Americans abroad analysis
Pulisic, Matarazzo, Reyna, Robinson highlight epic Americans abroad weekend
June 21, 2020
THIS WEEKEND WAS one of the most eventful weekends for Americans abroad in quiet some time. While it wasn’t quite a full slate of games with Mexico and South America still shutdown along with many other European leagues.
But this was a very eventful two days where American players and managers were heavily involved in games where their clubs were pushing for the title, trying to earn places in Europe, aiming for promotion, and fighting relegation.
There were goals, there were assists, there were big wins and tough losses.
Sit back and read this long piece to take you all through it.
Matarazzo and Stuttgart on the verge of promotion
One of the best stories right now in the world of Americans abroad doesn’t involve a young player breaking through or a player in the Champions League. In fact, it doesn’t even involve a player.
When Stuttgart hired Fair Lawn, New Jersey native Pellegrino Matarazzo as its manager in January, many fans were baffled. Matarazzo had no first team head coaching experience and he was being asked to lead one of Germany’s biggest clubs back to the Bundesliga, where fans typically expect it to be. At the time the club was in third place but was losing ground to Hamburg.
Matarazzo started off very strong in his tenure with Stuttgart but stumbled a bit following the restart. But he made adjustments in recent weeks and had the club back into second place and in line for automatic promotion. Last weekend’s 5-1 pounding of Sandhausen had it in good position – but it needed results to break its way this weekend if it wanted to have breathing room heading into the final week.
On Sunday, everything went as well as it could have for Stuttgart. It routed Nurnberg 6-0 on the road. This not only gave it three points but it also gave it a major advantage in goal differential over other teams near it in the standings.
In the league’s other significant game, Heidenheim rallied late with two goals to defeat Hamburg. As a result, Heidenheim moved from fourth place and into third. But that was a gift to Stuttgart. Heidenheim trails Stuttgart by three points but also by 11 goals in the goal differential tiebreaker. Heidenheim can only catch Stuttgart on the final matchday next weekend in theory, not in reality.
What this means is that Matarazzo and Stuttgart are essentially promoted. And it came on the heels of two massive performances where Stuttgart was struggling but then raised its game to move beyond its competition. It got lucky with other results like Heidenheim mounting a comeback, but the old saying held true: the better you are, the more luck you get.
The two American born/raised managers in Europe, Jesse Marsch and Pellegrino Matarazzo, know each other and played against each other in college (Columbia vs. Princeton). Both are now succeeding with big clubs and Marsch gave me this quote on Matarazzo in March. pic.twitter.com/v2DE5r9qYj— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 21, 2020
That is a massive story because next year, Matarazzo, 42, will become the first American born and raised manager in the Bundesliga. He will be just the second American born and raised manger, after Bob Bradley at Swansea, in the top five leagues of Europe.
It’s a remarkable story of a man who left Columbia University to pursue a playing career in Europe. He never rose beyond the third tier but found his calling as a manager. For an American in the sport of soccer, this was ground breaking.
Pulisic comes up big for Chelsea
Coming into Sunday, Christian Pulisic has not played for Chelsea since January 1 due to injuries and the COVID-19 shutdown. So, it was unsurprising that the Hersey native began Sunday’s game against relegation battling Aston Villa.
With Villa surprisingly up 1-0 in the second half, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard brought Pulisic into the game in the 55th minute for Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Five minutes later, Pulisic delivered the equalizer.
Christian Pulisic’s goal. pic.twitter.com/6rvAz1GSy2— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 21, 2020
Chelsea would go onto win 2-1 and it sits in fourth-place with a healthy five-point lead on fifth-place Manchester United. Pulisic’s numbers were impressive
- 36 minutes
- 28 touches
- 3 shots (1 on target)
- 1 key pass
- 63.2% passing (12/19)
- 1 aerial won
- 1 tackle
- 1 clearance
- 3/3 accurate long balls
There is so much talk about whether or not Pulisic is succeeding at Chelsea but the answer is a resounding yes. Combining the Premier League and the Champions League group stages, Pulisic has seven goals and six assists in 1611 minutes. He’s also dealt with injury and the rigors of playing a tough English schedule (two cup competition, no winter breaks, etc) and the expectations of a super club. His production numbers are very impressive – and this was supposed to be his adjustment season.
