Americans abroad analysis
EPB, Pefok, and Wright among the few bright spots in dismal weekend for Yanks in Europe
April 18, 2022
AS MANY CELEBRATED the Easter holiday over the weekend, it was a very ugly few days for Americans abroad. In fact, it might have been the worst weekend of the entire 2021/22 season. Of course, with so many Americans playing in Europe, there were bound to be a few exceptions, but such positive exceptions were few and far between. Mostly across the board, it was bad.
With that said let’s get into it.
Why was it so bad?
There are two reasons why this weekend was bad. First, there was a long list of players who didn’t play. Second, the ones that did generally had weekends to forget.
Among those that didn’t play, there were known injuries prior to the weekend. This list encompasses most of the top American players in the game. Weston McKennie, Brenden Aaronson, Josh Sargent, Daryl Dike, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah, and Konrad de la Fuente were all were unable to suit up for a variety of injuries that range in severity.
Then you have a bunch of players who were not in the matchday squad or went as unused substitutes. This included many of the usual unused substitutes such as Matt Miazga, Ethan Horvath, Matthew Hoppe, Richard Ledezma, and James Sands. These players all went as unused substitutes. Then United States U-20 players Kevin Paredes at Wolfsburg and Justin Che at Hoffenheim failed to make the bench in their respective Bundesliga games.
There were also cases which were disappointing. Christian Pulisic was an unused substitute for Chelsea in their 2-0 FA Cup win over Crystal Palace. Nicholas Gioacchini has been struggling for Ligue 1 minutes this season on loan at Montpellier and over the weekend he played with the club’s reserve team.
It has been a tough loan for Nicholas Gioacchini to Montpellier. Earlier in the season he had a few good sub appearances, but minutes have been very few and far between lately. Today he's with the reserves. Another player with possibly some decisions this summer https://t.co/eId73Dkz7S— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 16, 2022
Now we get to the players who played. This was even more concerning.
It will take Zack Steffen a long time to live down the error he made on Saturday against Liverpool in the semifinal of the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium. With minutes tough to come by, Steffen needs to take advantage of every opportunity he gets, and he failed to do so with a horrendous gaffe that gave Liverpool its second goal. It proved to be decisive as Manchester City went on to lose 3-2.
We hope that whatever Zack Steffen was day dreaming about immediately before this epic #WPIOOTBGW was a happy dream pic.twitter.com/yO21vtLp9Q— When Playing It Out of the Back Goes Wrong (@wpiootbgw) April 16, 2022
It was a blunder that not only likely cost his team a spot in the final, but it also could have been a confidence crusher for Steffen. He probably won’t get another shot this season, and there are reports that he is going to look for a loan that would give him minutes heading into the World Cup. But what will be the demand for him? When will he get his confidence back? It’s a massive concern and one that leaves a lot of open questions for Steffen – and one that shows how important it is for a goalkeeper to play regularly. Now he has to sit on the bench and live with it, as opposed to shaking it off the next game.
John Brooks and Wolfsburg dropped a 6-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. You can argue that Brooks wasn’t directly at fault for any of the goals, but it must be added that he didn’t play well either. It was a complete defensive breakdown from Wolfsburg and Brooks is likely happy to be on his way out.
In Italy, Venezia came into Saturday's game against Fiorentina needing a result to avoid falling deeper into the relegation hole. Both Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio started but Venezia was completely outclassed. The final score ended up being only 1-0 in favor of Fiorentina, but this was about as lopsided as a 1-0 game could be. In the first half, Fiorentina had 82% possession. They finished with 75%. Venezia simply couldn’t hold the ball. Tessmann worked extremely hard defensively and had a number of important clearances, but this game was revealing for the talent gap between the two teams. With Cagliari winning, Venezia is now six points deep in the relegation zone and has lost eight in a row. Both Americans will face questions about remaining with the club in Serie B.
On Friday, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, and Fulham knew that a win against Derby would clinch promotion to the Premier League next season. After Nottingham Forest were upset by Luton Town earlier in the day, Fulham was on the brink. Instead, the Cottagers failed to take advantage of the opportunity – despite having a 1-0 lead at halftime. Derby rallied for two second half goals – with Ream getting beat on the equalizer. Robinson went as an unused substitute.
Ricardo Pepi scoreless drought continued on Saturday as the FC Dallas product entered Augsburg’s game in the 56th minute trailing Hertha BSC 1-0. Over his 34 minutes, he had just two pass attempts, five touches, and no shots.
Augsburg’s loss to Hertha was bad news for other Americans in the German Bundesliga race as it allowed Hertha BSC to leapfrog two teams. One of which was Arminia Bielefeld which lost to Bayern Munich 3-0. George Bello replaced Jacob Laursen in the 39th after Laursen's horrible start which included an own goa and later an injury. But Bayern scored twice more after Bello came on to send Arminia into the automatic relegation zone.
