Americans abroad analysis

McKennie, Reyna, Pulisic score in epic weekend for Americans abroad

It was a weekend that won't soon be forgotten as American players scored for clubs such as Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, and Independiente. Even when players didn't score, they still featured for clubs like Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, and Barcelona. To put that all into perspetive, veteran journalist Brian Sciaretta walks you through it. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 06, 2020
4:05 PM

THE WEEKEND ONE of a kind and a lot of fun for American fans as many of the country’s top players delivered impressive performances. Even among those that didn’t deliver game-changing performances, there were several players that simply had the opportunity to play in huge games that before this year were uncommon for Americans.

This weekend had everyone talking about American players and for good reason. Here were my thoughts on it all.


McKennie’s lifts Juventus in derby


Weston McKennie did not earn the start on Saturday for Juventus in the Derby della Mole against archrival Torino and that was somewhat surprising as the Texan enjoyed a strong outing midweek in a 3-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League.

Against Torino, Juventus was flat and fell behind 1-0. It the first half, the Serie A champs were lucky to not fall behind 2-0 on numerous occasions. McKennie entered the game in the 71st with Juventus still behind and immediately transformed the game – scoring the equalizer in the 78th minute when he headed home a Juan Cuadrado cross.

Juventus would eventually find the winner in the 89th when another cross from Cuadrado connected with Leonardo Bonucci for another goal from a header.

McKennie has had some very good games for Juventus already but this was the first time he was a game changer for the legendary club. He only had limited minutes but still completed all of his passes (6/6), played strong defense, and of course had the goal in a high-profile game against a rival.

This performance capped the best week McKennie has had since joining Juventus: being a big contributor in the Champions League, being the difference maker in a derby game, all while with the most legendary club in Italy – not bad.


Reyna scores wonder goal 

It’s a testing time for Borussia Dortmund at the moment as it tries to remain within striking distance of the top of the Bundesliga table while it goes through a period without one of the top forwards in the world in Erling Haaland. For Dortmund to get through this patch, it is going to need people to step up.

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund visited Eintracht Frankfurt in a difficult matchup following a 1-1 draw with Lazio midweek in the Champions League. In the game American attacking midfielder Gio Reyna, 18, earned the start.

With Dortmund trailing 1-0 in the 56th minute, Reyna made a bit of magic with his second Bundesliga goal of the season to go along with five assists. It was a fantastic strike that helped Dortmund salvage a result.


In the end, Dortmund could not find a winner but the draw combined with Bayern’s draw with Leipzig, kept it in third place.

Reyna’s numbers showed that he was very active in all this.

  • 90 minutes
  • 67 touches
  • 4 shots
  • 1 goal
  • 1 key pass
  • 82.9% passing (29/35)
  • 1 dribble
  • 5x fouled
  • 2 tackles
  • 1 blocked shot
  • 1 cross

In addition to his goal, he drew the most fouls in the game among all players – five times.  He managed four shots and was one of the most dangerous players in the game. Dortmund will need to play better in upcoming games but Reyna will be an important part of the equation.


Pulisic seals Chelsea win


Christian Pulisic, 22, was not expected to play as much has he did on Saturday for Chelsea against Leeds United but he came into the game for an injured Hakim Ziyech in the 30th minute. Chelsea is trying to limit Pulisic’s minutes after his recent bouts with hamstring injuries and Pulisic started midweek in a 4-0 win over Seville in the Champions League.

But Pulisic was given a full hour plus stoppage time in this one and played very well. Like against Seville, he was extremely aggressive, but in this one he was more effective. Here are his numbers and pass charts.

  • 60 minutes
  • 44 touches
  • 4 shots
  • 1 goal
  • 79.2% passing
  • 11/12 passing in the final third
  • 5 dribbles
  • 2x fouled

But Pulisic showed his typical high-level capability when he scored the final goal of a 3-1 win.


But with the win Chelsea remain near the top of the Premier League heading into the next slate of games. Pulisic will probably have his minutes limited during the busy slate of games in December but Chelsea has big games in 2021 where it will be competing for silverware. It’s important to have Chelsea healthy for that.