Also of note in this game, promising U.S. U-20 attacking midfielder Indiana Vassilev was an unused sub for Aston Villa. Vassilev is expected to be a big part of the U.S. U-20 team this cycle.
Reyna’s big day vs. Adams and Leipzig
The third time is the charm for Gio Reyna, 17, who finally started for Borussia Dortmund after two failed attempts – the first stopped after an injury in warm-up and the second coming after an illness. The young American did not disappoint either as he ended up going 80 minutes and contributed in a 2-0 win.
Unlike the relegation battling games on the day which were tight and nerve-wracking, this game was more upbeat and fun given that both teams knew they were essentially heading to the Champions League next year but were also out of contention for the Bundesliga title.
This game was a far more offensive and it was Reyna who helped put BVB in front in the 30th minute with an exquisite assist to Erling Halaand in the 30th minute. It was a play that showed his impressive technical ability at such a young age.
But Reyna was aggressive throughout and he lived up to the praise that Dortmund’s staff has been making to the media throughout the season. His four successful dribbles and the three fouls he drew showed that he was confident in this setting and in his abilities. Overall, it was a very good debut.
The location of his 60 touches show that he covered a lot of ground. More were in the attacking half and he also covered both wings (slightly more on the left side) and in the middle as well. He clearly was given a lot of freedom in how he could get involved.
Gio Reyna: raw number in BVB’s 2-0 win vs Leipzig— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
1 key pass
0 aerials won
0 interceptions & clearances
1/1 accurate long balls#USMNT
Meanwhile, Tyler Adams did not start but came in to start the second half for Leipzig and was a calming presence in the game. He was technically playing central midfield but he was all over the place and had an impact across the field.
His overall numbers in just 45 minutes of action were quite impressive.
Tyler Adams: raw numbers in 0-2 loss to BVB— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 21, 2020
45 minutes (2nd half)
0 key passes, dribbles, aerials won
87.9% passing (29/33)
0 clearances & blocked shots
1/1 accurate crosses
2/3 accurate long balls#USMNT
And Eric Friedlander makes a good point that we agree. Reyna might have been more neutralized if Adams was in the game to start. When you see how their touch maps lined-up, Adams would have been in charge of containing Reyna in the first half and would probably have done a better job.
I’m not sure Reyna has an assist if Tyler is in the game even if he was at RWB mukiele was so slow to read and react to Reyna run— Eric Friedlander (@Efried97) June 21, 2020
Overall, it was a very fun and encouraging performance for American fans to see two young U.S. players do so well on teams of this caliber. Reyna had been building to this and he did not disappoint. For Adams, he is still getting back into rhythm after missing so much time due to injury and the COVID-19 shutdown. His progress too was noticeable.
Sargent and Werder come up short
Josh Sargent earned the start in a massive game for Werder Bremen on the road against Mainz. Sitting in 17th place and in an automatic relegation position, Werder trailed Fortuna Dusseldorf by just one point for the relegation playoff position. At this point, the only realistic path to survival was overtaking Fortuna and winning the playoff against the third team from the 2.Bundesliga.
This game turned out to be a disaster for Werder and Mainz continued its form from its stunning 2-0 win over Dortmund midweek. In the end, Mainz ended up walking away with a 3-1 win and clinched survival.
Werder Bremen were slightly lucky, however, as Fortuna Dusseldorf only drew with Augsburg 1-1 (Fortuna controlled the game and had a goal disallowed by VAR). If Fortuna had won, Werder would have been relegated.
Sargent was very active in this game but Mainz was the better team. The game could have had more of a lopsided score but Werder keeper Ji?í Pavlenka made nine saves in this one – several of them were impressive.