Hertha also jumped a Stuttgart team managed by New Jersey’s own Pellegrino Matarazzo. Stuttgart played Mainz to a 0-0 draw but the result saw it fall into the Bundesliga’s relegation playoff spot.
Staying in the Bundesliga, the bad news continued as Timothy Chandler started and played 59 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Union Berlin. Hoffenheim played to a disappointing 0-0 draw with last-place Greuther Furth which could be relegated as early as next week. In that game, Chris Richards started pulled at halftime (despite playing well, which might raise injury concerns). Julian Green started and was ineffective over 89 minutes. Justin Che was not on the bench for Hoffenheim.
Of the Americans in Bundesliga losses, Joe Scally might have been a winner on a personal level. Like Bello, he came into Borussia Monchengladbach's game in the 39th after his team fell behind 3-0 to FC Koln. They went on to lose 3-1 at home. So, Scally was not part of any goal (offensively or defensively) in an ugly loss. Still, you can’t count this as a positive and it has been a poor season for M’Gladbach.
In Portugal, Reggie Cannon started and played 90 minutes for Boavista in a lopsided ugly 4-0 loss to Maritimo. Meanwhile, Alex Mendez played the second half for Vizela in 1-0 loss to Belenenses. He's played 1116 minutes now in Portugal's top tier but is yet to have a goal or an assist. Alejandro Alvarado did not make the bench for Vizela.
In the Scottish Cup semifinals, the two Americans who played both suffered tough losses to city rivals. Chris Mueller played the final 25 minutes for Hibernian in a 2-1 loss to Hearts. In the other semifinal, Cameron Carter-Vickers played 120 minutes for Celtic which lost 2-1 to Rangers. James Sands did not get off the bench for Rangers.
In Ligue 1, Tim Weah played 11 minutes for Lille in 2-1 home loss to Lens. Weah is still looking for his first goal this season in any competition. He has now played 1,348 minutes – the most minutes he has had in any season.
In Sweden top-tier Allsvenskan, Joe Corona was sent off for GIF Sundsvall in a 2-0 loss to Varbergs Bois. It was Corona’s first start of the season. Joe Gyau started for Degerfors in a 2-0 loss to Kalmar while Jeff Gal was the backup goalkeeper for Degerfors and didn't play. Both Gyau and Corona's teams are the last two teams in Sweden after three rounds and neither team has a point.
Say it ain’t so Joe.. Corona sent off for GIF Sundsvall - his first start in Sweden’s Allsvenskan pic.twitter.com/V0G4yhG9Gj— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 16, 2022
In Turkey, Tyler Boyd and Rizespor can now mathematically clinch relegation next week after its 1-1 draw with Kayserispor on Saturday. Boyd started and went 67 minutes in the game.
Finally in Denmark, Emmanuel Sabbi didn't play for OB in 1-1 draw with Viborg. On Thursday, Christian Cappis started and played 75 minutes for Brondby in 1-0 loss at home to Alborg. Then on Monday, Cappis started again for Brondby in a 2-0 loss to Copenhagen. Cappis hasn’t been the problem for Brondby, which has now lost five in a row, but he hasn’t been able to help the team stop its awful skid either.
On Friday, Jose Gallegos played 21 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Nordsjaelland as Sonderjyske sunk further into last place. On Monday, Gallegos scored his first goal in Denmark – which was a rare, good thing for an American this weekend, but SonderjyskE’s relegation seems inevitable.
His goal was nice, albeit aided by a deflection
What went right this weekend?
Palmer-Brown strong for Troyes
Erik Palmer-Brown was probably the top American performer in Europe over the weekend as he started in the middle of a five-man backline and played 90 minutes for Troyes in a 1-1 draw against a good Strasbourg team. Troyes was under pressure for most of the game but Palmer-Brown helped preserve the result with seven clearances and 19/22 passing. He also won 3/4 of his ground duels and blocked two shots – the second of which prevented a very good chance from Strasbourg.
Palmer-Brown has been one of the top American players in Europe since the turn of the new year in January. He’s peaking at the right time with so many other American players struggling. It has come at the right time for his club which now has some separation in the relegation battle – now sitting four points above the relegation playoff spot.
Palmer-Brown is in a great spot to make the World Cup team just by raising his game at the right time.
Haji Wright scores again
Haji Wright, 24, can't stop scoring at the moment and his goal for Antalyaspor in a 3-1 away win over Alanyaspor on Saturday was his third straight game with at least one goal. It was also his fifth goal in five games.
Wright remains red hot and it is great news for him on both the club and international stage. For one, his gamble to hold out against Sonderjyske and force a loan was a bad look at the time, but it will probably end in his favor. He bet on himself that he would raise his game to the point where he would remain in Turkey and not have to go back to Denmark. With SonderjysE’s relegation likely, they are going to have to sell Wright – and Wright will now have buyers willing to fork over cash.
