Americans abroad analysis
McKennie continues strong run, Pepi starts, EPB impresses and much more
January 17, 2022
THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad saw a couple of top midfielders put in very good shifts – including Weston McKennie, who is having the best season of any American in Europe by a large margin. Aside from that, it was also the typical run of ups and downs that every weekend presents.
Injuries continue to be a concern for fans ahead of the January international window. Gio Reyna was still not back for Borussia Dortmund despite some hints he could make the bench next weekend (although it is not the first report we’ve had out of Germany that has said Reyna is close). Tim Weah is also out for Lille and at this point, his involvement for the national team in January seems doubtful.
But those two were not the only national team players who didn’t feature this weekend. Konrad del Fuente, who hasn’t been with the national team since September, was out of the 18 for Marseille against Lille. Mark McKenzie was not in the lineup for Genk in a win over Beerschot.
But among those that played significant minutes this weekend, there were mixed results.
McKennie scores again
Weston McKennie went the distance for Juventus in a 2-0 win over Udinese on Saturday. His 79th minute goal gave Juve a 2-0 lead and it was his second straight game with a goal (in the midweek, he scored in a 2-1 extratime loss to Inter Milan in the Super Cup). Both goals were headers.
McKennie has been outstanding and Juventus is making a push to crack back into the top four of Serie A. The Texan has been among the team’s best players typically playing as a No. 8 where he can get forward into the attack and serve as a strong defensive presence in the middle of the field.
His touch-map in this game showed the extent of freedom he had, and the ground he covered. He was literally all over the place and had a big impact on both sides of the ball.
Adams & Leipzig down Stuttgart
Tyler Adams started for Leipzig on Saturday in a visit to face relegation battling VfB Stuttgart, who are managed by American Pellegrino Matarazzo.
Adams went the distance for Leipzig in a solid 2-0 away win and his position shifted during the match. He shared the defensive midfield position with Kevin Kampl which is a bit different in that typically he has played as a sole defensive midfielder. But with Kampl, Adams played both the right and left side.
Naturally, his touch count was a bit lower since he had a partner and 56 touches over 90 minutes is low for him. But defensively, Adams had a very good game and did his part to frustrate Stuttgart from advancing the ball up the middle of the field.
Since Marsch was fired, Adams has slowly found his way back into the regular starting lineup for Leipzig and the club is back within striking distance of the top four (three points out). It’s been an up and down season for Adams, but it’s clearly on the up now.
Pepi vs. Chandler in Augsburg
On Sunday, Ricardo Pepi made his first start for Augsburg in a 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt, who started former U.S. national team right back Timothy Chandler.
Pepi’s first start was exciting for American fans but the FC Dallas product struggled in the opening 10-15 minutes where his touch let him down and he wasn’t involved much. He gradually got involved more and had two shots – which he could have done better. His runs and involvement were generally better in the second half but it was nothing earth shattering.
Augsburg were very lucky on the day that Arminia Bielefeld only drew its game against last-place Greuther Furth. That allowed Augsburg to not finish the day in the relegation zone. The rest of the season will be close, and it is only safe by a single point. Pepi is in a cutthroat situation where a successful outing will not be measured by “runs” and “movement” but by simple things like goals and assists. He will be given a leash because he just arrived and the club spent a fortune on him, but he will also need to produce right away.
On the flip side, Timmy Chandler played very well over 80 minutes for Eintracht and has been player much better over his last few outings.
Brooks starts in 0-0 draw
John Brooks, 28, is one of the toughest American players to figure out. At his best, he’s one of the best central defenders in the Bundesliga. But he also struggles with consistency and right now, he’s been in a rough spell the past three months, the team is taking having lost eight in a row (including six Bundesliga games), he’s in the final year of his contract, and his grip on a national team spot hasn’t been as strong as he would have thought. So, Brooks has a lot on his mind now and he needs good performances.
On Saturday, Brooks got the start for Wolfsburg against his former hometown club in Hertha BSC. For the most part, it was a good performance and he was credited with winning an outstanding 11/12 duels, only 1/5 of his tackles were successful, and he was 5/13 in long balls.
Wolfsburg is still struggling but this was a pretty good game for Brooks defensively.
Richards starts in Hoffenheim loss
Hoffenheim have been one of the more surprising teams in Germany this season and they came into Saturday’s game against Union Berlin in third place. Chris Richards has had a good season and got this start in this game. Union Berlin, however, came away with a 2-1 victory and Hoffenheim fell to fourth and Union moved into fifth place.
Richards was one of Hoffenheim’s better players and he lined up on the left side of a three central defender formation. He won 9/15 of his duels and had five clearances. His passing was generally pretty good, and he was not at fault for either of Union’s goals.
Richards is playing well heading into the January window and he should feature in the coming games for the United States. Despite the loss, it’s been a very good season for Hoffenheim and Richards has taken a nice step forwards.
