Americans abroad analysis

Holmes, Brooks, Ream, & Sonora stand out in otherwise bad weekend for Americans abroad

For many reasons it was a bad weekend for Americans abroad. Yes, a few players turned in very strong performances. But otherwise, it was one to forget. ASN's Brian Sciaretta walks you through the good, the bad, and the ugly as he does every Monday morning. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 25, 2019
6:00 AM
There is no sugarcoating that this was poor weekend for Americans abroad. A few players were solid, but overall mostly filled with players who suffered bad losses, terrible mistakes, poor performances, or limited minutes.

This is a weekend that many American fans will want to forget. But before we get to that point, here is a recap of it all.

Steffen blunders in blowout loss

Fortuna Dusseldorf was a heavy underdog on Saturday when it hosted German giants Bayern Munich. But the game went about as poorly as it could have and Zack Steffen had a terrible moment in Bayern’s second goal of a 4-0 loss.

These are the mistakes Steffen needs to eliminate, ASAP, if he wants to keep his career going in an upward trajectory. He’s a great shot stopper but some of the mistakes he makes with the ball at his feet are very costly (the recent Mexico friendly in September was another example).

Alfredo Morales was also subpar in the game and he struggled to connect with his passing or bring the defensive bite that is his strength.

Best and worst of Dest on display

Sergino Dest, 18, is extremely talented with the ball at his feet. He is a young American fullback that has a remarkable skill in getting involved in the attack. But defensively he is also known for making some serious defensive mistakes that show his youth and his need to grow on that side of the ball.

On Saturday, Dest came into Ajax’s game in the 67th minute with his team up 3-0. In the 87th minute it appeared he scored a goal but a slight deflection on the shot by Klaas Jan Huntelaar only saw Dest credited with an assist. Still it was a nice play from the U.S. international to give his club a 4-0 lead.

Then minutes later, Dest’s defensive blunder sent Cyriel Dessers in on goal alone, which he converted.

Dest is in a good spot at Ajax because so many of their games are not very close and there is room for him to learn and mistakes. But in the European games and the bigger league games against teams like PSV, it might give Erik Ten Hag pause on starting Dest.

Wood blows chance

In somewhat of a surprise in the 2.Bundesliga, Bobby Wood earned his first start of the season for Hamburg against cellar dwellers Dynamo Dresden. It was a big opportunity for the Hawaiian to get his stumbling career back on track.

Instead, it was a total mess. Wood was not able to get involved at all and rarely touched the ball. He was never a part of any scoring chances and was subbed out in the 60th minute with Hamburg down 0-1. Hamburg would go on and rally for a 2-1 win without Wood on the field.

The final stats on him were not good. He had 13 touches over 60 minutes. He made only eight passes and had no key passes.

Wood’s huge salary makes him difficult to move and at some point HSV will have to bite the bullet and sell him while also eating a huge chunk of his salary. But who will take him?

It’s a sad state for Wood who is not able to contribute at the 2.Bundesliga this season when he dominated that league just a few years ago.

Pulisic and Chelsea fall to Man City

One of the most anticipated games for an American abroad in recent memory came on Saturday as a red-hot Christian Pulisic started for Chelsea away at Manchester City in a matchup of two Premier League teams in the Champions League spots.

The game didn’t live up to the hype. After scoring five goals in his last three Premier League games, Pulisic was noticeably flat for Chelsea in a 2-1 loss. To be fair to the Hershey native, he had to miss the international window due to an injury.

Pulisic didn’t register a shot over 90 minutes and had just one key pass. All four of his crosses led to nothing. But credit to Manchester City as it seemed to go into the game with a focus on stopping Pulisic, which is a rarity for an American player to be shown that much respect.

But Pulisic and Chelsea won’t have much time to dwell on the loss. The club has a midweek Champions League game away at Valencia on Wednesday followed by a London-derby against West Ham on Saturday.

Neither Mckennie nor Sargent start

In a matchup that many Americans had circled on their calendars hoping to watch Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent square up against each other, well it turned out to be anti-climactic. Josh Sargent did not play and Weston McKennie only played the final 18 minutes as Schalke came away with a 2-1 victory.

