Midweek fireworks for Americans abroad, 2021 youth World Cups cancelled
December 24, 2020
CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE and the end of 2020 is finally and thankfully near. Next week we will do a little recap of the past year and look into our crystal ball for 2021 but here is one final pre-Christmas column to look at the midweek for Americans abroad – which had some big moments.
Before we get to that, there was some big news on Thursday as FIFA announced that both the U-20 and U-17 World Cups in 2021 would be cancelled. This was a major setback for so many young American players – particularly at the U-20 level where they had also been earning first team minutes at the club level and could have used the added spotlight of the more important U-20 World Cup.
Such American players who stood the most to benefit were Tanner Tessmann, George Bello, Cole Bassett, Aiden Morris, Ian Hoffmann, Julian Araujo, Bryan Reynolds, Cam Harper, Matko Miljevic, Gianluca Busio, and Charlie Kelman.
But the silverlining is that all of these players will be eligible for the U-23 team in 2024 so no player will see the end of his U.S. Youth National Team eligibility ended by these moves.
Regarding the on-field games. The midweek games were led by four standout performances from Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Sergino Dest, and Jordan Siebatcheu – which was refreshing to see at this point from each of those players.
Here are my notes from the midweek games
Weah scores in Lille win
Most people will look at Tim Weah’s goal in this game to help Lille defeat Montpellier HSC 3-2 on Wednesday. But it was the fact that Weah started in this one that was most telling. This wasn’t a meaningless cup game, this was a start for a team at the top of the Ligue 1 table. Weah had been recovering from a hamstring injury for most of the first half of the season but this start signals that more responsibilities are around the corner.
Weah’s 23rd minute goal to open up the scoring was tremendous. Playing up top in a 4-4-2, Weah looked comfortable playing centrally in an attacking position – with a striker partner in Jonathan David to boost the attack. The 4-3-3 formation is preferred by the U.S. team these days and it is preferred throughout Europe, but the 4-4-2 is still used effectively by many teams and Weah was great with it.
This goal was indicative of that.
These are interesting times for Lille. It sits atop the Ligue 1 table but had to engage in an emergency sale of the club the past week due to terrible finances – and many teams in France are struggling at the moment. Lille might have to sell a lot of players and that could leave Weah with more minutes with a much weaker Lille team.
The most important thing in this one is that Weah showed he could start, move well, and finish.
- 76 minutes
- 33 touches
- 1 shot
- 19/26 passing (73%)
- 1 duel won (1 lost)
- 2 clearances
- 0 aerials won (1 lost)
He is still rusty but he’s going have plenty of chances to help league leading Lille in 2021. But this start allowed him to show what he could do and give him momentum heading into a big year.
Sargent lifts Werder Bremen
Josh Sargent has had a pretty rough year in 2020 playing for an offensively challenged Werder Bremen team that doesn’t play to his strengths. Last season it narrowly escaped relegation and this season the offense is again a problem.
Playing in the German Cup against second division Hannover (12th in the 18-team 2.Bundesliga), Werder had a chance to play against an opponent where it could come out of its shell without much pressure. The result was a much more offensively interesting display from Werder that we rarely see. Sargent in particular benefited as he scored the second goal of a 3-0 away win. Werder in total had 15 shots in this one and took Hannover out of the game in the first half with two goals.
Sargent’s movement on the goal was solid after he was set up by an excellent run from Niklas Moisander.
- 87 minutes
- 34 touches
- 3 shots (2 on target)
- 17/21 passing (81%)
- 0 dribbles
- 0x fouled
- 4 duels won (6 lost)
- 2 clearances
- 2 tackles (2 attempts)
- 2 aerials won (4 lost)
- 1 foul
In recent Bundesliga games, Sargent had been seeing the ball in the low 20’s or even the teens. In this game, he was able to bump that up to 34 (although he was over 22 by halftime before Werder took its foot of the gas pedal). Sargent was more involved – which was to be expected against an inferior opponent in a cup game. It would have been alarming if Werder had lost, but it did not.
Instead, things more or less remain the same for Werder Bremen. This doesn’t fix its offensive woes nor Sargent’s lack of service or inability to get on the ball enough. It does serve as a useful reminder that he can move and finish well in the right occasions. Now its about trying to create more “right occasions” against better teams in more meaningful league games.
Dest's big Barca outing
Sergino Dest earned a start on Tuesday for Barcelona against Real Valladolid. In sum, it was his best La Liga outing to date for Barcelona and he looked every bit the game changer on the attacking right side. He was a massive help to his club in a 3-0 win.