Adams & Richards feature in huge game


One of the biggest games in Europe this weekend took place in Munich when Bayern Munich hosted RB Leipzig in a matchup between the top two teams in the Bundesliga. If there was ever going to be any hope of someone dethroning Bayern, Leipzig needed to get a result

In a game of this magnitude, it was remarkable to see two American players involved as Tyler Adams got the start for Leipzig in midfield and Chris Richards was on the bench for Bayern Munich.

This game turned into a wild one, quickly. By the half, the score was already 2-2. Emil Forsberg gave Leipzig a 3-2 lead in the 48th minute but Thomas Muller equalized in the 75th minute.

This was a challenge for Adams in central midfield going against perhaps the best team in the world right now. His numbers don’t particularly stand out but he was better that the numbers suggest.

  • 90 minutes
  • 57 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 0 aerials won
  • 68.3% passing (28/41)
  • 3 dribbles
  • 1x fouled
  • 0 tackles
  • 2 interceptions
  • 3 clearances
  • 1 blocked shot
  • 2 fouls
  • 0 crosses
  • 0/2 long balls

Adams was covered a lot of ground in this one and was solid defensively until he was partly at fault for the Mueller equalizer. But overall, for Adams to get a start in this game signals that Julian Nagelsmann trusts him more that in recent months.

Another important sign came in the 84th minute when Chris Richards was subbed into the game to play and the fact that he made an appearance in this one was telling. This wasn’t a game where Bayern had a huge lead nor was this a Champions League game where Bayern had already clinched advancement. This was an even game against the second-place team in Germany where if Bayern lost, they would be overtaken. On top of that, this was an out of control game that was tough to defend.

So this was a big sign of trust in Richards, even if it was a brief outing. Even more importantly, Richards played well in his minutes. He looked far more confident than he did when he made his debut in the season opener vs. Schalke. He’s growing a lot.

With the draw, Bayern remains in the Bundesliga lead – two points ahead of Leipzig.


Novakovich’s brace lifts Frosinone


In Serie B, Wisconsin forward Andrija Novakovich was the MOTM for Frosinone in a huge 3-2 comeback win over Chievo. In this game, Chievo had a 2-0 lead but Frosinone rallied with Novakovich scoring the equalizing goal in the 53rd and the winning goal in the 79th goal.

Novakovich, 24, now has four goals and two assists this season in 10 games across 568 minutes. That is a very good ratio. His first goal came from a rebound off a corner kick and his second goal was a nice, but slow, turn in the box.

With the win, Frosinone moved into fourth place of the Serie B as it looks to promotion, after narrowly missing out in the playoffs last season. Novakovich is already putting up better numbers than last season and will need to continue that in order for Frosinone to have a chance to make it back to Serie A.


Gioacchini helps Caen earn draw


In Ligue 2, it was a tough assignment for SM Caen on Saturday when it hosted second place Grenoble. The U.S. national team forward Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, got the start at right wing in this one for SM Caen.

Over 90 minutes, Gioacchini played well and handled the physical side of the game very well. He drew fouls, won a huge percentage of his duels and aerials.

  • 90 mins
  • 47 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 23/31 passes
  • 1 penalty drawn
  • 0 key passes
  • 2 dribbles (2 attempts)
  • 3x fouled
  • 2 clearances
  • 0 tackles & interceptions
  • 3 aerials won (1 lost)
  • 9 duels won (4 lost)
  • 2 crosses
  • 3/3 long balls


His best moment came in the 75th when he drew a foul in the box that set up Caen’s equalizer. If U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter was watching this game, he probably continues to be intrigued with what Gioacchini brings to the table. In physical and tight games, Gioachhini seems to thrive.

Caen fell to seventh with the draw but is still well within striking distance of the top four places.


Dest starts in Barcelona loss


While its Champions League campaign continues to go well, Barcelona has been very uneven in La Liga and that continued on Saturday in a disappointing 2-1 away loss to Cadiz.

Dest, 20, was steady in this one although couldn’t help overturn a poor result. He continues to earn positive reviews as part of the club’s future as it looks to move beyond its legendary core in the years ahead.

