Midweek musings

Pefok, Wingo, Pulisic enjoy good weeks, Scally set for Bundesliga debut

ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up his thoughts on the big games and stories from the midweek. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 12, 2021
5:00 AM

THIS PAST WEEK HAD a bunch of games a whole bunch of news – with player movement, dual national choices, and the opening of the League Cup here in the United States.

Here are some thoughts on it all.


Champions League qualifying


There are a bunch of Americans vying for spots in the Champions League group stages via the playoff route. This past week, saw two Americans get to the playoff round – the final round of qualifying with the loser of the playoff rounds getting a spot in the Europa League.

Jordan Pefok continues to be a scoring machine and the U.S. national team forward had two goals for BSC Young boys in a 3-1 (4-2 aggregate) win over CFR Cluj. Across six games, he now has five goals in all competitions to start the season.  

The way it looks right now, he will probably play a big role in September’s World Cup qualifiers give his form and the need for roster turnover.



Henry Wingo played the entire 180 minutes for Ferencvaros across both legs of their 2-1 aggregate win over Slavia Prague (Ferencvaros lost the second leg 1-0). The former Seattle Sounder has been a consistent starter at right back for the Hungarian champions.

Pefok’s Young Boys will face Wingo and Ferencvaros in the playoff round for a spot in the group stages and you could not find two more different career paths for the two 25-year-olds. Born in Washington, DC but raised entirely in France, Pefok was once a high-profile dual national recruit, faded bit, but had a career rebound in Switzerland to the point where he’s on the national team.

Meanwhile, Wingo is born and raised in Seattle and has no ties to other countries. He moved to Europe (at first with Molde followed by a transfer to Ferencvaros) because he rarely played for the Seattle Sounders. He worked his way up and has never been the subject of interest from the U.S. team or any of the youth national teams. Wingo is clearly the underdog in this matchup but who expected either player to be on the verge of such an opportunity two years ago?

Elsewhere in Champions League qualifying, Mark McKenzie and KRC Genk fell to Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 (4-2 aggregate) with McKenzie playing in neither leg of the qualifying.

Two Americans were slated to meet in the playoffs (with teams that start the competition at that stage) in Brenden Aaronson and Red Bull Salzburg and Christian Cappis and Brondby. Unfortunately for Cappis and Brondby, the Texan was one of several players for the Danish Champions to test positive for COVID-19 and will likely miss out on those games as well as the next two Danish Superliga games.


Pulisic & Cheslea win Super Cup


Christian Pulisic and Cheslea have won the UEFA Super Cup after defeating Villarreal on penalties after a 1-1 draw. The Hershey native was on the bench but came into the game in the 43rd minute when he replaced Hakim Ziyech.

Pulisic converted his penalty, the team’s sixth of seven attempts to win the shootout 6-5.

  •         77 minutes
  •         40 touches
  •         0 key passes
  •         2 shots
  •         0 long ball attempts
  •         5/13 duels won
  •         1/3 dribbles
  •         3x fouled
  •         1 foul
  •         0 clearances, interceptions, tackles

While Super Cups are of mixed importance, Pulisic has yet another piece of silverware to his already impressive collection.


Ochoa opens up


Former U.S. U-20 and U-23 goalkeeper David Ochoa opened up about leaving the U.S. national team setup to join Mexico. The Real Salt Lake homegrown goalkeeper took to author a piece in the Player’s Tribune to explain his decision.


Mexican-American players are in the crosshairs of recruiting battles. After Ochoa, current U.S. youth internationals Ricardo Pepi and Julian Araujo are also among those being linked to Mexico.

Last month, Gregg Berhalter said that Araujo, a right back, declined a Gold Cup invitation because it would cap-tie him. That raised speculation and his impressive season with the LA Galaxy have only added to the speculation.

Ricardo Pepi, 18, would probably be the top prospect lost to a defection since Nevin Subotic as the current FC Dallas forward is already among the better forwards in MLS with eight goals. Pepi has represented the U.S. team at a U-17 World Cup and probably would have featured heavily with the last U-20 team (while playing up a cycle) which had its World Cup cancelled due to COVID-19.


