Americans abroad analysis
Novakovich, Ream, and Miazga's return highlight otherwise brutal weekend for Americans abroad
March 01, 2020
OVERALL, it was brutal weekend for Americans abroad on the field. Between injuries, benchings, and poor performances, there was little positive going on. In fact, only Andrija Novakovich, Tim Ream, and Matt Miazga had clear positive performances – while maybe a few others were passable.
We can get to the problems of the weekend later, but for now, let’s start with the good.
Red Hot Novakovich delivers winner
Andrija Novakovic, 23, is playing his best soccer of the season since joining Frosinone in Serie B. On Friday, the Wisconsin native scored the winner in the 72nd minute in a 1-0 victory over Salernitana. It was his second goal in two games and its has come at a big time for his club.
Andrija Novakovich’s big winning goal for Frosinone today to move into 2nd place of Serie B. Nice header from the Wisconsin native pic.twitter.com/QnckAJH6Yb— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 29, 2020
With the win over sixth-place Salernitana, Frosinone moved into second place of Serie B and are in one of the automatic promotional places. Novakovich has three goals and five assists 1259 minutes this season but has been surging in recent weeks.
Ream shines for Fulham
If Fulham are going to climb into second place of the Championship, and secure automatic promotion, it will require making up a five point gap on surging Leeds United. But Saturday’s 2-0 win over sixth-place Preston North End shows that Fulham will be a strong contender for promotion – whether through the playoffs or via a top two finish.
Tim Ream was outstanding in the 2-0 win where he won six aerials, won one tackle, two interceptions, three clearances, was three out of eight in accurate long balls, and had a pass completion at 80%. Overall, he made not major mistakes. In a promotional challenge, that kind of steady presence in the backline is critical.
Miazga returns for Reading
New Jersey’s Matt Miazga, 24, made his first appearance for Reading since January 25 when he suffered an ankle injury in an FA Cup matchup vs. Cardiff City. At a time when there has been a wave of injuries to key American players, Miazga’s return is welcome news.
Miazga went the distance for Reading in Saturday’s 2-0 win over a Barnsley team sitting in the Championship’s relegation zone. While Barnsley was poor, Miazga was very good for Reading in helping it preserve the clean sheet.
Miazga completed 81% of his passes while winning four aerials, and notching six clearances with two blocked shots. With his long balls out of the back, three of six attempts were accurate.
It’s been a bit of a lost season for Reading, but Miazga has been positive when he’s been on the field. Perhaps that will convince in better standing to either take him on loan or buy him outright from Chelsea this summer.
Adams new contract
Tyler Adams has missed most of the current season. He didn’t return until just before the winter break and has also missed the past few games. In total, he’s played just five games for RB Leipzig.
But there are two bits of good news for Adams. First, he is nearly returning to gameday action where he is in full training.
Second, Adams has signed a new deal with Leipzig that will keep him at the club through 2025. It’s a massive vote of confidence for Adams and his progress at the club – who rate him highly.
Reyna, Johnny, & Gioacchini progress
Two American teenagers continued to show progress over the weekend.
On Friday, Nicholas Gioacchini, 19, got the start for SM Caen and played 70 minutes in a 2-0 win over Grenoble Foot for its second straight victory. Combined with last weekend’s big 4-1 away win over third place Lens, the club has now moved further away from the Ligue 2 relegation zone. Now in 11th place, SM Caen could sneak into the top 10 as soon as next week.
Gioacchini was solid in the win over Grenoble Foot. He drew a penalty but also missed a golden opportunity with essentially an open net. While he has scored only twice in 15 appearances, the Kansas City-born Gioacchini has played a variety of offensive positions and has been an effective force in the team’s recent run.
The same can be said of Giovanni Reyna who played the final 10 minutes for Borussia Dortmund in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Freibrug. While Reyna did not do much, what is most important is that he continues to just get reps at this level. Even if some appearances fail to yield noteworthy moments, just getting used to this responsibility is critical for the 17 year old. The value of playing in Champions League games and Bundesliga games for a contending team where the score remains close is priceless.
In the win over Freiburg, Reyna was decent in his brief outing but did not make a costly mistake in a one-goal win. The fact that the club is playing him with so much on the line tells you that there are big plans for the American youngster.
Down in Brazil, Johnny Cardoso earned the start for Internacional in a 1-1 draw vs. Caxias in the local Gaucho Championship. The New Jersey-born defensive midfielder went 80 minutes. While these games are not as important as Serie A games or Libertadores games, they will go a long way to determining how much he plays in the league. But clearly, the U-20 eligible Cardoso could be seeing important minutes this year for one of the biggest clubs in Brazil and all of South America.
What went wrong
Aside from the above, it was a bad weekend for Americans abroad. Obviously you start with the staggering list of players who were not able to play this weekend due to injuries.
- Christian Pulisic
- Zack Steffen
- Tim Weah
- Tyler Adams
- Duane Holmes
- Antonee Robinson
- Eric Lichaj
- Jonathan Amon
- Sebastian Soto
- Brendan Hines-Ike
- Erik Palmer-Brown (who was out for Austria Vienna with the flu)
Then you have to add in bad performances from some of the top American players.
Weston Mckennie wasn’t great for an awful Schalke team at the moment. While the club is in the Europa league spot in the Bundesliga, it is trending in the wrong direction. The numbers are somewhat shocking. McKennie is far from Schalke’s biggest problems, he hasn’t been the solution either.