Sargent forced a nice save early and was impressive in his movement, his ability to get into positions for shots, his ability to combine, and his dribbling skills. All that was missing was his finishing – and he is yet to score since the Bundesliga restart.
Josh Sargent: raw numbers for Werder in 3-1 loss to Mainz— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
4 shots (2 on target)
1 key pass
66.7% passing (12/18)
1 aerial won
1/1 accurate crosses#USMNT
In order to survive, Werder needs to defeat Koln next week no matter what. If it loses or draws, it is relegation. In addition to winning its own game, it needs Fortuna to draw or, most likely, lose. A Werder win and a Fortuna loss would send Fortuna into relegation and Werder into the playoff. If Werder wins and Fortuna draws, Werder will also need to make up four goals in the goal differential category.
Werder was last relegated out of the Bundesliga 40 years ago and it made a quick return the following year. It is going to take a lot to escape this predicament.
Robinson returns in big Wigan win
In one of the best stories for Americans abroad over the weekend, U.S. U-23 left back Antonee Robinson returned to the lineup for Wigan after a tumultuous six months. The English-born American was on the verge of a move to AC Milan in January but in his medical exam in Italy, doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat that required a procedure. Combined with the COVID-19 shutdown, Robinson has not played since January.
But this was also an unforgiving stage on Saturday, as Wigan was sitting just two points clear of the relegation zone in the Championship and needed a win over Huddersfield to move towards safety.
In the end, Robinson ended up with a very good outing at left back to help Wigan to a convincing 2-0 win. His defensive numbers, in particular, were very impressive. Most of his touches were in the defensive side and Huddersfield was not able to generate much down Robinson’s side of the field.
Antonee Robinson: raw numbers for Wigan in 2-0 win over Huddersfield— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
1 key pass
52.6% passing (10/19)
5 clearances (team high)
1 blocked shot
1/3 accurate crosses
1/6 accurate long balls#USMNT
This result is that Wigan now move into 17th place and are putting daylight ahead of it and relegation.
For Robinson, it was a very encouraging step forward after all he went through the past six months. He had a great attitude on the field and he gave no indication that the disappointment of his condition and the failed transfer to the Italian giants was wearing on him. It was a performance that really showcased his mental toughness.
Richards debuts for Bayern Munich
It was a memorable night for U.S. U-23 central defender Chris Richards who made his Bundesliga debut with the reigning eight-time champion Bayern Munich on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Freiburg. After going as an unused substitute midweek in the title-clinching 1-0 win over Werder Bremen, Richards came into this game in the 83rd minute to see out the win.
Bayern has been getting more kids on the field lately and Richards was the latest to debut. The performance, by the numbers, was routine. He touched the ball five times and completed all of his passes. But for the Alabama native, it was a historic game that will hopefully give him confidence in the early stages of his career.
After a strong season with Bayern Munich II, making an appearance with a club of Bayern’s caliber is no small feat for a young player who was impressing at the U-20 World Cup just over a year ago.
It doesn’t change the interesting decisions that will have be made over the next year regarding Richards. He needs to play and is probably beyond Bayern Munich II. But is he good enough to play regularly for Bayern Munich when the club is playing meaningful games? If not, he will probably need a loan. Sitting on the bench as the team’s third or fourth central defender might not be best for him.
Those questions, however, are for another day. Today was for celebrating what was unquestionably a milestone.
Tough day for Ream & Fulham
One of the Americans who had the roughest days was Tim Ream who earned the start in a huge Championship matchup between his third place Fulham at home vs. fourth place Brentford.
Fulham clearly disappointed in a 2-0 loss and this likely ends any hope it would catch Leeds for automatic promotion. Fulham still sit in third place but are just one point ahead of Brentford now moving forward.
The Cottagers had the better of the opportunities but were exposed badly on counter attacks and were let down by its inability to finish. Ream didn’t have a great game defensively but was far from Fulham’s only problem.
Fulham might still get promoted but it will likely have to win the playoff to get back to the Premier League.
