Americans abroad analysis
Matarazzo's dramatic escape, Weah enjoys a big day, Ledezma & Haji score, and much more
May 16, 2022
THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad sees the majority of European leagues either at or near the end of their season. That means that players were either playing for something massively important, or were simply playing out the string.
The typical list of injured players remained high as Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, and Josh Sargent were all out.
But here are the top stories of those in action.
Matarazzo’s dramatic escape
The top story from the weekend was American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and his VfL Stuttgart team dramatically avoiding out of relegation from the Bundesliga. With the wave of injuries and COVID-related absences that have plagued his team all season long left few pundits expecting Stuttgart would survive – at least not outside of the playoffs. As recently as two weeks ago, his team was four points deep of automatic survival. There were times his club was even in the bottom two for automatic relegation.
But after a result last weekend at Bayern Munich combined with Arminia Bielefeld’s late loss to Bochum and Hertha BSC’s loss at home to Mainz gave it an opening for Saturday’s final weekend of Bundesliga games. What had to happen is that Stuttgart needed to defeat Koln at home and it also needed Hertha to lose on the road at Borussia Dortmund.
While Stuttgart took a 1-0 lead in its game, Hertha also scored the surprising opener at Dortmund. Between 15-20 minutes into the second half both teams equalized. That left Stuttgart needing to score a late goal while also hoping Dortmund would find a late winner as well.
But a remarkable combination of events happened. In the 84th minute, Dortmund found its winner. The word of that goal spread around Stuttgart like wildfire. Everyone in the stadium knew a Stuttgart goal meant survival.
Then it happened in the second minute of stoppage time. The celebration was epic. Minutes later when the final whistle blew, crowds rushed the field.
STUTTGART SCORE A 92ND MINUTE WINNER TO STAY IN THE BUNDESLIGA!!! ???? pic.twitter.com/MSCfun2LSg— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 14, 2022
ASN was sent video of the reaction from Pellegrino Matarazzo’s family in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
I was just sent this. The Matarazzo family in Fair Lawn, New Jersey watching Pellegrino and Stuttgart’s last minute, dramatic series of events to remain in the Bundesliga. pic.twitter.com/zDBAToeCHd— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 14, 2022
Matarazzo has done a phenomenal job for Stuttgart. When he took over after the 2.Bundesliga’s winter break in 2019/2020, he led the club to promotion. Then in 2020/21, he kept the team safely in the Bundesliga. Now in 2021/22, he kept the team alive despite playing without key players for long runs.
Matarazzo doesn’t receive a fraction of the attention of Jesse Marsch’s coaching escapades and it’s a little understandable. Marsch was a good player, he broke into coaching in the United States. He was more visible and developed a connection with the American fan base.
But Matarazzo’s has been gaining in stature in his home country. He’s done interviews (including one with ASN) and has done media roundtables. It’s important because he deserves to be popular in the United States as he is wildly popular in Stuttgart.
Next season will be interesting as fans will not want another such close call with relegation. Now two seasons removed from their promotion, fans will want to see the club take steps towards being stable top-tier club. It will be harder because Schalke and Werder Bremen are both returning to the Bundesliga and that will add two larger clubs to the top league. Stuttgart is historically a huge club in Germany, Matarazzo is in the guy in charge of trying to lead it back to his former level of being a top German team.
Will Matarazzo ever return to the United States and coach here – MLS or even the national team? He seems pretty happy in Germany, and he is on the rise. But at some point, he’ll want to be surrounded by his friends and family again.
Weah’s big day
If there was ever an American player who needed to find the back of the net, it was Tim Weah. Weah, 22, is one of the top players on the U.S. national team but goals have been tough to come by. Going a season without scoring raises questions and a club like Lille need more production from a winger who is considered to be a start.
On Saturday, Weah had a big day for Lille in a 3-1 win over Nice.
Neither Weah nor anyone on Lille offered anything in the first half. But in the second half, however, Weah had his best 45 minutes of the season – assisting on a 53rd minute equalizer and then, after Lille took the lead, scoring in stoppage time to round out the scoring.
It was a big outing for Weah who now has one goal and five assists this season in 1528 minutes. On both his assist and goal, he took advantage of poor defending. On the assist, a defender mistimed an aerial which allowed Weah to move into the attacking third with space. Then on the goal, Nice was pushing way up high for an equalizer and with a teammate winning a duel, he could move in on alone on the keeper.
Few would say it’s been a good season for him, but this was his best outing, and it gives him some momentum and confidence heading into the offseason – and an upcoming U.S. camp. It was good to see Weah playing on top of his game and he needs to play at this level more often.