McKennie was decent in his cameo (which he entered with Schalke up 2-0). He made two nice tackles and was defensively solid. After the game, Schalke manager and former U.S. national team forward David Wagner indicated McKennie only saw limited minutes due to a late return from the international break.

But the win was big for Schalke and it lifted the club into fifth place and within striking distance of the top of the table.

For Werder Bremen, a relegation fight could be on the horizon if it is not careful. With just 11 points from 12 games, it is only in the automatically safe positions by a single goal in goal differential. Next up will be a challenge away at Wolfsburg next Sunday.

Wright still empty for VVV

In the Eredivisie, Haji Wright is still empty in the offensive production. On Sunday, Wright went the full 90 for VVV in a 2-1 win over Twente. It was his 10th start of the season and 13th appearance overall. The win helped VVV climb out of the relegation zone but its -24 goal differential is still the worst in the league.

Wright was pretty effective in his hold up play and it was probably the best game of his season. But still, he was not part of either goal and is yet to register a goal or an assist in roughly 900 minutes of play for VVV.

Wright is in an interesting situation because without an EU passport, he is being paid a high salary under the league’s rules. Smaller Eredivisie clubs like VVV rarely pay for non-EU players and the suspicion is that that Wright’s former club, Schalke, is subsidizing a huge percentage of his salary to make it work.

It is hard to see Wright lasting much longer at VVV due to those requirements. He is essentially playing for his next deal. The question, is where does he go next?

Sabbi & Cappis suffer heartbreaking loss

Hobro are in a dogfight to avoid relegation out of the Danish Superliga and it had a tough assignment on Sunday away against tradition Danish power FC Copenhagen. Coming into the game, Hobro was winless in seven games but its last weekend somehow came against Copenhagen on September 15.

Hobro actually took a surprising 1-0 lead in the 30th minute when U.S. U-23 winger Emmanuel Sabbi did well to draw a penalty. The 2017 U.S. U-20 World Cup attacker took the ensuing kick but it was saved. Fortunately for Sabbi, his teammate Imed Louati was there for the rebound.

Sabbi was frustrating throughout the game. He showed a lot of skill to get involved in dangerous chances but was unable to finish them off. That proved to be costly as Copenhagen scored two very late goals for a 2-1 win.

What else went wrong?

Unfortunately for American fans, the bad news was not limited to Sabbi, Wood, Steffen, Morales, and Dest. There was a lot more.

After showing some improvement in recent weeks, Tyler Boyd did not get off the bench for Besiktas in a 1-0 win over Konyaspor. He’s only played 15 league minutes since September 29.

In the Championship, Antonee Robinson and Wigan suffered a brutal 2-1 loss to a bad Stoke team. Wigan is now in serious danger of sinking into the relegation zone (only goal differential is keeping it out) and it has just one point from its last five games. Meanwhile, Cameron Carter-Vickers didn’t even make the 18 for Stoke City.

Elsewhere, Reading dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Brentford with Matt Miazga going a full 90 in the loss. After two straight wins, Reading took a step back and sits in 17th place in the 24-team league. The good news for Miazga is that he was not at fault for the goal.

In Italy’s Serie B, Andrija Novakovich played the second half for Frosinone in a 2-0 loss to a Spezia team that was in the relegation zone. The Wisconsin native is still without a goal for the club since moving from Reading this past summer.

Timothy Chandler went as an unused substitute again for Eintracht Frankfurt and playing time continues to be rare for him. Fabian Johnson made the Borussia Monchengladbach's bench for the first time since September (due to injury) but did not play. 

In Cyprus, former U.S. international Danny Williams went a full 90 for Pafos FC in a 3-0 loss to APOEL Nicosia. Pafos is struggling to start the season with just nine points from 10 games and it sits in 9th place in the 12-team league.

The youth levels did not lead to much production on Friday. Alex Mendez saw only sub minutes for Jong Ajax on Friday in a 2-1 win over NAC Breda. Richard Ledezma started for Jong PSV on Friday in a 4-1 blowout loss by De Graafschap. Jong PSV is in 18th place of the 20-team second tier league.

In Austria, Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg failed to win at home when it played to a disappointing 2-2 draw against bottom-half SKN St. Poelten.

