Americans abroad analysis
Reyna outlasts Adams, McKennie injured, Olosunde stars in busy weekend
January 11, 2021
OBVIOUSLY, THE TOP story of the weekend for Americans abroad was the stunning performance of California teenager Matthew Hoppe who became the first American to notch a Bundesliga hat trick. But it was a busy weekend for many of the other Americans in action – and there were ups and downs.
For those wanting to read more about Hoppe, we dedicated an entire article about his performance.
The rest of the weekend was mixed. The positives were easy to spot, even if they came from players outside of the national team mix. Rotherham United fullback Matthew Olosunde was electric against Everton in the FA Cup and scored a big goal. Brenden Hines-Ike helped anchor Kortrijk’s backline to a big 2-1 upset over Genk in Belgium. Zack Steffen got another cleansheet for Manchester City – this time in a 3-0 win over Birmingham City in the FA Cup.
On the flip side, there was a lot of news that wasn’t great. Weston McKennie was forced out of Juventus’ 3-1 win over Sassuolo in the 19th minute. McKennie was playing very well and created one chance with a very impressive backheel but tweaked a muscle injury he had been carrying from during the week.
In the Bundesliga, John Brooks wasn’t particularly sharp for Wolfsburg in a 2-2 draw with Union Berlin. Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig blew a chance to move atop the Bundesliga standings. In the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green played well but Greuther Furth lost a tough game against Karlsruher that will hurt their promotional effort. In Spain’s La Liga, Yunus Musah was dropped from Valencia’s starting XI after a rocky stretch dating back to the last international window. On Sunday, he played just the final minute of stoppage time in a 1-0 away win over Real Valladolid – which will probably keep him on the bench.
Finally, perhaps the more disappointing news comes from Holland where Uly Llanez continues a season where he is struggling to see the field. On Saturday, he did not get off the bench for Heerenveen in a 3-1 loss to Fortuna Sittard. It was the third straight loss for Heerenveen and Llanez has made just five substitute appearances for a total of 90 minutes on the year.
Here are some of the bigger details of what I saw over the weekend
Adams & Leipzig fall to Reyna & BVB
After Bayern Munich lost to Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday, it gave RB Leipzig a golden opportunity to move atop the Bundesliga standings with a win over BVB. Both Tyler Adams and Gio Reyna started in the game and gave Americans a stage on one of the biggest games in Europe this weekend.
Despite the opportunity, Leipzig came out flat offensively. Defensively, it was not able to stop Erling Haaland who was far sharper than he was last weekend against Wolfsburg.
Adams played on the right side of the midfield but frequently cut into the middle of the field. In particular, it wasn’t a great performance and on one occasion he was moved off the ball by Reyna. He wasn’t bad, but tactically he was not in the right area for him to succeed and help the team. Defensively, he wasn’t able to defend, press, and disrupt Borussia Dortmund’s possessions. Offensively, he was limited in what he was able to do.
Tyler Adams: raw # for Leipzig in 3-1 loss to BVB— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 9, 2021
0 key passes
3/4 accurate long balls
4 duels won (6 lost)
- Touch Map (playing right mid, but frequently cut in) pic.twitter.com/T2qUgIJfKs
Reyna did not have too much of an impact on the game but was still part of a winning effort against one of the best teams in the league. That alone should keep him on the field even if he was not part of any major scoring chances.
Gio Reyna: Raw # for BVB in 3-1 win vs Leipzig— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 9, 2021
0 key passes
21/32 passing (66%)
2/3 accurate long balls
6 duels won (9 lost)
0 aerials won#USMNT
- Touch map pic.twitter.com/fTSmqHwbZO
Overall, this was a big game in the Bundesliga and it was important to see two Americans taking part. The game lacked meaningful contributions from Reyna and Adams (and the poor result from Leipzig was a blown opportunity which could haunt its chances to dethrone Bayern Munich) but simply the participation in such a stage shows the elevated standards of American soccer in 2021.
In England, the FA Cup is often a great chance for lower-division clubs to test themselves against opponents in higher leagues and it can offer a bigger stage than they can find in normal-league play.
New Jersey-born fullback Matthew Olosunde has been playing well in recent weeks for Rotherham United in the Championship but that club has not been playing well and sits in the relegation zone (23rd place out of 24 teams). On Saturday, Rotherham United got the chance to play against Everton.
While Rotherham United lost 2-1, Olosunde scored Rotherham’s only goal of the game and was perhaps the best player in the game as he was frequently able to beat Everton defenders and move effectively into the attack to create dangerous chances.
Matthew Olosunde is quick to pounce on the loose ball on a mistake from Everton. The right back from NJ evens the game for Rotherham United in the FA Cup pic.twitter.com/UXTEGUXhpm— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 9, 2021
This was an important game for Olosunde to make a statement and show that if Rotherham United are relegated, he should earn a transfer to remain at least in the Championship.
Sargent starts in Werder draw
Josh Sargent earned the start for Werder Bremen on Saturday against third-place Bayer Leverkusen and it was a tough game for Werder which had been tumbling back towards the relegation zone in the Bundesliga.
In the end, Werder played to an impressive 1-1 draw to earn a point they were not expected to get. For the second straight game, Sargent received the ball a decent number of times. For those hoping this would yield more shots, it was disappointing.
But Sargent still added a lot of value in this game for Werder. He won an enormous percentage of his duels to help win possession. He drew fouls, won aerials, and played very effective defense.
Josh Sargent: raw # for Werder Bremen in 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 9, 2021
0 key passes
8 duels won/1 lost (!!)