Ledezma scores in Eredivisie finale
Richard Ledezma was given an extended run runout when he got to play the final 31 minutes for PSV Eindhoven against PEC Zwolle. Both teams already had their positions set in the table heading into this game. No matter the result, PSV would finish second in the Eredivisie while PEC Zwolle was already locked into last-place with a relegation ticket in hand.
With the score 1-1, Ledezma was given a half hour for his longest runout of the season. It wasn’t a big stage but he made the most of it and he scored the winning goal in the 73rd minute off “Route 1” play. A long ball was played over the defense into the box. For some reason, PEC goalkeeper Kostas Lamprou did not come out for the ball despite having the time. Ledezma surprisingly was able to get to the ball first and make PEC pay. It was his first Eredivisie goal.
Ledezma played well in his 30 minutes on the field. It probably won’t be nearly enough to get him into the national team this summer but it will give him momentum heading into the offseason and the upcoming preseason.
Ledezma missed a lot of time. He was out for a year due to his ACL tear and he finished this season with five appearances for a total of 33 minutes. None of is first four appearances was longer than two minutes. Even with this goal, it was a lost season for Ledezma.
The upcoming preseason is going to critical for him to lock down a role that can get him regular minutes as he will turn 22 in September.
When you are hot, everything seems to go your way. Such is the case for Haji Wright, who both scored and assisted for Antalyaspor in a 3-1 away win over Kasimpasa on Sunday.
For Wright, 24, he has 14 goals on the Turkish Super Lig season, but it is his current run that is the most eye-opening. With Sunday’s performances, has nine goals in nine games and goals in each of his last seven games.
His goal in this game reflects how the breaks tend to go in the favor of players who are playing well. It was a complete goalkeeping error but Wright was able to pounce on the mistake and finish.
Next week the Super Lig season will end as Antalyaspor will host Galatasaray.
Wright looks set to join the national team at the end of the month and earn his first cap. He’s playing well and deserves to make his case to be the No. 9 for the U.S. team. From there, we will see if Wright is really ready for the role or if he is simply just red hot. The U.S. team has forwards who are scoring at the club level but who will be the player that can translate that over to the U.S. team. That has always been elusive.
Close call for Marsch & Leeds
Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United team needed an equalizer in the second minute of second half stoppage time from Pascal Struijk to earn a point in a 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion. That precious point was enough to lift Leeds United out of the relegation zone by a point.
STRUIJK WITH THE STOPPAGE TIME EQUALIZER FOR LEEDS!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) May 15, 2022
This late equalizer moves Leeds out of the relegation zone ahead of Burnley who have a game in hand. #LEEBHA | #MyPLMorning pic.twitter.com/OqaEK47dHp
Survival for Leeds is going to be ridiculously tight. Leeds occupies the final safe spot, for now. The team one spot below, Burnley, has two games remaining while Leeds United has just one.
Burnley will visit Aston Villa on Thursday before hosting Newcastle United on the final day next Sunday. Leeds United visits Brentford next Sunday. There is also a potential out for either team as both could catch or surpass Everton – which is one point ahead of Leeds and two ahead of Burnley. Everton has two games remaining – home vs. Crystal Palace on Thursday and then away at Arsenal.
Marsch really can use some success after the difficult run at Leipzig earlier this season. He was dealt a tough hand at Leeds United with a team that has been bleeding goals. He improved that aspect of the team but what has been a killer has been the results in other games not going his way at the same time Leeds had its hardest schedule of the season.
The English media and non-Leeds supporters in England have been extremely tough on Marsch with Ted Lasso and American jokes being made at his expense. He knew that going in. He accepted a tough assignment. The way to shut up the critics isn’t to complain about it. It can only be silenced by winning and keeping Leeds in the Premier League.
De la Torre in trouble
Luca de la Torre, who will turn 24 next week, has had a nice season in the Eredivisie. He became a full-time starter for Heracles in central midfield and has generally played well. That has also seen him earn a spot on the United States national team.
This positive season, however, is on the verge of completely unravelling. Heracles completed a horrible three-game skid to end the season and other results did not go their way. De la Torre was complicit in the skid and he, like many of his teammates, was poor. Now Heracles will head to the promotion/relegation playoff. If they don’t come out on top in those two games, Heracles will be relegated.
The skid began on May 7 with a 2-0 loss to Willem II, which was in last at the time. Four days later, Heracles suffered another 2-0 loss to RKC Waalwijk. Then on Sunday, the collapse was complete in a 3-1 loss to Sparta Rotterdam.
De la Torre actually assisted on the lone goal from Heracles but it was a consolation prize late in the 83rd minute at a time when Heracles was already losing 3-0.
