Americans abroad analysis

Pulisic sharp in return, McKennie & Schalke routed, Wooten shines, & more

The weekend abroad was mixed. While the injured trio of youngsters including Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Jonathan Amon all returned to the field, the general production was mediocre - with a few notable exceptions. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with his weekly report. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
April 22, 2019
8:00 AM
AFTER A SOLID stretch of weekends where Americans abroad were consistently having impressive weekends, the past run over the Easter holidays was decidedly a mixed back. There were a few standout moments but overall it was a step back from previous weeks.

What is particularly disappointing is that the subpar weekend happened when several Americans were returning from the injury shelf. Christian Pulisic made his return for Borussia Dortmund and Weston McKennie actually started for Schalke after both players picked up injuries during the March international brake. That alone is huge news for United States manager Gregg Berhalter.

United States U-20 winger Jonathan Amon also returned for Nordsjaelland in what is welcome news for Tab Ramos and his staff ahead of the U-20 World Cup. The South Carolina native played the final 34 minutes for Nordsjaelland in a 2-2 draw with OB. Also potentially positive for Ramos is that Tim Weah earned five minutes off the bench for Celtic in a 0-0 draw with Hibernian as it inches towards the Scottish title. Weah isn’t playing much, but he is playing a little bit regularly.

In Germany, Sebastian Soto played the final six minutes for Hannover in a 0-0 draw with Hertha BSC. Hannover is in last place and certain for relegation but the U.S. U-20 forward is looking to prove that he should be part of the 2.Bundesliga campaign next season as it looks to earn quick promotion back to the top flight.

Also, in Scotland, Matt Polster made his Rangers debut in a 3-1 win over Hearts. The former Chicago Fire right back/center midfielder has struggles with injuries the past 14 months.

On the positive front, there was an Emerson Hyndman sighting in the Premier League as the 2015 U-20 World Cup captain made the bench but was an unused sub in a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Tim Ream and Fulham.

Also in England of note, DeAndre Yedlin was an unused substitute for Newcastle United in a 3-1 win over Southampton and Matt Miazga continues to help Reading inch towards safety in the Championship as he went a full 90 in an impressive 1-1 road draw with seventh place Bristol City.

In an Eredivisie matchup that featured two Americans, Andrija Novakovich and Fortuna Sittard defeated Erik Palmer-Brown and NAC Breda 2-1. Unfortunately for Novakovich, the Wisconsin native had to be removed in the 34th minute due to an apparent thigh injury. Palmer-Brown entered the game on a roll but wasn’t as strong as in previous outings.

Here were the most important headlines from the weekend

Pulisic strong in BVB return

With Borussia Dortmund leading Freiburg 2-0 in the 71st minute on Sunday, Christian Pulisic entered the game for the visitors. It was the United States international’s first appearance since suffering an injury while playing for the U.S. national team in a 1-1 draw against Chile.

It was a refreshing sight for Chelsea, Dortmund, and U.S. national team fans as the Hershey native was strong over his 19 minutes on the field. He nearly scored once and was consistently a thread. While Pulisic wasn’t directly involved, Freiburg scored two more goals for a 4-0 rout. Those three points kept Dortmund within one point of Bayern Munich in the title chase and having Pulisic back will only increase the team’s chances at overtaking the champions. For Chelsea fans, having Pulisic back is important as the team will need important pieces next season in the Premier League.

For the United States national team, the upcoming Gold Cup is important to both building a cohesive team for this cycle and in building enthusiasm for the program again. Pulisic’s return is critical for that.

McKennie returns as Schalke routed

While it was welcome news to see Weston McKennie back in the starting lineup for Schalke after spraining his ankle for the U.S. team last month in a 1-0 win over Ecuador, the bad news is that Schalke remains one of the most disappointing teams in the Bundesliga this season. Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Hoffenheim was just another indication that Schalke has a lot of problems to address next season if it wants to contend for Europe.

The truth is that the bottom of the Bundesliga this year is exceptionally poor in Stuttgart, Nurnberg, and Hannover (both Stuttgart and Hannover have goal differentials worse than -40 and since East and West Germany united, only two teams prior to this season ever finished with a goal differential worse than -40). Schalke is very lucky with how bad these teams are because in many other years, Schalke would be in a dire relegation fight. For now, they are in 15th place in the 18-team league but still six points clear of the relegation playoff.

McKennie wasn’t great in the loss but he still showed some of his key strengths as a player. He was dominant in the air where he can win balls with ease. He is a disruptive force in the center of the park.

But Schalke needs a lot of work and it will be interesting to see where McKennie fits when the new pieces arrive this summer.

Wooten’s brace & Gyau assist

On Saturday, MSV Duisburg and SV Sandhausen played to a 2-2 draw. Americans were involved in three of the four goals scored.

After missing all of the 2017-2018 season with an injury, Wooten (age 29 and one U.S. national team cap) has returned in fine form this season and on Saturday scored both of his team’s goals. With the brace, Wooten now has 14 goals on the season but his form as of late is even more timely and impressive. With Sandhausen in a relegation fight, Wooten has seven goals in his last eight games and is a big reason why Sandhausen is four points clear of the relegation playoff.

MSV Duisburg is sitting in last place and American winger Joe Gyau has not played much for them his season. But he came off the bench on Saturday and earned an assist to help his team earn a point to narrow the gap to three points for the relegation playoff position. With the appearance, Gyau, 26, has 472 minutes in the 2.Bundesliga this season.

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