  • 76 minutes
  • 66 touches
  • 1 shot
  • 85% passing (34/40)
  • 1 key pass
  • 1 aerial won
  • 3 dribbles
  • 2 tackles
  • 1 interception
  • 1 cross
  • 0/1 long balls

Meanwhile, Barcelona announced that Ousmane Dembélé is injured and this could open the door for U.S. national team winger Konrad de la Fuente who is playing for Barcelona B on the weekend and with the first team during the week.

With the loss, Barcelona has fallen into seventh place in La Liga and is 12 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. 


Wright’s 7th lifts Sonderjyske


After a tough game last weekend in his return from a month-long injury, Haji Wright was in top form again when his Sondrjyske team hosted Nordsjaelland on Sunday.

With Sonderjyske up 1-0 to start the second half, Wright scored his seventh goal of the Superliga season put his club up 2-0. In the end, Sonderjyske held on for a 2-1 win to move into third place of the league.

Wright, 22, put up good numbers in this one. While he struggles to beat defenders on the ball, he still manages to get a lot of shots in dangerous positions. On his goal, Sonderjyske saw its corner cleared but were able to head it back into the box. A team was able to play Wright into a dangerous position close to the goal with another header and Wright finished from a close angle.


Here were his numbers:

  • 79 minutes
  • 26 touches
  • 1 goal
  • 10/13 passes
  • 5 shots (4 on target)
  • 3 duels won (6 lost)
  • 3 aerials won (3 lost)
  • 0 dribbles (2 attempts)
  • 0 x fouled
  • 1 foul


Internationally, Wright might sneak into contention for a January camp depending on Sonderjyske’s schedule during the Superliga winter break. He is also part of a growing contingent of U-23 eligible forwards that could emerge in the Olympic pool. But with 2021 a busy year for U.S. Soccer at many different age levels, Wright is really helping his case.


Matarazzo & VfB top Sargent & Werder


Two very interesting American-themed storylines were involved when Werder Bremen hosted Stuttgart on Sunday. For Werder, Josh Sargent returned to the starting lineup after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury. For Stuttgart, American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo is continuing to earn positive reviews for how he has guided the club in 2020 – both in earning promotion and now with a solid push into the top 10 as the winter break approaches.

Sargent started off this game strong when he used his body and strength to create a bunch of opportunities. But Stuttgart adjusted and soon took control of the game. Werder faded throughout the first half after falling behind 1-0.

After falling behind 2-0, Werder scored in the final minute of stoppage time and lost 2-1. It was the team’s second straight loss and it has now skidded down to 12th place.

Sargent won a lot of duels but faded after a strong first 10 minutes. Werder is still improved from last season but plays a grinding style that doesn’t create a lot of chances. Here are Sargent’s numbers.

  • 59 minutes
  • 27 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 8/14 passing (57.1%)
  • 0 key passes
  • 57.1% passing
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 dribble
  • 3x fouled
  • 1 tackle
  • 1 clearance
  • 6 duels won (2 last)

For Stuttgart, Matarazzo’s team is fun to watch. The team plays a very attack-oriented style and the New Jersey manager has done a great job in 2020. He has helped to guide the club to promotion and now is pushing well into the top half of the Bundesliga in his first season in the top flight.


“On the whole it was a mature performance from us,” Matarazzo said. “The team spirit was good, the players fought until the end and held their own. That’s why I felt we deserved the win.”


Robinson plays well in loss


No one was surprised that Manchester City cruised to a 2-0 home victory over Fulham on Saturday. Antonee Robinson went the distance for Fulham, however, and was actually quite well. In fact, he was probably Fulham’s best player on the day.

  • 90 mins
  • 60 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 76.5% passing (26/34)
  • 5 aerials won (highest in the game)
  • 3 dribbles
  • 3 tackles
  • 4 interceptions
  • 4 clearances
  • 1 cross
  • 11 duels won (4 lost)


Robinson had to defend a lot and his five aerials won led the game. In addition, winning 11 duels and only losing four is very impressive against a team like Manchester City. All of his defensive numbers were outstanding and without him, Fulham likely would have conceded more.

Despite just seven points from 11 games, Fulham is not in the relegation zone. If Robinson can continue to play well, he will give the London-based club a chance at survival in 2021.