Palmer-Brown strong in loss
Erik Palmer-Brown, 24, has had a tough start to the season for Troyes for a variety of reasons and he has seldomly played.
On Sunday, Palmer-Brown earned the start for Troyes against Lyon and had a very good performance but was harshly called for a penalty which conceded the only goal of a 1-0 Lyon win. His numbers reflected a very good game and he had eight clearances, won 7/10 duels, had five tackles, and four interceptions.
Troyes was pinned back against a better Lyon team and Palmer-Brown had to do a lot of defending. The penalty occurred in the first half when a ball popped up and hit his arm. The ref checked VAR but it was determined that a penalty was to be awarded. Upon replay, it seemed like a very tough decision.
It is going to be a tight finish for Troyes which is only out of the relegation zone on goal differential. For Palmer-Brown, he had a very good game despite the penalty and he helped his case for more minutes down the critical stretch of a relegation battled.
Dike makes WBA debut
Daryl Dike, 21, came off the bench in the 59th minute on Saturday for West Bromwich Albion in a 1-0 loss on the road to Queens Park Rangers in London. Dike worked hard, had a good chance, but finished with just 18 touches in 31 minutes. In what was reminiscent of his time on loan at Barnsley, he completed just 3/8 of his passes but most attempts were deep in the attacking third.
Dike should be expected to do well again and the goals will eventually come. His positive attitude and physical strength help him tremendously. WBA is likely going to get into the playoffs this season in the Championship, it will be interesting to see how or if Dike has improved from his successful Barnsley loan last season.
On another note, he needs goals to get back into the national team picture and call-ups were hard for Dike to earn when he was at Orlando. It will be up to him to make himself too difficult to not take.
Pulisic starts in Chelsea loss
On Saturday, Christian Pulisic started and played 69 minutes for Chelsea in a 1-0 away loss to Manchester City (where Zack Steffen went as an unused substitute).
Pulisic has been moved around between several positions by Thomas Tuchel and Pulisic has generally failed to stand out since his return from injury in November. In this game, he played on the right wing and, like just about every Chelsea player in this game, was too passive. Offensively, he wasn’t part of anything dangerous and had only about four touches in the attacking third.
Vines steady in Antwerp win
Sam Vines got the start at left back for Royal Antwerp on Sunday in a 3-0 win over Sporting Charleroi on Saturday. Vines didn’t really stand out going forward but also didn’t make any noticeable errors defensively. In other words, it was a steady outing.
It is a bit interesting given that during his time with Colorado, Vines was generally an offensive threat getting forward but was sometimes defensively suspect. At Antwerp, Vines is putting a lot of focus into his defensive side of the game but hasn’t been the offensive force, yet.
As he gets more comfortable with the soccer in Belgium, he might come out of his shell and play to his historical strengths more. But for now, he’s a steady presence at left back for an Antwerp team that sits third in Belgium’s Pro League.
Sam Vines: raw # for Royal Antwerp in 3-0 win vs. Sporting Charleroi— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 16, 2022
0 key passes
2/2 long balls
2/2 duels won
2/2 aerials won
- solidly steady outing from #USMNT LB
- Royal Antwerp 3rd in Belgium
Sargent forces own goal in win
Josh Sargent started for Norwich in a surprising 2-1 upset over Everton on Saturday. Sargent played 87 minutes at right wing and was generally quiet. In the 16th minute, however, his cross resulted in an own goal which opened the score for Norwich.
This play was completely lucky for Sargent and his low cross wasn’t dangerous – Everton’s Michael Keane should have easily cleared it away. Aside from this moment, Sargent was generally pretty quiet and he does look out of position on the right wing.
Josh Sargent’s cross that leads to an own goal to put Norwich up 1-0 on Everton pic.twitter.com/KyJBFGMUhj— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 15, 2022
The best scenario is that this win and this play gives Sargent more momentum and confidence. A lot of his problems this season have been due to confidence and sometimes it takes a bit of luck to turn it around. Perhaps this is that moment.
Cannon starts in Boavista draw
Reggie Cannon started for Boavista on Saturday in a 1-1 draw with Gil Vicente. The big takeaway is that Cannon played well, and he is thriving in a new position – right center back in a 3-4-3 formation. In this role, Cannon isn’t pressed to get into the attack but rather focuses entirely on the defensive side of the game. He’s not really a central defender but in a three-man backline it works as he is not a truly technical attacking fullback.
In this game he won 4/6 duels, had three clearances, four interceptions, and was 4/4 in tackles in a solid performance against a good Gil Vicente team.
This probably makes it harder for him on the national team since the U.S. team doesn’t not often play with three central defenders and the team’s player pool is fairly strong in central defense and at right back. Regardless of the national team, this could be a good move for Cannon at the club level because it plays to his strengths and gives him an ability to fill needs for clubs that want to play three in the back.
