Americans abroad analysis

EPB nears move, Pefok & Reyna impress, other Americans progress in preseason

It's partly regular season, partly preseason, and 100% sill season. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here for a detailed look at Americans abroad for the past week with also a look to the weekend ahead. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 30, 2021
12:05 PM

IN SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES it is still preseason while in other places, the season has already begun. There is so much to follow for American players in Europe right now as some players are playing for points, some are playing to earn playing time, others are playing to work towards moves.

While the Gold Cup and MLS roll on, there is a lot going on in American soccer – here is the ASN notebook with thoughts from the past week.


Palmer-Brown to Venezia


It was reported earlier in the day but ASN can confirm the news that Erik Palmer-Brown is close to joining Venezia on a full transfer from Manchester City. Palmer-Brown has now played in a wide variety of leagues, USL, MLS, Portugal’s Segunda, Belgium’s Pro League, the Eredivisie, and most recently the Austrian Bundesliga. Serie A will be his seventh league.

Palmer-Brown, 24, played well for Austria Vienna the past two seasons but he clearly looks ready for a new and bigger challenge. Serie A, however, will be a big step up.

Assuming the deals go through, Venezia will import three Americans this summer in Palmer-Brown, Gianluca Busio, and Tanner Tessmann. The club is also looking to bring in Jack de Vries on loan from Philadelphia, although he will likely play with youth teams.

Venezia has its work cut out for it too as it recently earned promotion into Serie A and will face tough competition to survive this season in the top flight. The club has American ownership, but for these players to play, they will have to impress the technical staff in preseason.


De la Fuente’s preseason


Konrad de la Fuente has hit the ground running during his first preseason at Olympique de Marseille.

This goal he scored against St. Etienne this week was extremely impressive


The Miami native is playing exceptionally well this preseason and should be heavily involved with the team early in the Ligue 1 season (Marseille’s opener is August 8 against Montpellier). It should be a good chance for him to make his pro debut in league play.

As for the national team, the four wingers at the Nation’s League were Pulisic, Weah, Aaronson, and Reyna. Then there are others he is in competition with too. If de la Fuente plays well, it could move Aaronson into the middle of the field (where he probably belongs) and then have de la Fuente compete for a spot.

Still, that is all predicated on de la Fuente playing well – but that is looking more promising every day.


Scally impressing at Gladbach


In addition to de la Fuente at Marseille, another American player looking to make his debut in a European League is Joe Scally at Borussia Monchengladbach. The former NYCFC product got the start on Wednesday for Gladbach against Bayern Munich and assisted in a 2-0 win.

Scally, 18, has played very well at both right back and left back this preseason and the way it is shaping up is that he’ll be the backup at both positions.


The U.S. team is quietly getting more fullback depth. In addition to Sergino Dest, Reggie Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin, and Antonee Robinson - Scally looks ready to emerge and make a Bundesliga debut. There are others too as Sam Vines has had a good Gold Cup and will soon be sold to Antwerp where he will likely be a regular. Julian Araujo has had a nice season for the Galaxy but doesn’t appear ready to commit to the U.S. program. Shaq Moore started off the Gold Cup in strong form and Matthew Olosunde is now at a more stable Championship club in Preston North End.

That is all important as Cannon’s club situation is murky and Robinson is coming off relegation. It also remains to be seen how Yedlin features this season with Galatasary. 


The 2.Bundesliga


The 2.Bundesliga season has already opened and there aren’t as many American players in this league with Alfredo Morales leaving last season for NYCFC, Julian Green earning promotion, and Leon Flach moving to Philadelphia.

Josh Sargent remains the top American to follow and last weekend Werder Bremen played Hannover to a 1-1 draw at home. That is not a good result for a club that wants to compete for promotion. On top of that Sargent played further out wide and missed his best chance of the game.

Werder would probably want to sell him, but they are also in a position to not having to accept a lowball offer either as it wants to return to the Bundesliga. The problem with Sargent is that if he’s not playing up top, how is he going to play well enough to earn a respectable transfer?

Sargent is in a tough spot but he’s eventually going to have to make the most out of a bad situation an rise above it. Next up is this Saturday’s visit to Fortuna Dusseldorf.

As for other American news in the 2.Bundesliga, Matthew Hoppe is not with Schalke right now as he is at the Gold Cup. But at this point, it’s hard to see him staying with Schalke much longer. Schalke was trounced by Hamburg 3-1 at home in their opener and that club offers very little future right now.


Belgian openers


The Belgian league has less of an American presence this season as in years past. Ethan Horvath left Brugge for Nottingham Forest. Joe Efford and Waasland Beveren were relegated. Matt Miazga returned to Chelsea and is looking for a permanent deal. Brenden Hines-Ike is with DC United.

While U.S. national team left back Sam Vines will likely soon join Antwerp after the Gold Cup, there are just two Americans in the league, for now – Mark McKenzie at KRC Genk and Chris Durkin at St. Truiden.

Chris Durkin started off the Belgian season in fine form as he went the distance in a 2-1 win over Gent. Durkin is a player who wants to move up the European ladder but needs to put in a steady run of games with St. Truiden first. The team has been poor in recent seasons but this was a good first step in attempting to turn things around and not being in a relegation battle for 2021/2022.

On Saturday, St. Truiden visits Sporting Charleroi.

