will play at Galatasaray, or will at least be given a fair chance to showcase his value.
Robinson and Fulham draw
In a London Derby, Fulham and West Ham played to a dull 0-0 draw and Fulham’s chances at survival seem to shrinking every week.
Antonee Robinson, 23, has been involved in relegation battles in each of his four seasons as a professional starter. In this game, he played 79 minutes and had a healthy 45 touches. He was active getting up and down the sideline and had four crosses. Defensively, he didn’t let anyone past him. It was a good, but not great performance.
The draw now leaves Fulham eight points deep in the relegation battle. The hopes of remaining in the league are slim. For Robinson, is he doing enough to get a reasonable offer from within the Premier League that will force Fulham to sell? The answer is probably.
Last year he was wanted by AC Milan for nearly eight figures after playing well for a Wigan team near the bottom of the Championship. He’s done nothing to drop from that level since then. In the modern game, athletic fullbacks are in demand and Robinson can cover ground on the left side with the best of them. It’s hard to see him going down with the sinking ship that is Fulham.
Elsewhere in Europe
Matt Miazga and Anderlecht impressed in a 2-1 win over Genk in Belgium's top flight.
Yunus Musah, 18, was strong off the bench for Valencia when he played the final 25 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. He had 16 touches and completed all seven of his passes. He also won four out of six duels, was successful in three of four dribbles, and drew a foul.
In the Autrian Cup, Red Bull Salzburg defeated Austria Vienna 2-0 and the game featured two potential U.S. U-23 teammates. Brenden Aaronson played the final 25 minutes in the win as he gets used to his new club. Erik Palmer-Brown went a full 90 in central defense during the loss.
In the Championship, Duane Holmes made his first start since returning to Huddersfield Town on Saturday when he went 89 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Luton Town. Geoff Cameron started and went the distance for QPR in a 1-0 win over Blackburn. Charlie Kelman was an unused sub and QPR has won four of its last five games. Cameron Carter Vickers started in central defense for Bournemouth in a 3-2 win over Birmingham City.
In the Bundesliga, American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and VfB Stuttgart dropped a 5-2 decision to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
In Germany’s 3.Liga, Terrence Boyd scored a penalty for Hallescher in a 2-2 draw against a Zwickau team managed by American Joe Enochs.
Finally, this pass from Mix Diskerud in his first start for Denizlispor was really nice. The game against Antalyaspor finished 1-1.
Mix Diskerud’s cross leads to the opening goal for Denizlispor pic.twitter.com/RjtCufPMLg— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 7, 2021