Americans abroad analysis
Paredes, Wright, Steffen, & LDLT impress in otherwise tough weekend for Yanks in Europe
March 13, 2023
THE WEEKEND for Americans in Europe was mostly negative with losses in relegation battles and limited minutes to top players still dominant themes. However, a few Americans succeeded in an otherwise tough couple of days.
Overall, it was really good to see Kevin Paredes continue to make some big strides and he delivered for Wolfsburg as a late sub. Auston Trusty was on the Championship team of the week and Americans are front and center of the Championship promotional race.
On the other hand, Mark McKenzie and Genk look vulnerable for the first time all season.
But let's get right into it
Yanks in Turkey
Haji Wright, 24, marked his return from injury in a big, big way on Saturday with a massive performances for 10th place Antalyaspor in a 4-0 Turkish Super Lig win over seventh place Kayserispor. In making his first start since January 7, wright scored the team’s first goal, assisted on the second, and then scored the third before subbing out in the 72nd minute.
The first goal was a little fortunate. His dribble and assist on the second goal was probably his best play of the game, and then the third goal was a superb long header from about 12 yards out. He now has 12 goals on the season.
This has been a tough time for Wright. The injury stopped his momentum for a transfer and then the tragic Turkish earthquake also seemed to stop the talk of him moving within Turkey to Galatasaray.
It’s tough to see what is next for Wright. Even if he is not with the U.S. team during the March window, he will remain near the top of the No. 9 depth chart given his scoring rate. Yes, the competition is increasing with Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike, and Brandon Vazquez improving after being left off the World Cup team. But Wright’s torrid form is now a year old. The fact he has been playing so well for so long will keep him in the U.S mix.
As for his club future, it’s hard to see him with Antalyaspor much longer. Yes, there will continue to be interest from the bigger leagues in Europe but moving to one of the bigger Istanbul clubs always struck me as the most likely path.
Yanks in the Premier League
On Sunday, Fulham was outplayed by Arsenal in a 3-0 loss at home. All the goals came in the first half and the second half was Arsenal easily playing out the win. Fulham, without star defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha, was in a tough spot in this game. As great as a season has Antonee Robinson has had, his last two games haven’t been great defensively and this game it was costly. On the second goal for Arsenal, Robinson was beaten in the air off a header. Tim Ream wasn’t at fault for the goals but no one on Fulham stood out. Matt Turner was an unused sub in the win.
Christian Pulisic played the final 17 minutes for Chelsea in a 3-1 away win over Leicester City. His performance was uneventful and he is still shaking of rust from having only recently returned from a two month injury. The big news, however, is that there are growing reports in England that Chelsea is looking to unload many players this summer – with Pulisic’s name being mentioned. Chelsea will probably have to sell him for less than what they paid for him. But it would be nice to see Pulisic go to a place where he can start every week. Now in his prime years, that is critical for him.
Chris Richards was an unused substitute for Crystal Palace in a 1-0 loss at home to Manchester City.
Yanks in the Championship
The top of the table races for the playoffs and automatic promotion is exciting from an American perspective this season.
Second-place Sheffield United has been in the top two for most of the season, but recent struggles combined with Middlesbrough's fine run in recent months has made the race for automatic promotion closer than expected.
Sheffield United fell to Luton Town 1-0 at home and American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath made five saves in the win. All of Horvath’s saves were inside the box and a few of them showed impressive reaction from close range off crosses and corners. Luton Town remained in fourth place with the win.
But Sheffield United’s loss allowed Middlesbrough to cut the gap for automatic promotion to just four points after Boro defeated Swansea 3-1 on the road. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen made four saves in the important victory and his season continues to be one of the best in his career.
The issue with Daryl Dike, 22, has always been if he can help the team when he isn’t scoring. On Saturday, the Oklahoma native had one of his best goalless games as he was very important to West Brom in its big 1-0 win over a Huddersfield team that is struggling mightily in the relegation zone and is without injured Americans Duane Holmes and Jaheim Headley. Dike had two shots in the game,
Dike constantly put pressure on Huddersfield – especially early in the second half when his 54th minute shot was blocked, and he forced a save in the 64th minute. He drew three fouls, won a high number of ground duels and aerials, and was a handful to defend.
Overall, Dike continued to raise his stock and West Brom is getting closer and closer to the playoff positions – now in eighth and just three points out.