Schalke right now— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 29, 2020
-1 goal over last 6 Bundesliga games
-outscored 14-1 over last 572 Bundesliga minutes
- 4 of the 6 opponents in that stretch have been among league's weaker teams: Koln, Mainz, Paderborn, Hertha #S04
The weekend wasn’t great for Sergino Dest either. Overall, his season has been great and Dest has been breaking into one of the most prestigious clubs in the world for young players, his last two weeks have been poor. He has not played well in both legs of the Europa League loss to Getafe, and Ajax has now lost its last two Eredivisie games.
On Sunday, Ajax hosted AZ Alkmaar in perhaps the biggest Eredivise game of the season as it featured a matchup between the top two teams. Dest was ineffective and struggled defensively in a 2-0 loss at home. While it is true that most Ajax players struggled, Dest has clearly hit a drop in form – which is typical for young players in their first years as a starter. He must now fight through it. The good news is that Dest has shown he can rebound quickly and the best evidence was at the U-20 World Cup where Dest was subpar in the opener but very good the rest of the way.
On the coaching front, Stuttgart manager Pellegrino Matarazzo lost his first game in the 2.Bundesliga on Saturday. The New Jersey native took charge of the club during the winter break and is trying to guide it to promotion. After a terrific start, the club lost on the road to sixth-place Greuther Furth 2-0. Stuttgart had its opportunities in the first half, but failed to convert. This allowed Furth to grow into the game and eventually take over.
The good news for Matarazzo and Stuttgart is that Hamburg lost again, so Stuttgart remained in second place. Matarazzo’s 2.Bundesliga record since taking over is now four wins, one draw, and one loss. But next Monday, March 9, it will host 2.Bundesliga leaders Arminia Bielefeld in Matarazzo’s biggest test to date.
There was also a trio of American players who had been playing well in recent weeks but who came up with tough losses: Lynden Gooch, Sebastian Saucedo, and Michael Hoyos.
In the middle of a promotional race, Sunderland dropped a 1-0 decision at League One leaders Coventry City. Lynden Gooch went a full 90 in the tough loss.
In Mexico, Sebastian Saucedo and Pumas lost their second game in a row with a 3-0 defeat to Tigres. The U.S. U-23 attacker went 63 minutes in the loss.
In Ecuador, Guayaquil City won the first two games of the season with American winger Michael Hoyos scoring in each of the games. But on Saturday, Guayaquil City lost 1-0 on the road to Orense with Hoyos going a full 90.
In Germany’s Bundesliga, John Brooks didn’t standout for Wolfsburg in a 2-2 draw with Union Berlin. The draw was a failed opportunity to overtake a tanking Schalke team. Brooks had been playing well since returning to the field after being benched but his leash might not be that long.
Too many benched
American fans have been used to Bobby Wood being benched at Hamburg and his situation is indeed terrible. Ethan Horvath also has been getting zero time since being dropped to the number two keeper at Club Brugge.
But the list of key players who aren’t injured but are struggling for minutes is growing. DeAndre Yedlin hasn’t played in over a month for Newcastle United and was an unused substitute in Saturday’s draw vs. Burnley.
Jordan Siebatcheu wants to play for the United States but playing time for Rennes is tough to come by these days and he didn’t get off the bench in a 2-0 away win over Toulouse. In Holland, Haji Wright hasn’t scored or assisted in over 1300 minutes for VVV Venlo and he didn’t play in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Fortuna Sittard. In Germany, Fabian Johnson is rarely making the 18 anymore at Borussia Monchengladbach and it would be a surprise to see his contract get renewed after the season.
Another player in a disappointing standing is Necaxa central defender Ventura Alvarado who recently met with U.S. national team manager in Mexico. Alvarado has not played for the U.S. national team since 2015 and while Berhalter’s recent meeting seemed to suggest something was up, his recent form might set that back. After struggling for most of the past month, the Phoenix native was left out of Necaxa’s recent matchday roster because of a managerial decision.
While not technically benchings, the fact that promising youth players Owen Otasowie at Wolves and Indiana Vassilev at Aston Villa aren't part of the first team at their clubs is a bit of a setback.
It also wasn’t a good weekend for Americans who were playing in relegation battles.
Cameron Carter-Vickers got the start for Luton Town and could have climbed out of the last place in the Championship but a 1-1 draw vs. Stoke City (Carter-Vickers’ most recent team) saw it remain in last.
In the Bundesliga, Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf could have taken a huge step towards climbing out of the relegation playoff position but blew a three-goal lead to Hertha BSC and finished with a 3-3 draw. With that result, Fortuna Dusseldorf remains four points deep in the relegation playoff spot. Morales only played the last 15 minutes and was on the field for Hertha’s final goal.
Finally the U.S. U-23 duo of Christian Cappis and Emmanuel Sabbi at Hobro seem increasingly likely to suffer relegation and it is seven points deep ahead of the relegation round. On Friday, the club played to a 0-0 draw with AGF Aarhus. Hobro’s downfall this year is easy to see. It has only lost nine games – which is the same amount as fourth place Brondby. It has won only twice and drawn a staggering 12 games in 23 games so far.
The good news is that both Americans will likely move if the club get relegated. Sabbi is headed to OB next year. Cappis will also have suitors as well.