18/26 passing (69%)
2 dribbles (2 attempts)
2 aerials won (0 lost)
Of course, the goals will have to come at some point and Werder does not play an attacking style. They play a grinding and physical game where they hope to scrap by with enough points to avoid relegation. Sargent won’t get many chances but still creates value.
He played well in various capacities in this one but it does make one wonder when the turning point will come for goals and chances.
4 Yanks in QPR - Fulham
The FA Cup provided a London Derby on Saturday when Championship-based club Queens Park Rangers hosted Fulham of the Premier League. Both clubs are towards the bottom of the table in their respective leagues but it was not surprising that Fulham won 2-0 after extra time. For Fulham, this was their first game in well over a week due to a COVID outbreak within the club.
In total, four American players took part. For Fulham, Tim Ream played all 120 minutes in the win while Antonee Robinson came on in the 90th minute for the final half hour. For QPR, Geoff Cameron started and played 90 minutes and left with the game at 0-0 while teenage forward Charlie Kelman came on in the 73rd minute and played the final 47 minutes – his most extensive run out since joining QPR earlier this year.
Ream was particularly sharp in this game and was a steady presence in the back. It was a learning experience for Kelman, however, who only had 14 touches in his 47 minutes of action and was not able to register a shot – mostly due to Fulham growing into the game and controlling possession.
Dest and Barcelona win again
Sergino Dest started for Barcelona on Saturday and played 81 minutes in a 4-0 win over Grenada. After a much-publicized poor start to the season, Barcelona now has six wins and two draws from its last eight games. That stretch now has it into third place and just three points behind Real Madrid for second. Leaders Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, is four points ahead of Barca and has played three fewer games.
Dest, 20, is becoming more methodical in his performances during this run. Fewer offensive fireworks but also cutting back on mistakes. His defense has been solid, his passing has been accurate, and he is a lock starter now for the club.
This truly has been a great transitional season for the Dutch-born U.S. international right back.
Sergino Dest: raw # for Barcelona in 4-0 away win over Grenada— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 9, 2021
49/53 passing (92%)
1 key pass
2 duels won (0 lost)
0 aerials won (0 lost)#USMNT
Sonora brothers in Argentina
The Copa Diego Maradona is rolling on in Argentina and both Sonora brothers took part in wins over the weekend in the tournament’s second stage.
Joel Sonora, 24, played the final 10 minutes for Talleres in a 2-1 win over Colon on Sunday. It remains just one point behind Banfield for the lead of Group B.
Alan Sonora, 22, started and played 77 minutes for Independiente in a 2-0 win over River Plate on Saturday. The game was dominated by Independiente’s teenage winger Alan Velasco who is one of the brightest young stars in Argentina. Velasco scored both goals and Sonora assisted on the first (while Velasco did most of the work). Independiente remains in 5th in the six-team Group A but just three points off the top.
Alan Soñora with the assist but Alan Velasco, the goal scorer, does more than his share of the heavily lifting on Independiente’s goal pic.twitter.com/3AMwmmp10G— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 10, 2021
Trio of Yanks in Belgium
Three Americans took the field in Belgium’s top flight over the weekend.
The best news of the bunch came from Brenden Hines-Ike, 26, who earned the start in a three-man backline for Kortrijk against second-place Genk, the future club of U.S. national team defender Mark McKenzie. Kortrijk ended up posting a 2-1 upset to move into eighth place in the league.
Matt Miazga, 25, and Anderlecht were upset by Oud-Heverlee 1-0 on a late penalty which was caused by Hannes Delcroix. Miazga played well in this one and his effort should have been enough for at least a clean-sheet win.
Chris Durkin went the distance for St. Truiden in a 2-1 loss to leaders Club Brugge on Saturday (where Ethan Horvath was an unused substitute). Despite the loss, Durkin had his best game in months and was very strong on both sides of the ball to give his relegation-battling team a chance. This result will keep him in the lineup.
Chris Durkin: raw # for St. Truiden in 2-1 loss to Club Brugge— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 10, 2021
3 key passes
3 chances created
31/40 passing (78%)
4/8 long balls
4 duels won (3 lost)
1 aerial won (0 lost)
Elsewhere in Europe
In the Bundesliga, American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo saw his VfB Stuttgart team return into the top 10 of the league following a 4-1 win over Augsburg on Sunday. It has been a solid season after earning promotion as Stuttgart’s +8 goal differential is sixth-best in the league.
John Brooks and Wolfsburg’s defense all struggled in a 2-2 draw with Union Berlin between two teams even on points trying to sneak into the top four.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green played a full 90 for Greuther Furth in a 3-2 loss to Karlsruher that dropped it to fourth in the league and could end up being costly in its promotional race.
Christian Pulisic played the final 22 minutes for Chelsea in a 4-0 win over Morecambe. It was a mostly uneventful outing for the Hershey native against an over-matched opponent.
Also in the FA Cup, Zack Steffen made 2 saves to help Manchester City to a 3-0 clean sheet win over Birmingham City. With Ederson backing Steffen up in this one it shows that the Brazilian is now healthy. Steffen might return to the bench soon.
Arsenal needed 120 minutes to defeat Newcastle United 2-0 in the FA Cup third round. DeAndre Yedlin replaced Miguel Almiron in the 81st minute in this one.
Reggie Cannon and Boavista played Santa Clara to a 1-1 draw in Portugal’s top flight on Saturday. While Cannon played relatively well, Boavista moved into last-place of the league due to goal differential. The standings remain tight and three points could conceivably move it into the top 10.
In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre played the final 3-1 minutes for Heracles in a 2-1 loss to Vitesse.