On Wednesday, Heracles will travel to face Excelsior – which advanced to the playoff by virtue of wining the second tier playoff against Roda. The second leg, hosted by Heracles, is next Saturday.
Heracles was expected to be a midtable team this season, but the collapse at the end of the season came at the worst possible time. It is hard to say why everyone, including de la Torre, struggled. If they don’t prevail, it will be a brutal situation. De la Torre has, on the balance, had a nice season. Relegation would significantly hurt his value.
Relegation or not, de la Torre will probably move on after this season. He will probably attract the interest of another Eredivisie team because Eredivisie teams have been aware of his quality. For clubs outside of Holland who aren’t paying attention as much, De la Torre is a midfielder with modest numbers. In 2782 minutes for a relegation-threatened team, he has just one goal and one assist. The clubs that are most likely to be interested in him are clubs that have followed him closely.
Cappis & Brondby finally win
It has been a tough run for Brondby, the reigning champs of Denmark. The club entered Sunday having draws in their last two but that was following eight straight losses. But on the road against Aalborg, Brondby walked away with a 3-1 win. It’s first win in 10 games.
Cappis scored last weekend in the draw against Midtjylland and then backed it up with a very strong outing in the win over Aalborg. The Texan went 90 minutes in central midfield and was strong on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he earned rave reviews for his ability to protect the middle of the field.
Brondby will likely make a lot of changes this summer but it seems as if Cappis was given an audition for the upcoming preseason. It would seem as if he has passed as his performances have been well received. He now has put himself in a position to have a good chance of starting consistently next season.
Next weekend, Cappis and Brondby will conclude the season with a home match against Silkeborg. They are in fifth place and can overtake fourth place Aalborg with a result greater than Aalborg’s final result. That would qualify it to play in Conference League qualifiers.
For Cappis, he has made nine starts this season. He needs 41 minutes to hit the 1000-minute plateau. It would be good for him to continue to build his case as a starter. Soon to be 23, he needs to be a starter at his age.
Harkes wins Dundee United POY
Despite missing out the past two months due to injury, Ian Harkes was named Dundee United’s Player of the Year. The central midfielder had a lot of strong moments this year and was even the Premiership’s Player of the Month back in September. But this was a nice honor.
???????? Ian Harkes wins Player of the Year after stepping forward time after time in the big moments this season— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) May 15, 2022
Harkesy's best bits from 2021/22 ???? pic.twitter.com/8eek3I6KUq
Perhaps the most interesting development is that Ian Harkes also is in the final year of his contract. AT the end of the month, he will be a free agent. He’s played well enough to get nice offers and at his age (27), he should probably go to the highest bidder. It’s hard to see Dundee United matching that. Dundee United offers a consistent stating role and now Conference League qualifying participation. But this will be the final big payday for Harkes. Maybe it will be Old Firm, maybe the Championship, maybe MLS – but that will be a driving factor.
Pulisic & Chelsea fall in FA Cup final
For the third consecutive season, Christian Pulisic has lost an FA Cup final with Chelsea. On Saturday, the Blues lost in a shootout to Liverpool after both teams were deadlocked 0-0 after 120 minutes. Compared with the two previous finals, this was Pulisic’s best outing and the Hershey native had a good game, despite the loss.
In total, Pulisic went 106 minutes in the loss and he was subbed out to start the second half of extra time. Pulisic covered a ton of ground and gave quite an effort. He created two chances and had three shots. His dribbling kept Liverpool defenders on their backfoot on a number of chances. His best moment came in the 48th minute when he took a shot that forced a low save from Liverpool’s Alisson Becker.
The shootout was a heartbreak for Chelsea but Pulisic, despite criticism from Chelsea fans, has played well this season. His challenge is staying healthy. But heading into this summer with the U.S. team, he is in a good spot.
Sands goes 90 for Rangers
The Scottish Premiership finale was not a big game for Rangers. The club was set to finish second and nothing could change that. Then next weekend, Rangers will face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final and clearly their priorities are on that.
James Sands getting the start in the finale – a trip to face Hearts – isn’t necessarily a sign he is on his way to making it with the Glasgow-based club. It was a rotate squad. Still, Sands is at Rangers on an 18-month loan, and he needs to take advantage of every opportunity to gain experience, and build a case that he can compete for a starting job this summer in preseason.
Sands went the distance in a 3-1 win over Hearts and did well.
What is interesting about Sands is that the top question everyone had for him when he was loaned from NYCFC to Rangers is what position would he play? There were some who figured that Rangers would finally decide if he was a defensive midfielder or a central defender. During his career, he’s been almost evenly split.