On Saturday, Auston Trusty, 24, had a big game for Birmingham City in a 2-0 win over Rotherham United. The win moved Birmingham City into 18th place in the Championship and 10 points clear of the relegation zone. Trusty assisted on Kevin Long’s 35th minute to give Birmingham City a 2-0 lead.
Aside from the assist, it was a mixed outing for Trusty who played on the left side of a three-man backline. Over his 90 minutes he completed just 15/29 in passing and was 1/5 in long balls. But defensively, his numbers were excellent: Six clearances, 6/8 ground duels won, 9/14 in aerials, two drawn fouls, and one foul committed.
On the day, an assist, great defensive numbers, and a Birmingham City make this a productive day for Trusty who continues to have a nice season – his first outside of the United States.
On Monday, Trusty was named to the Championship’s team of the week:
On Sunday, two Americans made their returns from injury when Sunderland, despite having just 28% possession, posted a 1-0 away win over Norwich. Josh Sargent has missed three weeks of action but played the second half in the loss. In his time on the field, he had two shots, completed 6/6 of his passing, and drew two fouls. He was shaking off some rust, but this was a tough result as the club fell out of the promotional playoffs.
For Sunderland, Lynden Gooch returned to the field for the first time in three months playing the final 23 minutes. He wasn't on the ball much but he worked hard defensively to see out the win for the 10th place club.
Yanks in the Bundesliga
It was a tough game for Joe Scally, 90, and Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday after they dropped a 3-0 decision at RB Leipzig on Saturday. The Long Island native was the least of Gladbach’s problem’s however as he created two chances – both from solid crosses – that didn’t result in goals. Still, he completed just 18/32 of his passing in the game as Leipzig dominated. Also in this game, Caden Clark went as an unused substitute for Leipzig and he is still waiting to make his Bundesliga debut.
Paxten Aaronson is also still waiting to make his Bundesliga debut and he went as an unused substitute for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 1-1 draw vs. Stuttgart.
Gio Reyna, 20, remained on the bench for Borussia Dortmund after his impressive 85-minute sub appearance on Tuesday in a Champions League loss to Chelsea. But on Saturday, he only played the last 10 minutes of Dortmund’s lackluster 2-2 draw with relegation battling Schalke. This was a blown opportunity for the club to remain tight with Bayern Munich in the title race. Reyna did not show much and had just 10 touches and was 3/5 in passing.
Pellegrino Matarazzo and Hoffenheim continue to be in a total mess and Sunday’s 2-1 loss on the road to Freiburg sunk the club into last place. Matarazzo lost his fifth straight after taking the head coaching job last month. He is not the club’s problem, but he hasn’t been the solution either. In total, Hoffenheim has lost seven in a row and are winless over their last 14 games (two points in that stretch). Matarazzo has a huge task ahead to right the ship and next weekend’s game at home to Hertha Berlin is massive to their hopes to remain up.
John Brooks started the loss to Freiburg. Overall, he was okay, although his attempted clearance resulted in Freiburg’s first goal. It’s been a mixed month since he arrived with Hoffenheim but he should remain in the starting lineup in the coming weeks.
Kevin Paredes had a big outing off the bench for Wolfsburg at home against Union Berlin. With his club down 1-0, Paredes came into the game in the 82nd minute. Two minutes later, he dribbled down the left side and set up Patrick Wimmer in the middle of the box for a cool side-footed finish from distance.
The rest of his outing was relatively quiet but that was enough to see this season move into the success column for Paredes. He’s made 15 appearances on the season with 14 coming off the bench. But he is earning the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates. It seems unlikely Wolfsburg is going to want to let Paredes go to the U-20 World Cup (which would require him to miss the last two or three games of the season. But if that doesn’t happen, he’ll probably be on the full national team for one or two of the summer tournaments (Nations League or Gold Cup).
Meanwhile, Jordan Pefok was an unused substitute for Union Berlin. Aside from a match-winning goal in January, he has really not produced much since September. With other players performing well right now in his position, I don’t think he’ll be on the USMNT roster as, whoever is coaching the team, will want to look at guys like those who were on the World Cup, Daryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi, Brandon Vazquez, etc.