Ramirez assists for Aberdeen


Christian Ramirez continues to shine for Aberdeen and the American forward assisted on Thursday in a 2-1 win over Breidablik (the Icelandic team which eliminated Austria Vienna) in Conference League qualifying.

The Californian native now has four goals and assist in five games since joining the Scottish Premiership team on a summer transfer from the Houston Dynamo.


Sealy loaned to PSV


FC Dallas sent 2003-born attacker Dante Sealy to PSV Eindhoven on a loan that will run through June 2023 and carries an option to buy. Sealy is a promising player who is likely to feature for the U.S. U-20 team but is still probably a ways from PSV Eindhoven’s first team.

Sealy, 18, made just six substitute appearances for FC Dallas this season for a total of 62 minutes. He was struggling for minutes and sending him to PSV for second team minutes, is still a step up from where he’s been. It also is yet another sign of strength for the FC Dallas Academy which how has made a lot of impressive sales to players who are either in Europe’s “Big Five” leagues or on top teams from the middle league’s.


Scally likely Bundesliga debut


With Borussia Monchengladbach still missing some players, American teenager Joe Scally is likely to start for the German club in Friday’s Bundesliga opener at home against perennial champion Bayern Munich. The 18 year old fullback made his first-team debut last weekend in a 1-0 German Cup win over Kaiserslautern.

Scally has had a great summer – which included a very strong preseason where he featured at both right back and left back. He has emerged as one of the top American prospects in Europe and could move to the U.S. national team sooner than later.

This will be a game to tune into.


CCV watch


Cameron Carter-Vickers, 23, has been back at Tottenham for preseason this summer but the club is looking to transfer him, with a loan being a backup option.

There have been varying reports. Sky Sports says Celtic are interested but another report from the Telegraph says that another loan to AFC Bournemouth is possible. Carter-Vickers had the best season of his career last season at Bournemouth where he helped the team into the playoffs. All of his league appearances in his career have come on loans from Tottenham to six different Championship clubs and while he would like stability and perhaps a chance with a Premier League club, it’s never a bad option to go to a team that wants you.

Borunemouth drew its Championship opener last weekend 2-2 against West Bromwich Albion.


MLS/Liga M League Cup


It’s to get into the League Cup – which pits Liga Mx teams against MLS teams. Even with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League on the line, the tournament seems like taking advantage of the U.S. rivalry with Mexico.

It has been getting underway this weekend. Sporting Kansas City got drilled by Leon 6-1, Seattle defeated Tigres 3-0, and NYCFC fell to PUMAS on a shootout after a 1-1 draw.  On Thursday, Santos Laguna defeated Orlando City 1-0.

It’s a tough tournament to get behind. Clubs are taking it with different levels of importance – such as Sporting Kansas City which were blown out after resting almost all their starters. It’s good for MLS and Liga MX to look for non-domestic tournaments but I’d be surprised if people are buying into this.


English League Cup


The English League Cup had games this week and this tournament is the third most important domestic tournament behind the various leagues and FA Cup. Typically it only gets serious towards the end, but at these stages they can get backups various minutes.

Ethan Horvath made his debut for Nottingham Forest in a 2-1 victory over League Two (fourth tier) Bradford City. He played well and made some good saves but probably could have saved the goal – although the wall was poor on the shot.

Charlie Kelman, who could have been on the U.S. U-20 team in the spring, was a substitute for Queens Park Rangers on the road at Leyton Orient in a London Derby. The highlight came for Kelman as he converted his penalty in the fourth round of a shootout win following a 1-1 draw after extra time.


Vines at Antwerp


Sam Vines, 22, joined Royal Antwerp immediately after winning the Gold Cup with the United States. The former Colorado Rapid left back  will hope to break into the Belgian club’s starting elven but manager Brian Priske told the media on Thursday that Vines joined the team late and is behind Jelle Bataille, who has typically been a forward but is now playing left back.

“We have waited a long time for him,” Priske said. “We are happy that he won the Gold Cup, but for us it was a shame that he joins a little later. Now that he's here, he will definitely have an impact on our game. By the way, Jelle Bataille played brilliantly against Standard, it's good to know that we now have an extra alternative on the left."

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