Americans abroad analysis
De la Fuente, Adams, Harkes, & McKenzie standout as the Euro season ramps up
August 09, 2021
WHILE A FEW OF THE EUROPEAN leagues have been going for a few weeks, this past weekend felt like the 2021/2022 season had begun. Combined with those already underway, the addition of the German Cup, Ligue 1, Portugal’s top flight and the Championship to the weekend’s slate of games all gave the impression that the season was here.
A lot of Americans were in action in official games – including many of the U.S. national team players and top prospects.
Here are some thoughts on how the “official games” planned out.
De la Fuente shines in Marseille debut
After a great preseason, young American winger Konrad de la Fuente started for Marseille against Montpellier and helped his team to a 3-2 away win to open the season.
This was a revealing win for de la Fuente. At Barcelona, it was clear he was too good for their second team but was not good enough for their first team. That, unfortunately, could mean just about anything.
When he arrived at Marseille, he had a great preseason and was one of his team’s most dangerous players. But preseason could mean just about anything too. Getting the start in the opener, and delivering an outstanding performance was a very important statement by de la Fuente. It showed that the hype wasn’t misplaced and that he is ready to contribute to a solid team in one of Europe’s “big five” leagues.
His numbers accurately reflect that he was aggressive offensively and effective in duel winning, which are two important traits in a winger.
- 89 minutes
- 45 touches
- 18/23 passing
- 2 shots
- 3 key passes
- 1 assist
- 5/11 duels won
- 3/5 dribbles succeeded
- 1/2 tackles
Montpellier had a 2-0 lead in this game but it was de la Fuente who sparked the comeback win with a 68th minute assist to Turkish international Cengiz Ünder to get Marseille on the board.
Konrad de la Fuente’s assist for Marseille in a 3-2 win over Montpellier pic.twitter.com/eDW3XhEGo3— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 8, 2021
In the end, de la Fuente was a handful to defend and it looks like he’s going to be a regular starter. It’s easy to see de la Fuente returning to the national team in the fall. The September games might be too soon as Gregg Berhalter might want to continue with the players who won the two summer tournaments for the first three games. As the tournament progresses, it’s easy to see changes getting made – and de la Fuente could be at the top of the list.
This was a nice win to the start the season for de la Fuente. Next up for Marseille is its home opener on Sunday against a Bordeaux team that lost at home to newly promoted Clermont Foot.
McKenzie & Genk win
It’s been a tough start to the season for Genk. Coming into this weekend, Genk drew its first two games of the Belgian season and lost the first leg of its Champions League qualifier at home to Shakhtar Donetsk (where Mckenzie played as an unused sub).
After starting the first two league games but sitting out the loss to Shakhtar Donetsk, McKenzie returned to Genk’s starting lineup for a trip to Kortrijk. Genk fell behind 1-0 in the first half but pulled even in the 52nd. McKenzie left the game in the 65th minute with the score 1-1 as Genk wanted to look for more offense. In the end, Genk found a stoppage time winner.
McKenzie was not at fault for Kortrijk’s goal and generally has been the least of the team’s problems to start the season. In this game, what was remarkable was how often he was on the ball for playing just 65 minutes. His 120 touches are nearly two touches per minute.
Genk win 2-1 over Kortrijk. Get this, Mark McKenzie played just 65 minutes and left with the score 1-1 (wasn’t at fault for Kortrijk’s goal). In just 65 minutes, he had 120 touches (!) and was 101/108 in passing, 4/6 long balls, & won 5/7 in duels. #USMNT https://t.co/JP5IOMs2l9— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 7, 2021
Those were terrific numbers for McKenzie and it is one that he, and hopefully the team, can build from as their Champions League campaign is in deep trouble.
As for the national team, it looks like McKenzie is in great shape for a September call-up but is in tough competition with Chris Richards and now Miles Robinson to start alongside John Brooks.
Harkes big win for Dundee United
Last season, Rangers went undefeated en route to winning the Scottish Premiership. Dundee United, meanwhile, survived last season in the top flight after earning promotion in 2019/2020 but were still in the bottom half of the table.
Hosting Rangers on Saturday, few gave Dundee United much of a chance but a 64th minute goal from Jamie Robson was all that Dundee United needed for a stunning 1-0 upset.
Playing in central midfield, Harkes wasn’t flashy but did his part to help Dundee United in possession, win duels, and courageously defend.
After a tough 2-0 loss to Aberdeen in the season opener, Dundee United now have momentum in the early goings of the season.
Busy weekend in the German Cup
It was a busy weekend in the first round of the German Cup which saw many American players involved – albeit no Josh Sargent for Werder who is finalizing a transfer to Norwich and no Matthew Hoppe for Schalke who is still on break following the Gold Cup and might be on his way out of the 2.Bundesliga club.