Yanks in the 2.Bundesliga
One of the most surprising stories in Germany is in the second tier with St. Pauli as American-born manager Fabian Hurzeler (who only recently turned 30) now has a perfect 21 points in his first seven games since taking the head coaching job in January. Saturday’s 2-1 win over Greuther Furth sealed the club’s meteoric rise. The former U.S. U-20 midfielder has seen his club move from cusp of relegation and into seventh place. 2014 U.S. World Cup veteran Julian Green played the final 26 minutes for Furth in the loss.
George Bello was not in uniform for Arminia Bielefeld and missed its big 3-1 win over Darmstadt on Saturday.
On Friday, Terrence Boyd, 32, was held mostly in check as his Kaiserslautern team played to a disappointing 2-2 draw at home with Sandhausen. Boyd was held to just two shots from outside the box over his 70 minutes. Kaiserslutern fell to sixth place and is now eight points out of the promotional playoff position. While they are falling out of promotion contention, it’s still been a great season in the first in the 2.Bundesliga after earning promotion out of the 3.Liga last season.
On Saturday, third place Heidenheim was held to a disappointing 1-1 away draw to fifth-place Fortuna Dusseldorf. Lennard Maloney, 23, played the full 90 for Heidenheim and was pressed into some qualify defending the final 13 minutes with his club reduced to 10 players. Maloney has important soccer ahead of him this season as they are firmly in the promotional hunt. Maloney developed as a central defender but has had a successful first season playing as a defensive midfielder.
On Sunday, Ryan Malone had a big game in central defense for Hansa Rostock in a 1-1 away draw against Hannover. The Springfield College (Division III) alum won 6/7 of his ground duels and 4/4 of his aerials. He also nearly had an assist on a flick-on header. Overall, he was instrumental in helping his team get a point on the road in the middle of a relegation fight.
Yanks in Ligue 1
On Friday, Tim Weah went the distance for sixth-place Lille which played tenth-place Lyon to a 3-3 draw at home. It was a disappointing result for Weah and Company which had a 3-1 lead into the 83rd minute. When playing at home, those are three points you need to have.
Weah moved from left back to right back in this game. It wasn’t a particularly noteworthy game either way for Weah. Defensively, he wasn’t at fault for any of the Lyon goals but offensively, he wasn’t much of consequence. He had 72 touches but only four were inside the attacking third of the field.
Weah is heading towards an offseason where both he and the club have to think about his future there. Right now he is a player used to fill in random holes in the lineup whenever there is an injury, suspension, or a need to rotate the squad. There is a value for a player to be able to do that, but Weah doesn’t seem to be viewed as an impact player.
On Sunday, Erik Palmer-Brown started and went 90 minutes for Troyes in a 2-0 loss to Lorient. They currently sit three points deep in the relegation zone. At this point, it would be surprising to see EPB back in France next season.
Yanks in La Liga
On Saturday, Celta Vigo defeated Rayo Vallecano 3-0 and American midfielder Luca de la Torre played 72 minutes in the victory before being subbed out with the score 2-0.
The U.S. international played well and showed chemistry with his fellow midfielders – who outplayed Rayo Vallecano by a large margin. Defensive he was also excellent, and his season has really taken off in 2023. Now, he starts every game and is consistently positive to his team’s efforts. He was not dispossessed a single time in this game.
Valencia moved out of the relegation zone on Saturday following a very good 1-0 win over Osasuna. Yunus Musah, 20, played 82 minutes in this game and was on the field for the goal. The U.S. international was his typical self in this game. He only completed 17 passes and didn’t create anything dangerous, but he was smooth helping move the ball up the field. He only had 43 touches despite his teaming having 53% possession.
Next season, Musah will need to show more final product if he wants to fulfill his potential.
But the win was critical for Valencia and it moved out of the relegation zone with the three points (it is clear of the relegation zone on goal differential). But Valencia is even on goal differential this season and that is a very good differential for a team that low in the standings. Most of the teams that low have a goal differential that is way below zero. Valencia is underperforming, but its talent should find enough points to survive.
Yanks in Italy
In Serie B, Venezia remained in the relegation playoff position while Brescia remained in the relegation zone as the teams played to a 1-1 draw in Venice on Saturday. Tanner Tessmann remains one of the best players on Venezia and in this game, he had strong numbers across the board over his 90 minutes. He completed 39/45 passes including 4/6 of his long balls. He completed 4/6 of his dribbles and won 8/14 of his duels.