Not only did he assist on Martin Braithwaite 35th minute goal to make it 2-0, he had four key passes in the first half and was simply too much for Real Valladolid to contain.
His numbers were strong and while his dribbles didn’t have a high success rate, he committed no defensive mistakes and completed 97% of his passes.
- 90 minutes
- 60 touches
- 0 shots
- 1 assist
- 37/38 passing (97%)
- 5 key passes
- 6 crosses
- 1 dribble
Barcelona needs a lot of work right not to return to being the best two or three teams in Europe but Dest is a player who can help with that gradual rebuild.
Siebatcheu’s 2nd straight brace
Jordan Siebatcheu, 24, has had one of the best and most important weeks of his career. Once a standout in Ligue 2, his last two seasons in France were subpar and he was loaned to Switzerland’s BSC Young Boys to get his career back on track. The first part of the season saw Siebatcheu most get token cameo performances but lately he’s been starting – and doing remarkably well.
On Saturday, he scored two goals in a 2-2 draw with Lugano. His first was a header and his second was a penalty.
On Tuesday, he earned another start against St. Gallen and scored another two goals for back to back braces. This time, he was the difference in a 2-1 win.
Both goals were headers from crosses on the right side and this reflects Siebatchue’s skillset of being a potentially dominant aerial player. He doesn’t beat many defenders with a dribble and his first touch can let him down sometimes. But he is excellent in the air and extremely strong and fast. Three of his four goals have been in the air – the other was a penalty.
BSC Young Boys have realized how to use Siebatcheu effectively and it seems as if the Washington, DC-born forward will be part of the team’s quest to win another Swiss title as they currently sit atop the table. It will be interesting if they can turn his loan into a permanent transfer.
For the U.S. team, Siebatcheu would accept a call-up to the U.S. team but he is part of a growing number of forwards who have impressed recently. Among those that use their speed, strength, and aerial ability to score that list is also long with Daryl Dike, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Gyasi Zardes all in the mix as well.
McKennie & Juve fall to Fiorentina
On Tuesday, Weston McKennie concluded his fantastic 2020 while earning the start for Juventus in a 3-0 loss to Fiorentina. McKennie wasn’t great but was necessarily bad either as Juventus was reduced to 10 players after just the 18th minute after a Juan Cuadrado red card.
In the end, Fiorentina simply wore Juventus down.
Weston McKennie: raw # for Juve in 3-0 loss to Fiorentina— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) December 22, 2020
2 key passes
87.9% passing (29/33)
0 tackles & interceptions
1 aerial won
0 long balls
- not great, not bad considering Cuadrado's 18th min red
- Juve looked gassed
This loss shouldn’t be too much of a concern for Juventus or McKennie but it should accurately reflect that the team looks tired and badly in need of a break.
Zack Steffen earned a start for Manchester City in a 4-1 win over Arsenal in a League Cup game. The U.S. goalkeeper rarely plays these days but it is good for him to notch a win in a cup game to ensure another start.
Nicholas Gioacchini is another young player who could probably use a deserved break as he started for SM Caen and was on the wrong end of a 4-1 decision to Sochaux on Tuesday. Caen’s promotional hopes have all but evaporated the past month.
In the German Cup, Tyler Adams played the final 13 minutes for RB Leipzig in a 3-0 win over Augsburg. Julian Green played 76 minutes for Greuther Furth as it upset Bundesliga side Hoffenheim on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Isiah Young and Rot Weiss Essen of the Regionalliga defeated Alfred Morales and Fortuna Dussledorf 3-2 to advance in a major upset. Gio Reyna started and played 82 minutes for Borussia Dortmund in a 2-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig.
Jan George entered Jahn Regensburg’s game with Wehen in the 85th minute and played through extra time of a 0-0 draw. He converted his penalty as Jahn Regensburg advanced in the German Cup.
American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo and VfB Stuttgart are through to the next round after a 1-0 win over Freiburg.
Wolfsburg crushed Sandhausen 4-0 and did it without an injured John Brooks.
It was a positive sign that Yunus Musah was able to play Tuesday in Valencia’s 1-0 loss to Seville on Tuesday. The New York-born Musah played the final 21 minutes but did not have much of an impact making only eight touches in the loss. Musah will need to raise his game as his performances for Valencia since the November international break have been slightly down from the start of the season.
In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre came on in the 87th minute for Heracles in a 1-0 win over Groningen for its second straight win. Meanwhile, Uly Llanez came into the game in the 76th minute for Heerenveen in a 3-0 loss to Feyenoord. Llanez will be hoping for a massive improvement in 2021 as he has struggled to make an impact in 2020 on loan in the Eredivisie.