Americans abroad analysis
Reyna shines, Richards & Dest make breakthroughs, Pulisic returns & so much more
This past weekend required almost a book to break it all down - and that is what ASN's Brian Sciaretta has done. This is your ultimate recap and analysis of a weekend that will not be soon forgotten. Full of videos, breakdowns, and analytical takes, this will help you understand what it all means in the big picture.
September 30, 2020
THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad was remarkable. When you consider that Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams didn't even play, and then you realize players played for Barcalona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund, it was kind of hard to believe. Then when you look further down, there are plenty of more youngsters coming. On top of it all, there are American coaches doing big things too.
Among the big five names (Pulisic, Dest, Reyna, McKennie, and Adams), Christian Pulisic returned to the field in very welcome news and Gio Reyna had a groundbreaking performance - still shy of his 18th birthday. Meanwhile, Sergino Dest became the first American player to ever feature for Barcelona. After being formally introduced as a Barcelona player on Thursday with a media unveiling on Friday, Dest played the final 15 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Sevilla.
Tyler Adams did not play for Leipzig due to what the club said was a “minor back injury.” Obviously, playing Schalke these days is a good game to skip and Leipzig walked away with an easy 4-0 win.
Meanwhile, Weston McKennie and Juventus showed up at the stadium and Andrea Pirlo announced his lineup. Napoli, however, did not show up due to COVID concerns and the game did not happen. McKennie was slated to be on the bench for this one.
The transfer window has been huge U.S. national team players. First there was Cannon and just this past week, two U.S. internationals made moves - Dest joined Barcelona and Anderlecht announced it had acquired Matt Miazga on loan from Chelsea for the upcoming season. At the youth levels, there are also rumors that top U.S. U-20 attacker Matko Miljevic might soon leave Argentinos Juniors.
For Miazga, he will get the opportunity to play in yet another league. This far he has played minutes in seven different leagues: USL, MLS, Premier League, the Eredivisie, Ligue 1, the Championship, and now the Belgian Pro League. But in his move to Anderlecht, he will get the chance to play under Vincent Kompany – who is one of the best central defenders of the modern era. It will be interesting to see what Miazga learns from this environment.
This season also continues to show case American born and raised managers in big situations. Pellegrino Matarazzo and his VfB Stuttgart team played Bayer Leverkusen to a 1-1 draw. It was yet another positive step for Matarazzo to get Stuttgart off to a strong start. Next up will be a visit to Hertha BSC. Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg look as if they are going to run away with the Austrian Bundesliga again. With a 7-1 win over Hartberg on Sunday, Salzburg have come out in fine form: 4 games, 4 wins, and have outscored opponents 17-4.
On a smaller scale potential move, United States U-20 forward Charlie Kelman was not in the matchday roster for fourth-tier Southend United on Saturday. Midweek, Southend United reportedly rejected a bid from London-based Championship club Queens Park Rangers for Kelman. But the fact that Kelman was not in the matchday roster suggests that perhaps a deal is now close – although maybe it is with another club.
Reyna MOTM in huge performance
Giovanni Reyna is still only 17 and he has made a lot of big strides in 2020 for Borussia Dortmund. Expectations around him are already elevated but the son of the former U.S. national team captain surpassed the hype on Saturday in a 4-0 win over Freiburg.
It was always going to be telling to see how Reyna responded after last weekend’s difficult outing in a 2-0 loss to Augsburg. In this one, Reyna was brilliant as he assisted on the first three Dortmund goals before being subbed out in the 80th minute. What shouldn’t go overlooked is that Reyna could have easily have had another assist and a goal.
His raw numbers speak for itself – a monster outing.
- 80 minutes (left at 3-0)
- 70 touches
- 1 shot
- 4 key passes
- 3 assists
- 1 aerial
- 4 dribbles
- 3x fouled
- 5 tackles
- 2 fouls
- 89.1% passing: 41/46
- 2/5 accurate crossing
- 1/1 accurate long balls
Here was his touchmap on the day, he was everywhere in a free-ranging role:
The first and third assists is reflective of potentially one of the most dangerous youthful combinations in Germany: Reyna to Haaland. The Norwegian’s unbelievable combination of speed, skill, and athleticism is going to help any playmaker. But Reyna’s vision is also a huge part of the equation.
The second goal came from a corner delivered by Reyna. It was a well driven corner by Reyna but what is most impressive is the fact that Dortmund is having Reyna take set pieces.
The third assist was the best of the bunch for Reyna. Again connecting with Haaland, Reyna has such good chemistry with Haaland that the two are going to put up frighteningly good numbers this season if they both play north of 30 games.
