Gonzalez, Bedoya, Gooch All Appear to Be on Upswing
January 25, 2016
THE POSITIVE VIBES CONTINUE for Americans playing abroad, as some are emerging while others are raising their games. It’s all part of a substantial turn of events in both Europe and Mexico. Here are the highlights from this past weekend.
Gonzalez shines, Alvarado struggles
Omar Gonzalez’s smooth transition into Pachuca’s starting lineup has no doubt brought a smile to Jurgen Klinsmann's face. On Saturday Pachuca rolled past Club America, 4-1, and Gonzalez was once again solid. While he is just three games into his new gig, the six-foot-five Texas native seems to be playing like he did when he was the best center back in MLS and a rising star on the national team. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising if Gonzalez make a quick return to the U.S. national team.
On the opposite side, the player who somewhat supplanted Gonzalez, Ventura Alvarado, earned the start for Club America but struggled mightily. It was an interesting contrast. Gonzalez faded throughout 2015, while Alvarado was rising at the start of last year; early returns in 2016 have been the complete opposite.
Gil makes Mexican debut
After a few weeks that included getting some paperwork finalized, Luis Gil made his Queretaro debut on Friday night against Dorados, startingalongside former U.S. national team defender Jonathan Bornstein.
Gil had an uneasy start but managed to pick up a fortunate assist when he mis-hit a ball that eventually ended up in the back of of the net. He later settled into the game, proving effective in central midfield in a 3-0 win. In a game that marked his first action since Oct. 25, his passing was solid and he was in sync with his teammates.
Villafana rising for Santos Laguna
If you’re looking for an American player who could make his national team debut in 2016, Villafana looks like a nice bet. Villafana, a defensive stalwart, is also improving his offense as he settles in at Santos Laguna. He gave a full-90 effort on Friday, helping the club to a 3-1 win at Tijuana.
Considering the big picture of the past year-plus, Villafana’s emergence has been especially impressive: He played roughly 3,700 minutes in 2015 for Portland, hoisted MLS Cup, then sealed a move to an established Mexican club where he really hasn’t missed a beat.
No winter transfer for Brooks
John Brooks is in the midst of a breakout season for Hertha Berlin, which is in a surprising push for a Champions League spot. In December, German publications reported that the club wanted Brooks to sign a new contract by Christmas—or else he would be put on the market.
That tune has changed, however, and on Sunday Hertha manager Michael Preetz told Kicker that “there will definitely be no transfer of John Brooks in winter."
Such a change of direction could mean that the club will instead continue with negotiations. It has been reported that Schalke and Wolfsburg are among the outside teams interested.
Pulisic makes Bundesliga bench
The hype train for Christian Pulisic is boarding at the station and ready to depart. Long considered one of the best American prospects around, Pulisic, 17, is rising quickly through Borussia Dortmund’s system, recently breaking through with the first team. After an impressive series of friendlies during the winter break, Pulisic started for Dortmund on Sunday in a friendly against Union Berlin (to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Union’s founding).
Dortmund ended up spoiling the party with a 3-1 victory, and Pulisic was consistently dangerous, scoring in the 43rd minute and contributing to the build-up of his team’s other two goals. It would be something if Pulisic could make his Bundesliga debut for Dortmund at such a young age. Given his recent performances, it could happen in the near term.
Rough weekend for U.S. 'Keepers
Oddly enough, 2016 has been off to a much better start for just about all Americans abroad except for the goalkeepers—the one position group, traditionally, that could always be depended upon.
Brad Guzan is now benched at Aston Villa, which is on a likely collision course with relegation, and Tim Howard conceded a blatant penalty in Everton’s 2-1 home loss to Swansea. Everton has fallen to 12th place and now is winless in five league games, conceding 10 goals during that span.
Gooch starts in loan debut
American forward Lynden Gooch, who has not yet been able to break through with Sunderland’s first team, last week went on a month-long loan to League One midtable side Doncaster Rovers and started over the weekend in a scoreless draw against Fleetwood Town.
Gooch, 20, earned that spot in the starting XI despite having only been with the team for a few days, and reviews for Gooch were positive. He was one of the surprising omissions from the U.S. U-20 World Cup team but he now appears to be progressing nicely.
Bedoya scores again for Nantes
Alejandro Bedoya, 28, has had a very good week. On Wednesday, the attacking midfielder scored a 107th-minute winner in the French Cup against Nantes, and he followed it up on Saturday with a 30th-minute goal in a 2-2 draw with Bordeaux.
There has been a lot of talk lately about where Bedoya will go next with his career. A winter transfer seems unlikely, but a summer move is possible. Teams from MLS are certainly going to be among those interested, but if Bedoya continues to play well, his price tag—and teams’ interest—will only increase.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.