Brooks and Wolfsburg draw


Wolfsburg has had a great start to the season and U.S. national team defender John Brooks has played very well to be an integral part of it. But both Brooks and Wolfsburg are surely disappointed with Saturday’s 2-2 draw vs. FC Koln. While Wolfsburg remains one of just two undefeated teams in the Bundesliga, the club will surely feel this should have been a win.

Brooks hit his long balls with precision, as is normal. But defensively he was fairly passive and Wolfsburg, as a whole, allowed too much space defensively.

Here were Brooks numbers – that reflect strong passing.

  • 90 minutes
  • 99 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 1 aerial won
  • 94.3% passing (83/88)
  • 0 tackles
  • 1 interception
  • 1 clearance
  • 6/7 accurate long balls


Wild ending for Llanez vs. Ledezma


In the Eredivisie, Heerenveen hosted PSV on Sunday and, coincidentally, the game really picked up once the two American players came into the game. The score was 1-1 when Uly Llanez came into the game for Heerenveen in the 72nd and Richard Ledezma came into game for PSV in the 78th. Within minutes after Ledezma’s arrival, Heerenveen took a 2-1 lead.

In the second minute of stoppage time, there was a wild sequence that will be very popular among American fans. Uly Llanez made a great play to nearly assist for a 3-1 lead, only to have a teammate who couldn’t finish. PSV quickly went the other way and Ledezma made the final pass (which was slightly deflected) that fell to his teammate Joel Piroe for an equalizer.

In the final minute of stoppage time, it appeared as if Heerenveen earned a penalty from a handball but VAR said the play was offside.

It was particularly fun because both Llanez and Ledezma were give meaningful offensive minutes off the bench at a point when either team could have won it. Neither were playing unimportant minutes with little on the line. For Llanez, this was his biggest opportunity so far, and he handed it well. 


Cannon strong defensively for Boavista


Reggie Cannon continues to play solid defense for Boavista at the right back position. That is good news for the club because it is struggling immensely to score goals and create opportunities. On Sunday, Boavista played Rio Ave to a scoreless draw (its second straight game with a 0-0 scoreline) and it has played 227 league minutes since its last goal.

Cannon, 22, didn’t have the typical numbers you need from an offensive minded right back. He didn’t have many dribbles and didn’t send in a cross. His defensive numbers, however, were outstanding. He won a great percentage of his duels, had five tackles, and four clearances. His lack of offense is primarily due to his team lacking enough offensive talent in the league. As we saw with the U.S. team against Panama, when he has teammates making runs in the box, he’ll contribute.

Cannon is starting to pick-up traction for his quality in Portugal. He’s made an effective transition to Europe and should continue to do well – especially if he makes a move quickly to a more offensive team.

Here were his numbers in the 0-0 draw with Rio Ave.

  • 90 mins
  • 56 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 82.8% passing (24/29)
  • 0 crosses
  • 1/1 long balls
  • 0 aerials won
  • 1 dribble
  • 5 tackles
  • 2 interceptions
  • 4 clearances
  • 6 duels won (2 lost)


Sonora scores for Independiente

In recent months, Alan Sonora, 22, has settled into a nice starting spot with Independiente – one of Argentina’s biggest clubs. The U.S. U-23 eligible attacking midfielder was born in New Jersey but has never represented the United States before at any level (unlike his older brother Joel, who was a veteran of the 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup team).

Sonora is quietly making a case and on Sunday night, scored his first goal for Independiente when he scored Independiente’s only goal of a 1-0 win over Defensa y Justicia in the Copa Diego Maradona (an abbreviated tournament due to the COVID-19 shortened season).

Sonora played 88 minutes in this one and was strong throughout playing on the left side of the midfield. The left-footed midfielder and his Independiente squad have advanced in the Copa btu will next play on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana.


Elsewhere around the globe

In France's Ligue 1, Tim Weah played the final 21 minutes plus stoppage time for Lille in a 2-1 win over Monaco. 