It was a good start to the German Cup for the two American Bundesliga managers. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s VfB Stuttgart easy took care of business in a 6-0 rout over BFC Dynamo of the Regionalliga.
????? @jessemarsch:— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) August 7, 2021
"We have to carry on working on ourselves and improve the details. That's important for our game and to help us achieve our goals. Today was only our first game, but it was a good performance!"
????? #RBLeipzig #SVSRBL pic.twitter.com/EF95HgKf0r
Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch and RB Leipzig routed Sandhausen of the 2.Bundesliga on a 4-0 scoreline. Tyler Adams played his first official game under Marsch since 2018 when the two were at the New York Red Bulls. For Adams, it wasn’t a flashy outing, but it was effective in controlling the midfield.
Tyler Adams: raw # for Leipzing in 4-0 win vs. Sandhausen— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 7, 2021
0 key passes
58/65 passing (89%)
2/5 duels won
0/2 long balls
0 dribble attempts
- quiet but effective effort from Adams to help Leipzig dominate the midfield. #USMNT
It was a much more disappointing game for Julian Green and Greuther Furth which lost to SV Babelsberg on penalties after a 2-2 stalemate over 120 minutes. Green played well and scored Furth’s second goal and converted a penalty in the shootout. Greuther Furth, however, has recently been promoted to the Bundesliga and it is generally believed they will have a very tough time avoiding relegation. A loss to a lowly Regionalliga team does not calm those fears.
Gio Reyna and Werder Bremen coasted to a 3-0 win over Wehen Wiesbaden with all three goals coming from Erling Haaland. Reyna started and played 85 minutes and German-American Kevin Lankford played the second half for Wehen. Fellow German-American Lennard Maloney was an unused sub for Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund was solid in the win and are in good shape to start the season – so long as Haaland isn’t sold.
Elsewhere, Jan George played the final 27 minutes for Jahn Regensburg in a 3-0 win over Tus RW Koblenz.
The most controversial result involving an American player this weekend came from Wolfsburg, which defeated Preussen Muenster 3-1 after extra time. John Brooks played the full 120 minutes in the win. But there is ongoing controversy in this game due to a lack of understanding of the new substitutions rules.
Wir legen gegen die Wertung des @DFB_Pokal-Spiels gegen den @VfL_Wolfsburg wegen eines Wechselfehlers Einspruch ein. Das schulden wir allen Fans, Mitgliedern, Freunden und Förderern des SCP ???????? #SCPWOB #scp06— SC Preußen Münster (@Preussen06) August 9, 2021
Wolfsburg manage Mark van Bommel made a total of six substitutions in the game — three in the first 90 minutes and another three in extra time. That’s one more than the five permitted under German soccer federation rules. As a result, the club might face punishment – including a forfeit of the win.
Cappis starts for Brondby
It has been a tough start to the season for defending Danish champions Brondby which opened 2021/22 with three draws. On Sunday, the club hosted Copenhagen in derby matchup. American midfielder Christian Cappis, 21, has been playing well of the bench for Brondby (which he joined this summer) but with the club struggling, he was given the start.
Huge moment for American mid Christian Cappis who makes his first start for Brondby in a derby vs Copenhagen. The club also uses his image on the lineup announcement. Brondby has a disappointing run of 3 draws to open the season but Cappis has played well off the bench #USMNT pic.twitter.com/dR1l25Vs1o— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 8, 2021
Brondby ended up losing 4-2 and now has just three points from four games. Cappis played 63 minutes and was decent, although unable to help his club control the midfield. Brondby has a lot of problems right now and a tough playoff match awaits against Red Bull Salzburg for a spot in the Champions League group stages.
We will see if Cappis continues to start although he will continue to get regular minutes with schedule congestion in the weeks ahead.
“Fulhamaerica” draws opener
It’s yet another season of an American presence in the roster of Fulham. The London club was relegated out of the Premier League and opened its Championship campaign on Saturday at home against Middlesbrough.
The game finished 1-1 and it was a result that left Fulham very disappointed as the club had 66% possession with a passing edge of 335-112. It outshot Middlesbrough 16-7 and held Middlesbrough to just 58% pass completion.
Tim Ream captained Fulham in this game and Antonee Robinson started at left back. Both Americans went the distance in the win. Robinson had a mixed outing but was credited with six clearances. Ream, meanwhile, captained Fulham and had a strong outing – despite the disappointing result.
Mendez starts for Vizelza
Alex Mendez, 20, has struggled to get going at Freiburg and Ajax but now has the opportunity for first team minutes at Vizela – a newly promoted club in Portugal’s top flight.