Brooks bests McKennie
Something had to give in the matchup between Wolfsburg and Schalke as both teams came into this game on the heels of performances both would like to forget.
Weston McKennie got the start for hosts Schalke 04 and John Brooks got the start for Wolfsburg. There was clearly more at stake for Wolfsburg which was trying to hang onto sixth place – which would give it a spot in the Europa league next season. Schalke 04, meanwhile, was trying to end a 14 game winless stretch in the Bundesliga.
The story was predictable: McKennie was once again one of the best players on a horrible Schalke team that was run off the field in a 4-1 loss. The club’s winless skid is now at 15 games and it has been outscored 33-7 during that span.
Despite being on a team this terrible, McKennie’s kept focus and did all he could to keep Schalke in the game. He continued to show improvement in taking care of the ball and avoiding turnovers. He was also aggressive in successfully taking on defenders with his dribble. As is the usual, he put forth a strong effort defensively – despite Wolfsburg simply being better.
Weston McKennie: raw numbers in Schalke’s 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
2 shots (1 on target)
1 key pass
83.3 passing (30/36)
2 aerials won
1 blocked shot
3/3 accurate long balls#USMNT
It will be interesting to see what happens with McKennie this offseason. The club will want to hang onto him but there are reported financial issues at the club that might force them to accept a decent offer. But will McKennie generate those offers or will the struggles of Schalke scare away suitors?
For John Brooks in this game, he was much sharper than the past two games. His midweek performance in a 3-0 loss to Monchengladbach was his worst of 2020. Fortunately for Wolfsburg, Brooks rebounded quickly and did what was asked of him vs. Schalke 04. Brooks wasn’t challenged much but did not make any major mistakes that allowed Schalke back into the game.
John Brooks: raw numbers in 4-1 win vs Schalke 04— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
0 shots/key passes
4 aerials won
87.9% passing (51/58)
0 fouls & Blocked shots
6/8 accurate long balls#USMNT
With the victory, Wolfsburg remains in sixth place.
Holmes starts for Derby
Due to an injury and the COVID-19 shutdown, Duane Holmes has not played since mid-February. Unfortunately for the Georgia-born Holmes, the injury happened when he was having a very strong two-months for Derby County where he was one of the better attacking midfielders in the Championship in that span and was likely heading to a return to the U.S. national team in March.
But the shutdown actually came at a good point for Holmes who used the time to get healthy and fit. He earned the start for Derby against Millwall but was overall very quiet playing as a right midfielder as opposed to in the middle.
He didn’t have any major errors but struggled to create and was subbed out in the 62nd minute with the game tied 1-1. After Holmes was taken out, Derby surged to a 3-2 win.
Duane Holmes: raw number for Derby County in 3-1 win over Millwall— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
81.6% passing (31/38)
1 key pass
0 interceptions, clearances, aerials won
0 crosses/long ball attempts#USMNT
A bit of rust was to be expected for Holmes given the layoff and the injury. Derby County won’t challenge for a spot in the promotional playoffs and won’t get relegated either. It will probably want to use its time to get ready for next season and part of that will be getting its best players back in form. That obviously includes Holmes.
Derby will return to action next weekend against Reading
For American fans, Holmes remains a player to closely follow. If he can get back to the form he showed in December and January, he could very well be on the inside of the 23-player roster for the U.S. team.
Carter-Vickers earns MOTM
Luton Town is almost certainly going to be relegated from the Championship this season but Cameron Carter-Vickers is playing for his next job right now. The English-born American is at Luton Town on loan from Tottenham and this current loan is his fifth loan within the Championship. For a 22 year old central defender, he has played 6775 Championship minutes, 386 League Cup minutes, & 540 FA Cup minutes for 7701 total first team minutes. That's a full resume for a player of his age.
But the objective now for Carter-Vickers is to impress where he can convince a team (likely in the Championship) to buy him outright or to earn yet another loan. Perhaps soon he can finally play for a club that has realistic ambitions for promotion.