Tessmann is playing himself for a nice move this summer and a spot on the U.S. U-23 team. Andrija Novakovich played the final eight minutes while Gianluca Busio remained out with a hip injury.
Sergino Dest was not in the squad again for AC Milan on Monday.
Yanks in Portugal
Benji Michael was subbed into Arouca’s match against Vitoria de Guimaraes in the 75th minute with his club holding a 1-0 lead on the road. One minute after coming on, the American and former Orlando City attacker hit an absolutely brilliant pass to set up the second goal of a huge 2-0 win. Sixth place Arouca narrowed the gap on fifth place Vitoria de Guimaraes to just three points. Michael has had up and down minutes since arriving in January but plays like this will only help.
This assist from Benji Michel today was brilliant. It set up the second goal for sixth-placeArouca in a huge 2-0 away win over Vitoria de Guimaraes. The former Orlando City attacker hit this pass one minute after coming on in the 75th minute. pic.twitter.com/XnIt83pHpr— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 11, 2023
Meanwhile, Alex Mendez played the final 13 minutes of Vizela’s 4-0 loss at home to Braga. The 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran came on after all the goals were scored and the intensity had dropped. Vizela slipped to 10th in the standings. On another note, U.S. U-20 midfielder Alejandro Alvarado returned to Vizela’s bench for the first time in 2023 but went as an unused sub.
Finally on Sunday, Reggie Cannon went 90 minutes in central defense for ninth-place Boavista which was overmatched in a 3-0 loss on the road to Sporting CP. Cannon is a player who will probably look for a move this summer. He’s not rated as a right back at Boavista and his experiment in central defense is now over a year old and it has a limited upside.
Yanks in the Eredivisie
On Saturday, AZ Alkmaar defeated Groningen 1-0, an expected result given the talent gap between the two teams. Ricardo Pepi, 20, played all 90 minutes for Groningen in the loss. He had one good shot he missed in the 34th minute, but otherwise had a few positives but little to show for it. Still, it continues to be a good season for Pepi as he is producing and finding ways to be dangerous on a bad team likely to be relegated where chances are few and far between.
On the other end, Djordje Mihailovic had 25 strong minutes off the bench and he created two dangerous chances in his time on the field. With 29 touches, he was on the ball a lot and helped build his case for more minutes as AZ push on in the Conference League (recently winning at Lazio) and in the Eredivisie where they sit third. It’s tough for a player to break into a team that is overachieving when he arrives, but Mihailovic is slowly getting there.
Taylor Booth returned from an injury but was an unused sub for Utrecht on Sunday in a 2-2 draw with NEC.
Richard Ledezma made a rare appearance for PSV when he got to play one minute plus stoppage time for PSV in a 5-2 win over last-place Cambuur. While it was just mop-up time, he completed 4/5 of his passes. Former Montreal Impact forward Bjorn Maars Johnsen (American citizen but Norwegian international) scored for the fourth straight game for Cambuur. That is very impressive given Cambuur's lack of quality in the league.
Yanks in Belgium
Suddenly, things are not so great at Genk. It what was the biggest disappointment of the weekend for Americans abroad, Belgian leaders Genk lost to second place Union SG at home 2-1. Mark McKenzie played 87 minutes for Genk and had a late equalizing goal called back by VAR for a handball. It has been a good season for McKenzie but the next two months will be the test.
With this result, Genk’s once double-digit lead in Belgium has been reduced to five. Genk has one just once in its last five games. McKenzie will now be playing under a ton of pressure as the club expects to win the First Division at the end of the season.
Bryan Reynolds, 21, continues to have a season where he has made important steps. It’s not that he is simply having good games for Westerlo, but it is rather that he is consistently playing well. On Saturday, Reynolds played 90 minutes for Westerlo in a 3-1 win over Kortrijk (where he spent last season on loan from Roma). In the game, local media cited his defensive effort as one of the keys to the victory. He remains an interesting prospect because his athleticism seems to be what is wanted by fullbacks in the modern game.
Assuming he finishes this season well, he is setting himself up for an interesting summer. He probably won’t stay at Westerlo even though the club would love to have him back. He also probably won’t go back to Roma because of tax issues if he plays in Italy (there is a law that gave tax breaks to teams importing top foreign players but those benefits are gone if they are loaned outside of Italy for an extended time). He will probably join a bigger club, but the question is whether it will be on anotith ther loan from Roma or will it be a full transfgoer?