On Saturday Fulham defeated Bristol City 6-2. This was coming off a 7-0 win over Reading midweek. So in its past two games, Fulham has scored 13 goals and now sits in first place in the Championship with a game in hand.
Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson continue to start and do well, but their jobs are a lot easier these days with the team’s offense scoring at will. Aleksandar Mitrovic has five of those 13 goals last week and he now has 27 goals in 24 games this season.
Tessmann/Busio feature in Venezia draw
Venezia hosted Empoli on Sunday with American midfielder Tanner Tessmann getting the start for Venezia and Gianluca Busio was on the bench. Portuguese attacker Nani left Orlando City in the winter and joined Venezia last week. He was on the bench.
Venezia started in the conservative 4-3-2-1 “Christmas Tree” formation, and it backfired. The team was disjointed and lacked a flow. Tessmann struggled to find the ball and was part of a double substitution in the 35th minute with Venezia down 1-0.
Nani helped Venezia equalize with a brilliant play for an assist in the 73rd minute. Busio came on for the final 10 minutes but didn’t make much of an impact.
This wasn’t a good game from an American perspective. Tessmann wasn’t put into a good position to succeed and Busio has to work his way back into the starting lineup. There isn’t much of a chance to learn, however, as Venezia is just two points clear of safety their survival will be close.
Elsewhere in Europe
In Italy’s Serie B, Andrija Novakovich came off the bench and scored the final goal for Frosinone in a 3-0 win over Pisa. The win lifted Frosinone into the promotional playoff position at seventh place. It was Novakovich’s second goal of the season.
In the Copa del Rey, United States national team midfielder Yunus Musah started for Valencia in a 1-0 win over third-tier Atlético Baleares. Musah hasn’t been having much of an impact in La Liga this year, but he has done well in the Copa del Rey against lower-tier opponents. Meanwhile, Matthew Hoppe was an 83rd minute sub for Mallorca in a 2-1 win over Espanyol. His time on the field was uneventful and all the goals were scored prior to him entering the game.
In the Bundesliga, Joe Scally was a 61st minute sub for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 2-1 loss at home to Bayer Leverksuen. The New Yorker played well and was part of two dangerous chances for M’Gladbach, which fell to 12th place. In the 2.Bundesliga, Ryan Malone was an unused sub for Hansa Rostock in a 1-0 home loss to Hannover.
In Ligue 1, Nicholas Gioacchini played the final 12 minutes for Montpellier in a tough 3-1 loss to Strasbourg. Montpellier was reduced to 10 players in the 66th minute and was trying to hold onto a 1-0 lead. Strasbourg equalized one minute before Gioacchini came into the game and then conceded goals in the 84th and 86th minutes in the loss. Gioacchini might get more playing time in the next game as Elye Wahi is suspended and plays a similar role to the American.
In the Championship, Duane Holmes missed Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw with Swansea due to COVID within his household. Ethan Horvath was an unused sub for Nottingham Forest in a 1-0 win over Millwall (Alex Mighten is still out injured for Nottingham Forest). Potential U.S. eligible Folarin Balogun played the final 20 minutes for Middlesbrough in a 2-1 win over struggling Reading.
In England’s League One, Lynden Gooch started and played 90 minutes for Sunderland in a 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley. Marlon Fossey went 90 minutes for Bolton in a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town. Charlie Kelman also went 90 minutes for relegation battling Gillingham in a 3-1 loss to Burton Albion.
In Portugal, Alex Mendez started for Vizela and went 90 minutes in a 2-0 home loss to Sporting CP. Mendez had some bright spots, but Vizela was outmatched in nearly every position by the reigning champions.
In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre started and played 90 minutes in his typical No. 8 position for 12th-place Heracles in a 0-0 draw with NEC Nijmegen.
In Turkey, Tyler Boyd started for Rizespor and played 66 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Fatih Karagumruk. Rizespor is currently three points deep in the relegation hole. Haji Wright started and played 64 minutes for Antalyaspor in a 1-1 draw with Fenerbahce. It was 0-0 when Wright left and Antalyaspor is just two points clear of the relegation zone. DeAndre Yedlin, meanwhile, did not get off the bench for Galatasaray in an ugly 4-2 loss to Hatayaspor. Galatasaray falls to 13th place in a disappointing season.
In the Scottish Premiership, Celtic defeated Hibernian 2-0 on Monday. Cameron Carter-Vickers started for Celtic and played well over 90 minutes - with 5 interceptions, and 3/3 with his duels won. Chris Mueller's debut will have to wait as he was an unused substitute for Hibs.
In the Greek Super League, Caleb Stanko started and played 90 minutes for PAS Giannina in a 1-1 draw with Atromitos.
In the Israeli Premier League: Kenny Saief started and played 90 mintues for Ashdod in a 2-1 loss to Hapoel Hadera.