The good news for Carter-Vickers is that if he can play like he did on Saturday in a 1-1 draw vs. sixth-place Preston North End, some team might be convinced to take a chance on him. Carter-Vickers was excellent in this one defensively and his 13 clearances were five more than the next highest amount in this game. It was enough that he was considered as the Man of the Match by some publications.
Cameron Carter-Vickers: raw numbers for Luton Town in 1-1 draw with Preston North End— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
75.7% passing (27/38)
6 aerial won
13 clearances (!!!!) (Game high, by far)
1 blocked shot
3/8 accurate long balls#USMNT
Carter-Vickers has been around so long that you forget that he is still young, especially for his position. There is still a good chance he factors into the mix for the U.S. U-23 team for the Tokyo Olympics.
EPB & Austria Vienna near playoff
Erik Palmer-Brown is one of the most under-the-radar American players right now. Everyone knows him and knows that he was a highly-rated and accomplished youth player. But Palmer-Brown is having his best season as a professional in Austria Vienna.
On Saturday, Austria Vienna posted a 2-1 win over Swarovski Tirol in the relegation half of the Austrian Bundesliga. The top two teams of that half are eligible for the playoff for the Europa League and Austria Vienna sits atop the table with 25 points – three points ahead of Altach and eight points ahead of Mattersburg.
Palmer-Brown was once again steady in a full 90 effort where he had two clearances, three interceptions, one tackle. He won one of his two ground duals and two out of his three aerial duals. He made 58 touches and completed 84% of his passes.
The level of competition is low but Palmer-Brown is handling a high-level responsibility with one of Austria’s biggest clubs. He is also showing a great deal of consistency.
Austria Vienna would love to bring back Palmer-Brown on another loan from Manchester City but the chances are he looks to make another move up. The 2.Bundesliga or to top teams in leagues like Belgium or Switzerland are most likely given that he does not have an EU passport.
An improving Saief hits Lechia winner
Six months ago, Kenny Saief’s career was in a horrible place. He had a failed loan to FC Cincinnati and was unwanted at his parent club, Anderlecht. The club found a taker on loan for the Florida-born left-footed midfielder with Lechia Gdansk in Poland’s top flight.
Prior to the COVID shutdown, Saief, 26, was simply coming off the bench here and there for Lechia. In recent weeks, however, Saief has been doing much better and is beginning to look like the 2017 version of himself – at a time he switched from representing Israel to the United States.
On Saturday, Saief scored the winner for Lechia in a 1-0 victory over Pogon Szczecin.
With the win, Lechia moved into seventh place and Pogon fell to eighth. Anderlecht has already said it Saief will have to find a new club this summer once the loan ends. With performances like this, he should have suitors.
Marsch and Salzburg inch closer to title
It was a result Red Bull Salzburg’s American manager Jesse Marsch will likely find disappointing. In the Championship side of the Austrian Bundesliga, leaders Salzburg had a 2-0 lead on Wolfsberger into the 80th minute but saw the lead evaporate late as Wolfsberger played to a 2-2 draw.
After winning its first four Bundesliga games after the restart, Salzburg has now played to consecutive draws – both to Wolfsberger. There was a bit of good news in that second place Rapid Vienna lost so the draw saw Salzburg’s lead atop the table stretch to six points with four games remaining.
That is a healthy amount but Wednesday’s game between Salzburg and Rapid Vienna will either make the Austrian Bundesliga close or it will end it.
If Salzburg wins on Wednesday, it will have a nine-point lead atop the table with three games remaining. That is not a mathematical clinch but it also has a +37 goal differential advantage right now on Rapid. If Rapid wins, however, the Salzburg’s lead is just three points.
Hobro earn important win
In the Danish Superliga, Hobro faced off against Esbjerg in a game of huge relegation implications. The loser of this game would likely be face automatic relegation while the winner have the advantage of going into the relegation playoff in order to remain a top flight club.