On Friday, he made his first-team debut for Vizela which had a near-impossible task in its season opener as they visited reigning champs Sporting CP in Lisbon. This game was no contest as Sporting cruised to a 3-0 win (while also missing a penalty).
In Portugal’s season opener, 2019 U.S U-20 World Cup mid Alex Mendez starting for newly promoted Vizela against reigning champs Sporting CP. 3:15pm EST kickoff— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 6, 2021
Mendez started but left the game in the 67th minute with Vizela down 2-0 and having under 30% possession at the time. It was an impossible task for Mendez to make anything happen as he had just 22 touches playing in central midfield.
Despite the lopsided loss, it was good for Mendez to take his first steps at the first-team level. He has a lot on his plate. If Vizela is going to stay up, Mendez will need to contribute. Next up is Tondela – which opened the season with an impressive 3-0 win over Santa Clara.
Weah & Lille rally for draw
Reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille opened their title defense on Saturday with an away matchup vs. Metz. The game started off poorly for Lille as they fell behind 3-1 in the second half (while Metz also suffered a red card).
Tim Weah, 21, entered the game in the 60th minute when he replaced Jonathan David. Lille ended up rallying for a 3-3 draw with goals in the 81st minute and in the 7th minute of stoppage time. Weah was not involved in either goal but still was on the field for the import push for the point. He finished with just 12 touches in 31 games and was 6/8 passing.
While being mostly a sub on a top team in France is certainly not a bad thing for a young player, it remains to be seen if this is the season where he will finally play a lot of minutes. Last season was important for him to rebound in a lost season in 2019/2020 due to injuries.
Will he finally push for 2000 minutes this season? Perhaps, but he is really going to have to take advantage of his bench minutes to force his way into the starting lineup. He’s still just a little over 1500 first team minutes for his career. He wasn’t strong in this game, but neither were the starters.
Aaronson & Salzburg win
It’s unlikely that Brenden Aaronson or Red Bull Salzburg will be happy with their performance on Sunday in a 1-0 win over Austria Vienna. Salzburg, however, has such an advantage over every team in the league that it can play poorly and win. Karim Adeyemi scored in the 74th minute for the win and Salzburg now has a perfect nine points from three games to sit atop the table early.
Later in the month, Salzburg will take on Brondby for a spot in the Champions League group stage. While the winner gets a spot in the Europa League, this is a critical matchup for a Salzburg team that wants to sell players and needs the big stage to offer the platform.
In England, Zack Steffen and Manchester City lost the Community Shield in a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City. It was a boring match and Steffen was not at fault for the late winning penalty from Leicester City.
In the Championship, Duane Holmes and Huddersfield played to a 1-1 draw against Derby County. Holmes started and was removed in second half stoppage time against his former club. Matthew Olosunde was not in the matchday roster for Preston North End in a 4-1 home loss to Hull City. Ethan Horvath also did not get off the bench for Nottingham Forest in a 2-1 loss to Coventry. In League One, Lynden Gooch started for Sunderland in a 2-1 win over Wigan to open the season.
In Scotland, Christian Ramirez came off the bench in the 66th minute for Aberdeen in a 2-1 win over Scott Pittman and Livingston. Aberdeen has six points to start the season.
In Belgium, Chris Durkin started for St. Truiden in a 3-1 home loss to Zlute Waregem.
In the Swiss Super League on Saturday, BSC Young Boys fell to Sion 1-0 with American forward Jordan Pefok playing the final 30 minutes. Pefok is having his minutes managed early as the club is also busy in Champions League qualifiers.
Heading to South America. In Argentina, Joel Sonora started for Banfield in a 1-0 loss to his former club, Talleres. His younger brother, Alan Sonora, was an unused sub for Independiente in a 1-0 win over Racing Club. In Ecuador, Michael Hoyos returned from a foot injury to play the final 25 minutes for Barcelona in a big 1-0 win over Guayaquil City. It is important for Barcelona to have Hoyos back ahead of the Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup against Fluminense this week.
In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso was an 88th minute sub for Internacional in a 4-0 away win over Flamengo.
In Portugal, it is an interesting situation regarding Boavsita who avoided relegation last season but was unable to register any new players because of a FIFA ruling that the club did not pay its transfer fees to FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo for Reggie Cannon and Alberth Elis, respectively. As a result, Boavista has only 16 players for Monday’s season opener at Gil Vicente. It will have 17 if Cannon makes it to the game on time.
Finally, Josh Sargent is apparently close to a move to Norwich City but former U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann advises against this move – saying its best for him to remain with Werder Bremen.