Internationally, Wright is putting himself in contention for possibly his first call-up to the national team. The timing couldn’t be better as the U.S. team needs a No. 9 and Wright hasn’t been given a shot.
The odds he makes the roster for Qatar still seem slim. The U.S. team has strikers who are scoring at the club level. It’s just that club success has not translated to international success. Pefok is scoring goals in droves right now in Denmark. Jesus Ferreira is scoring tons for FC Dallas. Jeremy Ebobisse and Brandon Vazquez are both hot and neither are in the picture. Is it going to be different with Wright? What happens if Sargent, Pepi, or Dike get hot?
Are limited friendlies or Nations League games in June or September best spent working with the existing options or brining in another forward or forwards?
No matter what, Wright is forcing himself to be noticed right now – and that is very impressive. Even if Qatar doesn’t work out, he will only be 28 in 2026.
Pefok scores in a loss
Jordan Pefok, 25, is on pace to win the Swiss Super League’s Golden Boot for the current season. That is no small feat. On Saturday, BSC Young Boys dropped a 2-1 decision to FC Zurich but Pefok scored his team’s only goal in the 73rd minute to round out the scoring.
Jordan Pefok with his 19th Swiss Super League goal of the season (24th in all competitions). But Young Boys fall to Zurich 2-1. #USMNT. pic.twitter.com/IO6M4KdFdv— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 16, 2022
For Pefok, he now has 19 goals in the Super League to go along with another five in all stages of the Champions League. That gives him 24 across all competitions. He has a three goal lead for the Golden Boot in Switzerland.
Despite his poor March window, Pefok will likely continue to get looks for the national team. He’s simply too good of a scorer. But if he doesn’t improve with the national team in June or September, he is far from a lock to go to Qatar.
He’s probably going to get sold by Young Boys too. That team will want to cash in at some point and Pefok is now entering his prime. The season has been a total bust for Young Boys. After winning the Super League four straight times, that string will be snapped this year as they are 19 points behind Zurich.
Adams strong in start
Tyler Adams earned what has become a rare start for RB Leipzig. The former New York Red Bull got the nod in part because Dominic Tedesco made seven changes to the lineup he used on Thursday in the Europa League win over Atalanta.
Adams had a positive performance in a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He was a part of the only goal when he pounced on a loose ball and got it ahead to Christopher Nkunku. Nkunku then fed Dominik Szoboszlai for a beautiful finish.
It was a typical solid Adams performance. He played 83 minutes and go on the ball enough with a respectable 63 touches. He helped in the possession game and defensively clogged the middle to help maintain a clean sheet.
Adams needs to take advantage of all of his opportunities between now and the end of the season to either build a stronger case for more minutes at Leipzig, or raise his value for a move.
It runs in the family De Rosario
Osaze De Rosario, 20, has had a tricky time starting his career. He didn’t catch on at NYCFC and he signed earlier in the season for Rukh Lviv in the Ukrainian Premier League. He the left just ahead of the Russian invasion.
De Rosario then signed for York United in the Canadian Premier League. He got his first start on Friday and scored in the 82nd minute of a 1-1 draw with FC Edmonton (American midfielder Azriel Gonzalez played 75 minutes for Edmonton).
Osaze De Rosario, looking like his father here on his first professional goal for York United. The younger DeRo, 20, is listed as American-born while Dwayne played here. He made his pro debut in the Ukrainian Premier League but left ahead of the conflict. pic.twitter.com/N0dKZFGNIL— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 16, 2022
For De Rosario, the goal was brilliant and echoes many of the goals scored by his father and legendary Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario. The younger Osaze was born in California (which was confirmed to me by York United) while his father played for the San Jose Earthquakes. It’s taken awhile for his career to get going, but now he is at a place where he can grown north of the border.
Notes around the globe
In Brazil’s Serie A, Johnny Cardoso started and played 72 minutes for Internacional in a 2-1 win over Fortaleza
In Argentina’s Copa de Liga Professional, Joel Sonora started and played 60 minutes for Velez Sarsfield in a 0-0 draw at Godoy Cruz on Sunday. Meanwhile, his younger brother Alan Sonora started and played 90 minutes for Independiente in a 2-2 draw at Colon.
Terrence Boyd has been on absolute fire in Germany's 3.Liga. He scored two goals for Kaiserslautern in a 3-1 win over Saarbrucken on Sunday. He now has eight goals in his last six games. He now has 48 goals in his third season since leaving Toronto FC for Germany's third tier. This season he has 14 goals in a little over 22 minutes. The only difference is that this season he is pushing for promotion and Kaiserslautern is now in second place - with the top two teams getting automatically promoted.
Ryan Malone returned to the starting lineup for Hansa Rostock and played 90 minutes in central defense in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Jahn Regensburg.