Through one half a season, we still don’t know. Rangers is playing him evenly at both positions. On Saturday in the win over Hearts, Sands played well in central defense. His passing and defending were both strong.
Sands has thus far been used as a sub or, when he is starting, as part of a rotated squad. That’s not a bad starting point when joining in midseason a team that is set for an important final and also looks as if it will be selling off a number of players this summer. If it leads to a better situation next summer, all will be well. Thus far, he hasn’t been great but he’s done well enough.
Before Venezia even took the field against Roma, it was relegated due Salernitana earning a draw. That meant Venezia could only match them on points. But in Serie A, head-to-head and not goal differential is the tiebreaker. So, Venezia was relegated. Neither of the club’s American players in Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann played in the 1-0 loss to Roma. Sadly, it was one of Venezia’s best played games despite the loss.
Tessmann and Busio both have questions heading into next season as to where they will play and their respective answers could be different. Tanner Tesmann could very well be a good player in Serie B. Venezia will look to bounce up quickly and Tessmann would get valuable experience there as opposed to trying to remain in Serie A and not having consistent playing time. He has an upside but needs minute to realize that. Busio, on the other hand, is a more expensive player. He probably will have more interest from within Serie A – even if he is a luxury-type player.
On the other hand, Matt Maizga was also relegated with Deportivo Alaves after a 3-1 loss to Levante – in which he did not play. Miazga played a bit in the beginning of the season but most of his 11 appearances came in the beginning of the year. It’s been a tough season and the fact that he is there on loan from Chelsea makes it only harder for him. If he was with Alaves, he could remain with them in the Segunda or get sold. But the decision would be that of Alaves – who knows him. With Chelsea, who knows? The people who brought Miazga to London all those years ago are all gone. On top of that, this tough season has seen him play himself off the national team.
Miazga needs a place he can grow and one that is fully invested in him.
The list of relegated American players from top-tier divisions in Europe is long and could grow:
- Josh Sargent (Norwich City)
- Julian Green (Greuther Furth)
- Tanner Tessmann (Venezia)
- Gianluca Busio (Venezia)
- George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld)
- Jose Gallegos (SonderjyskE)
- Tyler Boyd (Rizespor)
It could grow too. Matthew Hoppe at Mallorca and Luca de la Torre at Heracles are both in serious jeopardy. Later in the year, Joe Gyau and Joe Corona in Sweden should also be in the mix.
In terms of promotion, Americans are involved in both semifinals of the Championship playoffs.
Duane Holmes was named the MOTM on Friday for Huddersfield in its 1-1 draw with Luton Town. Holmes went a full 90 and was feisty defensively and effective offensively. After leaving Derby last year, Holmes returned to his hometown club and it has really worked out. The Championship suits him well where so much is a physical battle. Despite his small frame, Holmes works extremely hard.
American midfielder Duane Holmes with a quality outing in the first leg of the promotional semifinal. It finished 1-1, away goals don’t matter. A trip to Wembley will be decided entirely when Huddersfield hosts the second leg on Monday https://t.co/2ZgIqoeV6m— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 14, 2022
The second leg at Huddersf”eld is on Monday. Away goals do not matter so having everything on the line at home greatly helps the Terriers.
Then in the other semifinal, Nottingham Forest returns home to face Sheffield United after winning the first leg on the road 2-1. Ethan Horvath won’t play absent an injury or suspension to Brice Samba. American-born but English youth international Alex Mighten came in as a substitute in stoppage time to kill time. If Forest earns promotion, the best guess is that Mighten seeks out a place on loan. If Championship minutes were tough, Premier League minutes would probably be impossible.
Elsewhere around the Globe
John Brooks played his final game for Wolfsburg, going the distance against Bayern Munich in a 2-2 draw. Bayern had been coasting since winning the title, with two draws and a loss. Brooks and Wolfsburg finished in 12th place.
Tyler Adams played the final 17 minutes for RB Leipzig in a 1-1 draw with Arminia Bielefeld. He was on the field for the stoppage time equalizer. Due to its goal differential advantage, Leipzig essentially had the fourth-place spot locked up. They will return to the Champions League next season.
Hoffenheim ended its season with three straight losses and the final one was a 5-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach. Justin Che played the final 27 minutes in the loss and Joe Scally played the final 16 minutes of the win for M’Gladbach. Hoffenheim finished 9th and M’Gladbach finished 10th in the Bundesliga.
Already relegated, Greuther Furth wrapped up its Bundesliga season with a 2-1 loss to Augsburg. Julian Green played the final 17 minutes while Ricardo Pepi was an unused substitute for Augsburg – which finished in 14th. Pepi’s half season was brutal as he didn’t score and now has no momentum heading into his first preseason. Meanwhile, Green and Furth will look to bounce back up quicky next season.