In the Bundesliga, U.S. U-20 forward Matthew Hoppe was a 65th minute sub for Schalke in a 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. It’s a tough stage for Hoppe as Schalke are a dismal team at the moment and one of the worst Bundesliga teams in many years. Second after entering, Hoppe poorly defended his man on a corner kick which led Leverkusen’s second goal. But it was a tough stage for him to stand out and Schalke remain winless on the season.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Greuther Furth were upset 1-0 at the hands of Heidenheim. Julian Green was still very good for Furth where he played 77 minutes and let the game in shots and shots on target.


Elsewhere in the 2.Bundesliga, St. Pauli lost its fourth game in a row on Saturday when they were on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Braunschweig. St. Pauli are deep in the relegation hole as result. In this game, German-American winger Kevin Lankford, 22, went 90 minutes while U.S. U-20 midfielder Leon Flach was an unused sub.

Meanwhile, Jan George played the final four minutes for Jahn Regensburg in a 2-0 win over Erzgebirge Aue. Bobby Wood played the final five minutes for Hamburg as it lost its third game in a row, this time a 1-0 decision to Hannover.

In the 3.Liga, Terrence Boyd scored his ninth goal of the season for Hallescher in a 4-2 loss to Verl. Boyd is currently second in the league in scoring.

In the Scottish Premiership, three Americans started as Livingston defeated Dundee United 2-0. Dillon Powers and Ian Harkes started for Dundee while Scott Pittman started for Livingston. In fact, Pittman scored the first goal of the game for Livingston in the 56th minute on a very nice run. Pittman was born in Scottland and is the son of former U.S. international Steve Pittman. 

In Austria, Erik Palmer-Brown had a day to forget as he went the distance for Austria Vienna in a 4-0 loss at home to Sturm Graz. Three of the four goals conceded happened after Austria Vienna was reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute.

In a surprising development, Salzburg has been focused on the Champions League and is American manager Jesse Marsch elected to rotate his squad heavily on Saturday against Admira. It led to an upset as Admira posted a 1-0 win over Salzburg and with LASK winning on Sunday, LASK is now in first place in the Austrian Bundesliga.

In Switzerland, Jordan Siebatcheu played the final 17 minutes for league leaders Young Boys in a 3-2 win over Luzern. All the scoring had been completed by the time the forward from Washington, DC entered the game.

In the Championship, Huddersfield posted a 2-0 win on Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Team captain Geoff Cameron started and played 56 minutes in the loss while U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman played the final eight minutes plus stoppage time. Derby County posted a 1-0 win over Millwall to move out of last place. Duane Holmes started and played 64 minutes in the win but was not on the field for the 69th minute winner. Finally, Matthew Olosunde played the entire second half for Rotherham United in a 3-1 loss to Coventry.

In the final games of the season in the Swedish Allsvenskan, Mix Diskerud went the distance for Helsingborg in a 4-3 win over Norrkoping. Unfortunately for Diskerud, Helsingborg were relegated prior to kickoff. Romain Gall assisted on Orebro’s winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Hammarby to finish in seventh place. Prior to the game, it was revealed that Aron Johannsson had parted ways with Hammarby. MLS clubs are rumored to be interested.

In Norway, right back Henry Wingo did not play for Molde in a 2-1 win over Aalesund. The Seattle native is prioritizing the Europa League at this point.

In Denmark, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 67 minutes for OB in a 2-1 over Aalborg BK. OB was actually losing 1-0 when Sabbi left the field before rallying for the win. Horsens backup goalkeeper Michael Lansing never got off the bench in a 2-0 loss to Copenhagen.

In Belgium, Chris Durkin played the final 20 minutes for St. Truiden in a 1-0 loss to Club Brugge – where Ethan Horvath never got off the bench. Meanwhile, Joe Efford was not in the matchday roster for Waasland Beveren in a 2-0 win over Excel Mouscron.

In Poland’s top flight, Kenny Saief played 70 minutes for Lechia Gdansk in a 2-0 loss to Legia Warsaw.

In Argentina, Joel Sonora played the final 10 minutes for Talleres de Cordoba in a 0-0 draw with Boca Juniors in the Copa Diego Maradona.

In Brazil, U.S. international Johnny Cardoso missed Internacional’s 2-2 draw with Atletico MG on Sunday due to an ankle injury.

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