Internationally, Reynolds should be with the full national team in the months ahead, but he seems like a strong candidate to start with the U.S. U-23 team at the Olympics.
Finally on Sunday, Marlon Fossey was among one of the better Standard Liege players on Sunday, but that isn’t saying much in a 2-0 loss on the road to Club Brugge. Fossey still got forward and created some dangerous plays, but Club Brugge outplayed Standard in this one.
Yanks in Croatia
In the HNL, second-place Hajduk Split defeated third place Osijek 2-0 on the road. This likely ends any meaningful race down the stretch in the league. Leaders Dinamo Zagreb hold a nine-point lead atop the table but have a game in hand. In second, Hajduk Split holds an 11 point lead on Osiek.
U.S. U-20 midfielder Rokas Pukstas had an assist on the second goal for Hajduk Split. A corner was sent into the box and it too three headers, the last by Pukstas, before Dario Melnjak buried it for a 2-0 lead.
Osijek 0-2 Hajduk (35')— Everything About HNL (@AboutHnl) March 12, 2023
Melnjak doubles the lead at Gradski vrt! pic.twitter.com/HRLXv174Mf
Agustin Anello came on and played the final 15 minutes and nearly had an assist.
Overall, it was another very good outing for Pukstas who has been making positive contributions on both sides of the ball on a consistent basis for Hajduk Split. If he is released, he could be an important player at the U-20 World Cup. Meanwhile, Anello is looking like an interesting candidate for the U.S. U-23 team down the road. I would be surprised if Haduk Split does not exercise its option to buy him.
Yanks in Scotland
The Scottish Cup final is set after the semifinals this weekend. And to no one’s surprise, it is another Old Firm matchup, a week after Celtic defeated Rangers in the League Cup final.
On Saturday, Celtic easily got past Hearts in Edinburgh 3-0. Cameron Carter-Vickers continues to dominate teams in Scotland and in this game he scored the final goal of the game. Canadian international and former Nashville and Montreal right back Alistair Johnston assisted on the second goal.
Meanwhile Rangers defeated Raith Rovers 3-0 to advance to the final while American midfielder Malick Tillman was out injured.
For Carter-Vickers, if he is part of a Celtic win the Scottish Cup final, it will likely be a domestic treble for him – Premiership, League Cup, Scottish FA Cup. At some point soon, he will run out of challenges in the league.
In Australia’s A-League, former FC Tucson forward Jason Romero played the full 90 minutes for Macarthur FC in a 4-1 loss to Central Coast Mariners on Saturday morning.
In the Danish Super Liga, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 78 minutes for OB in a 2-1 win over Aalborg BK. OB Odense moved to seventh place with the win while Aalborg remained near the relegation zone in 11th. On Sunday, Christian Cappis was an unused substitute for Brondby in a 2-1 win over Silkeborg.
In the Eersete divisie, the second tier of Holland, two Americans were in action. Anthony Fontana made his debut with leaders PEC Zwolle in a 3-2 win over Willem II. Fontana came on as an 88th minute sub to replace his former Philadelphia Union teammate Haris Medunjanin. After dropping a 13-0 decision to PEC Zwolle last week, FC Den Bosch lost 4-0 to VVV-Venlo on Saturday with Gedion Zelalem going 90 minutes in the loss.
In Austria’s Bundesliga, Sebastian Soto was not in uniform for Austria Klagenfurt in a 1-0 win over TSV Hartberg.
In the Greek Super League, Caleb Stanko started and went 66 minutes in defensive midfield for Lamia in a 1-1 away draw against Panetolikos. Stanko left with his team down 1-0 but Lamia climbed out of the basement of the Super League. Still, it will be a tough relegation battle ahead.
In Hungary’s topflight NB I, ZTE was without their top scorer, American Eduvie Ikoba, and he was missed in a 1-0 lost to Budapest Honved on Saturday. On Sunday, Henry Wingo went the distance for leaders Ferencvaros in a 2-1 loss at home to a Puskas Academy team that was playing down a man from the 56th minute. Despite the result, Ferencvaros still leads the NB I by 11 points.