Finally in the Bundesliga, Timothy Chandler was an unused substitute for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 2-2 draw with Mainz. Eintracht Frankfurt face Rangers in the Europa League final this Saturday.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Ryan Malone and Hansa Rostock concluded their season with a 3-2 loss to Hamburg SV. Malone went the distance. The Massachusetts native recently had his contract extended through net season with Hansa Rostock.
In the Austrian Bundesliga, Salzburg have long since wrapped up everything and are simply playing out the stretch. On Sunday, Brenden Aaronson played the final 21 minutes for the champs in a 1-0 away win over Rapid Vienna. Next weekend Salzburg will conclude the season against Austria Klagenfurt and it will likely be the New Jersey native’s last game for the club as he is expected to be sold this summer.
In France’s Ligue 1, Erik Palmer-Brown started for Troyes in a 3-1 loss at home to Lorient. Despite the result, Troyes has clinched survival in Ligue 1 and Palmer-Brown has been a regular starter since the start of the New Year. Nico Gioacchini played the final 37 minutes for Montpellier in a 4-0 loss at home to champions Paris Saint-Germain. Ligue 1 will wrap up next week with nothing on the line for any of the three American players – Weah, Gioacchini, or Palmer-Brown.
In the Premier League, Zak Steffen continued to be an unused sub as the backup goalkeeper for Manchester City. He watched his team play to a 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday.
In La Liga, Yunus Musah played the final uneventful 24 minutes for 11th place Valencia in a 1-1 draw with 13th place Espanyol. Valencia will conclude its La Liga season next Saturday with Celta Viga. Meanwhile, Matthew Hoppe did not get off the bench for Mallorca which had a dramatic 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano to move out of the relegation zone. Whether they stay up or go down, Hoppe has serious questions to ask about where he plays next season.
In the Segunda on Saturday, Jonathan Gomez was an unused substitute for Rayo Vallecano B in a 2-0 loss to Almeria. With two games remaining, Ray Vallecano’s reserve team is five points deep in the relegation zone. On Sunday, Shaq Moore played the final 33 minutes for Tenerife in a 2-0 loss at home to Malaga. Tenerife holds a safe grab on the fourth spot and looks set to participate in the promotional playoffs.
In the Eredivisie, Cole Basset played the final five minutes for Feyenoord in a 2-1 loss to Twente. Basset ends the season with seven substitute appearances for Feyenoord and one assist. The club finished in third place. Like many of the Americans who moved abroad in January, this preseason will be a pivotal time for him.
In Portugal’s top-flight, Reggie Cannon ended is season going 90 minutes for Boavista in a 2-2 draw with Tondela. Cannon could be on the move this summer and his season was an improvement from 2020/21 as he did not have to battle relegation seriously. It was a comfortable mid-table finish in 12th place and Cannon underwent a positional switch – playing right central defense in a 3-5-2. Also in Portugal, Alex Mendez sarted and went the distance for Vizela in a 4-1 loss to Moreirense. There was little Mendez could bring to this game after Vizela went down to 10 men inside of the first five minutes.
In Scotland, the already-crowned champions Celtic ended their season with a 6-0 thumping of Motherwell. Cameron Carter-Vickers went 90 in the win. Joe Efford also went the distance in the loss. In the relegation half, Aberdeen ended its season with a 0-0 draw against St. Mirren. American midfielder Dante Polvara went 61 minutes for Aberdeen as he builds his case to be a starter next season. Livingston defeated Dundee FC 2-1. Sebastian Soto made his second start for Livingston and lasted 61 minutes with Livingston down 1-0. Scott Pittman entered the game in the 67th and was on the field for Livingston’s late rally to win it. The loan concludes unsuccessfully for Sebastian Soto who did not register a goal or an assist since arriving.
In the relegation half of the Danish Superliga, OB hosted an already-relegated SonderjyskE team. Two Americans started in this as Emmanuel Sabbi got the nod for OB Odense and Jose Gallegos started for SonderjyskE. The game finished 1-1 and Sabbi scored for OB via a 63rd minute penalty. Sabbi was subbed out in the 87th while Gallegos was subbed out in the 69th.
In Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Joe Corona started and played 75 minutes for last-place GIF Sundsvall which dropped a 5-1 decision to Norrkoping. Forrest Lasso was an unused sub in the loss. Joe Gyau was not part of the Degerfors squad for its 2-1 win over Helsingborg but Jeff Gal went as an unused sub in the win.