As usual, the U.S. U-23 duo of central midfielder Christian Cappis and winger Emmanuel Sabbi started for Hobro. Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Hobro rallied for three goals for a 3-1 win. Cappis played 87 minutes and Sabbi was subbed out in the second minute of stoppage time. The final goal was scored by Haitian attacker Louicius Don Ddon who spent time in Atlanta United’s youth set up.
Hobro now has a five-point lead on Esbjerg with three games remaining in this group stage. The most likely scenario is that Hobro will be going into the relegation playoff next month. Regardless of what happens, there is a strong chance it will be without either American next season. Sabbi will move to OB next season and Cappis will likely be the transfer target of clubs higher up than Hobro.
Novakovich starts for Frosinone
It is especially heartening to see soccer resuming in Italy after the nation was hit hard by COVID-19. It is rare to have American players in Italy and Wisconsin forward Andrija Novakovich is the only American there right now at a first-team level. His team, Frosinone, came into the restart in third place and hunting for promotion back to Serie A.
Frosinone were the heavy favorites on Saturday when facing second-to-last Trapani. Novakovich earned the start in this one and played 82 minutes in a disappointing 0-0 draw. Frosinone remain in third place and two points behind Crotone for second place with nine games remaining. In Serie B, the top two teams are promoted and places six through eight take part in a playoff for promotion.
Novakovich, 23, has three goals and seven assists this season over 24 Serie B games and 1515 minutes.
Lederman makes pro debut
It’s been a long road but American winger/midfielder Ben Lederman, 20, finally made his professional debut when he played the final nine minutes for Rakow Cz?stochowa in a 3-1 win over Wilsa Krackow in the relegation half of Poland’s top flight.
Congratulations to American mid/winger Ben Lederman, 20, who made his first-team professional debut today when he was an 81st minute sub for Rakow Cz?stochowa in a 3-1 win over Wilsa Krackow in Poland’s top flight Ekstraklasa. https://t.co/oGHhIAYsMF— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 20, 2020
Lederman had been the topic of much discussion over players moving at younger and younger ages to foreign countries to play. Lederman, along with his family, made a publicized move to Barcelona's la Masia when he was just over 10 years old. It came at a time when FIFA was taking tougher stances on such moves.
Eventually he moved to Gent but struggled there and never made the first team. Last summer he joined Rakow Cz?stochowa in Poland. After such a long and winding road, Lederman finally made a professional appearance.
Other games and notes
After a rough game in the first game for Besiktas after the restart, U.S. national team winger Tyler Boyd came off the bench for Besiktas in a 5-1 rout over Denizlispor. He came into the game in the 67th minute and was on the field for his team’s final two goals.
In a 2.Bundesliga game with nothing on the line for either club, Julian Green, 25, earned the start for Greuther Furth in a 2-2 draw with VfL Bochum. Green went a full 90 but did not factor into any of the goals. Furth remained in eighth place and Bochum sit in sixth. Green had three shots and three key passes in this one.
In the Bundesliga, 14th Koln hosted 9th place Eintracht Frankfurt in a matchup between two teams with no shot of earning a spot in Europe and no threat of being relegated. The game was a dull 1-1 draw. American Timothy Chandler earned the start for Frankfurt playing as a right wingback. He went 62 uneventful minutes.
Timothy Chandler: raw numbers for Eintracht in 1-1 draw with Koln— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) June 21, 2020
0 key passes
66.7% passing (14/21)
2 aerials won
0 blocked shots
1/3 accurate crosses
1/3 accurate long balls#USMNT
Finally, in the Premier League, DeAndre Yedlin played just the final minute of stoppage time for Newcastle United in a big 3-0 win over Sheffield United. Newcastle sit in 13th place.
The off-injured Aron Johannson didn’t play for Hammarby today due to a foot injury. Hammarby lost to AIK 2-0 in Sweden’s top flight.
In Norway, Romain Gall came off the bench in the 75th minute for Stabaek in a 2-2 away draw vs. Vaalerenga. Stabaek had a 2-1 lead when he came on.
Finally in Norway, Henry Wingo came into the game in the 85th minute for reigning champions Molde in a 1-0 win over Rosenborg BK