Finally injuries continued too sideline too many Americans. Tim Weah continues to miss time for Lille and he likely won’t be back until 2020. Tyler Adams apparently is nearing a return for RB Leipzig, per recent reports, but seeing is believing at this point.

Julian Green was the latest American at the lower levels to suffer an injury as Greuther Furth said the attacker will miss time due to a knee injury. In England’s third tier, Southend United’s Charlie Kelman and Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch are also out. This past week in Belgium, Brendan Hines-Ike was unable to play for Kortrijk against Anderlecht and Ethan Horvath continues to be the backup goalkeeper for Club Brugge.

Meanwhile, Kenny Saief at Anderlecth, Jonathan Amon at Nordsjaellan, and Matt Polster at Rangers are not even making the bench at their respective clubs and all three have been capped by the U.S. national team.

Holmes MOTM in huge Derby win

The best American of the weekend went to Duane Holmes who helped Derby County to a big 1-0 win over second place Preston North End on Saturday in the Championship.

Holmes, 25, was particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball and he broke up plays and helped transition Derby to from defense to offense. In the second half, he nearly scored a true goalazo when his volley was smashed off the crossbar.

For all this, he was named the MOTM. With the three points, Derby moved even on points with Millwall for 10th place in the league. With performances like these, Holmes should move back into the U.S. national team picture in 2020.

Ream helps Fulham in big win

Tim Ream has earned the reputation of being Mr. Championship among all the Americans abroad. He has this league figured out and is very, very accomplished. To date, he has won Player of the Year for a Championship club on three separate occasions (Bolton twice, Fulham once) – including a season where his team was promoted.

This year he has been excellent again for Fulham. On Friday, he was a rock for Fulham in a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers in a West London Derby. His steady play and passing out of the back kept the club in the game as it rallied from a 0-1 deficit and into a win. With the three points, it is now in fourth place in the Championship and in the mix for a quick promotion back to the top flight.

Brooks outstanding in Wolfsburg win

John Brooks had a tough assignment on Saturday in an away matchup against Eintrach Frankfurt. Not only is Wolfsburg limited offensively and came into the game having lost 2-0, but Brooks’ central defense partner Marcel Tisserand was sent off just before halftime. So Brooks had to step up defensively in the final 45 minutes – and he did.

Brooks was credited with a game-high 11 clearances and two tackles as he kept Eintracht off the board. Wolfsburg ended up winning 2-0 despite being down a man for 45 minutes. For Brooks, it was arguably his best performance of the season.

Sonora starts in Arsenal win

One of the other bright spots for Americans abroad was Joel Sonora who lost his starting spot with Arsenal de Sarandi in early September but was given a rare opportunity from the opening whistle on Saturday in Argentina’s Primera.

Arsenal’s opponent was a struggling Gimnasia side that is coached by Diego Maradona (who appeared to have quit midweek but decided otherwise on Friday). Gimnasia sit in 22nd place in the 24 team Primera.

The 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup midfielder delivered on the only goal when he made a nice run into the box to collect a pass. Sonora, 23, attempted a shot but it was instead partially saved by the goalkeeper. The ball rolled to Arsenal’s Juan Garcia who slammed it home for the only goal in a 1-0 win. The reaction from Maradona was priceless.

With the win Arsenal de Sarandi moved into 10th place in the Primera.

Best of the rest

The positive news wasn’t limited to Brooks, Holmes, Ream, or Sonora. There were other Americans abroad who had noteworthy games

Kilmarnock left back Niko Haemaelaeinen, 22, is contemplating playing for the United States or Finland internationally (he has played for both this year) but is enjoying his first season as a first team starter at his club. On loan from QPR, the Florida-born Haemaelaeinen went the distance for Kilmarnock in a 3-0 win over Hearts to move into fifth place in the Scottish Premier League.

In Germany’s 3.Liga, Terrence Boyd came off the bench and scored for Hallescher FC in an impressive 0-3 away win over Carl Zeiss Jena. For Boyd, he now has three goals on the 3.Liga season and his team is in third place (and just three points off the top of the table).

And in Austria, 2017 U.S. U-20 World Cup captain Erik Palmer-Brown went the distance in central defense for Austria Vienna in a 0-0 draw on the road at Admira.

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