Mark McKenzie, meanwhile, opened the Belgian season with a 1-1 draw on the road to Sporting Charleroi and this was followed up by a 4-3 loss to KV Oostende in Genk’s home opener. McKenzie was not primarily at fault for the goals, although partially at fault for one. The biggest problem Genk has right now is its set piece defending and Oostende scored three goals off corner kicks. Regardless, it’s been a disappointing start to the season for Genk.


Austrian openers


The Austrian Bundesliga has also seen an exodus of Americans. Jesse Marsch is no longer the manager of Red Bull Salzburg. Erik Palmer-Brown is out of Austria Vienna (which is great for him as Austria Vienna was eliminated from the Conference League by a semi-pro Icelandic team), Andrew Wooten left Admira, and after relegation, Taylor Booth and Brandon Servania ended their respective loans to St. Poelten.

That leaves Brenden Aaronson and newcomer Thomas Roberts who is still getting settled with newly promoted Austria Klangenfurt.

As for Aaronson, all you need to know is that he played well in the season opener for Salzburg in a 3-1 win over Strum Graz. 


For this season, Aaronson needs to be one of the impact players for Salzburg and play like a player with a $15 million price tag. This is why he came to the club and he should have big expectations for himself. The true test will come in the European games.

Meanwhile, Salzburg will host Ried on Sunday


Pefok’s rise

Jordan Pefok has had a great summer. He scored a winning goal for the U.S. team against Honduras in the semifinals of the Nations League. Now upon his return to BSC Young Boys, he’s been on fire to start the season – both in the league and in Champions League qualifiers.

In the season opener last weekend, Young Boys defeated Luzern 4-3 on the road. With Young Boys trailing 3-1, Pefok assisted in the 59th, scored in the 68th, and then scored in the third minute of stoppage time for a 4-3 win.

Following that remarkable performance, Pefok scored and assisted in a 3-2 win over Slovan Bratislava in the second leg of the second round of Champions League. After a 0-0 first leg in Slovakia, Pefok scored the opening goal in the 10th minute on a penalty.

With Daryl Dike struggling while injured at that Gold Cup, Josh Sargent stuck in the 2.Bundesliga, Matthew Hoppe in limbo, Pefok has probably leapfrogged several others in the national team depth chart.

On the club level, Pefok recently inked a new deal at Young Boys this offseason but if he keeps producing, he could be on the move upward sooner than later. Last season was simply critical to giving him a high floor after several tough seasons in France. Now he has that.


 Champions League qualifiers


In the second leg of the second round of Champions League qualifying, four Americans were in action this week.

  • Jordan Pefok and BSC Young Boys defeated Slovan Bratislava 3-2 on aggregate.
  • Henry Wingo and Ferencvaros defeated Zalgiris Vilnius 5-1 on aggregate.
  • DeAndre Yedlin and Galatasaray were eliminated by PSV Eindhoven 7-2 on aggregate.
  • Mix Diskerud and Omonia Nicosla were eliminated by Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 on aggregate.


Wright’s saga ends


Haji Wright this week formally joined Antalyaspor on loan from Sonderjyske and it ends an ugly saga, or at least it kicks the can down the road.

Wright, 23, had struggled in his career but finally achieved some level of success last season when he joined Sonderjyske and scored 11 goals. The Californian was not happy with the club’s recent coaching change and decided not to report for preseason. He instead travelled to Turkey to force a move to Antalyaspor. He began training with the club without the permission of Sonderjyske – which threatened legal action.

This week, Wright signed an extension with Sonderjyske (to apparently settle the threat of litigation) and the loan was allowed to move forward. Now that only makes things harder for a permanent deal to take place after this season and Sonderjyske now has the leverage, and has little incentive to go out of its way to help Wright.

What a mess. If Wright doesn’t perform well this season at Antalyaspor, will he go back and play for Sonderjyske? If he doesn’t play well on this loan, he’ll have problems.


Reyna & Maloney at BVB


In a preseason friendly on Friday, Borussia Dortmund defeated Bologna 3-0. The team’s first two goals were scored by Americans with new No. 7 Gio Reyna scoring the opener and Lennard Maloney with the second.

Everyone knows Reyna, who is one of the team’s top players and one of the top American players in the game.


But Maloney is interesting. He is a German-American player who was called up to the U.S. U-20 team twice in 2018 but failed to impress then head coach Tab Ramos. Maloney was subsequently released by Union Berlin and then struggled on a bunch of trials. He ended up signing with Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team, likely as a player to fill out the roster. But he’s done well and has been getting minutes with the first team this preseason. Now he has a goal to go along with it.


Even if Maloney doesn’t stick with the first team at Dortmund, at least he has a bit of a resume to land with another club at a first team level.


Booth injured


Bayern Munich’s Taylor Booth picked up a groin injury this week and it came at a tough time as he was looking to build a resume for a loan at a higher level than St. Poelten – where he was last season.


This was a very unfortunate injury at a wrong time and it will make sorting out his 2021/22 season more difficult.


Kayo moves to Victoria


After Wolfsburg disbanded their reserve team, it left some players in limbo. American defensive midfielder Bryang Kayo, 19, is one such player and he’ll be heading to Viktoria Berlin on loan for the upcoming season.


Kayo will have to play well. Viktoria Berlin is a club that was just promoted to the 3.Liga in Germany and this is not that high of a level. Kayo will need to produce this season or else his next step will be very difficult.


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