American fans are no doubt looking for perspective because having a player as talented as Reyna is almost unchartered waters. Christian Pulisic is the best American player in the game right now and there is no serious argument about that. The fact that Reyna and Pulisic were at the same club and earning first-team minutes at the same age makes comparisons almost inevitable.
Reyna right now is more effective than Pulisic at this age. He is the starting No. 10 and controls more of the attack. Yes, he has the ability to connect with a player like Haaland, and Pulisic never had that quality of option, but Reyna is on a path that is extremely unique for an American player.
Richards makes first Bayern start
American soccer twitter erupted on Sunday morning when it was announced that 2019 United States national team centerback Chris Richards was starting for Bayern Munich. Richards had made a few token and late-game cameos so far this season – once in the 8-0 opening win over Schalke and another in the win over Dortmund in the German Super Cup. But starting a meaningful game against a solid opponent in Hertha BSC is a completely different matter.
When Richards played in the Super Cup midweek, he played in the right back position (as he did occasionally with Bayern Munich II). With injury problems at the club, this was an area of need and is one of the reasons why Bayern pursued U.S. international Sergino Dest at Ajax. Bayern has recently upgraded at right back after reportedly acquiring Bouna Sarr from Marseille on Sunday. But this deal is still yet to be formally announced.
As a result, Richards got the shocking start in this one and the American did quite well on the day for the reigning Champions League title-holders. Bayern ended up winning 4-3 and Richards was subbed out in the 66th minute with Bayern up 2-1.
- 65 minutes
- 62 touches
- 0 shots
- 3 key passes
- 1 assist
- 89.6% passing: 43/48
- 1 aerial won
- 0 tackles & interceptions
- 1 clearance
- 0 fouls
- 3/3 accurate crosses
For a central defender playing out of position on the right, Richards was able to hit three well-delivered crosses – one which found Robert Lewandowski for his assist.
This was a massive achievement for Richards, or for any player, to start a game for the European champions. He became the first-ever American to start a Bundesliga game for Bayern. It certainly was a major vote of confidence in the youngster and one that should justify him being considered part of the impressive rising generation of American players who are age 22 and younger. Richards might not yet be at the level of Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Reyna, and Dest as those five seem to be in a class to themselves at the moment. But Richards is part of the group behind that list (some based domestically as well) which is also rising very fast.
This one outing and one assist does not answer the big questions surrounding the short-term future for Richards. With Sarr on his way and Bayern having its set starters in central defense, what is the plan to get him regular minutes?
There are a few possible solutions. 1) Trying to sub him in whenever possible and hope training with Bayern’s elite first team (and maybe still occasionally playing for Bayern II) is enough to not stunt his development 2) loan him to a team where he can play. At this point, my guess is that there will be a loan at some point but maybe Bayern believes keeping him at the club for the next three months, even with limited first-team minutes, could still be a good thing for his development. But there comes a point when training can only take a player so far and that he needs to play.
Dest makes Barca debut
On Saturday, Barcelona hosted Sevilla in a La Liga matchup. In what was once unthinkable, two American players were on Barcelona’s matchday roster in Sergino Dest and Konrad de la Fuente.
Dest joined Barcelona last week and has only spent limited time with his new team. On Thursday, he first announced his deal and Friday was the media presentation. The Spanish giants spent a lot of money to bring Dest into the team and there is every reason to think the U.S. international will get a real shot to showcase himself in the weeks and months ahead.
With the score 1-1 in the 75th minute, Dest came into the game for his club debut and looked very sharp. He had 16 touches, went a perfect 11/11 in passing, had one key pass – to Messsi, and was 1/1 on accurate long balls. For a player who only just arrived, it was a simple and clean performance to build from.
Sergiño Dest debut vs Sevilla (10/4/20)— Matthew (@false_fullback) October 4, 2020
For American soccer, it was historic to see yet another U.S. international play for yet another super-club.
As for de la Fuente, he might get a look at some point but most of his minutes should come with Barcelona B, which will start up play in a few weeks. What the past few weeks have shown is that the club does rate him. That alone makes him one to watch, even if regular first-team minutes aren't pressing.
Pulisic returns for Chelsea
The good news is that Chelsea is being extremely careful with Christian Pulisic as he returns from a hamstring injury. The Hershey native was injured over the summer as the Premier League concluded and his absence extended into this season. For the first several weeks following the restart, Pulisic was playing at world-class level and Chelsea are careful to avoid a long-term injury or any setbacks in his recovery.
On Saturday, Pulisic made Chelsea’s matchday roster for the first time this season. Hosting Crystal Palace in a London Derby, Chelsea were in command throughout the day and took a 4-0 lead in the 82nd minute.
Pulisic came in a minute after the final goal and saw the win out. There wasn’t anything newsworthy over his performance. He made nine touches and completed three of five passing.
The real story was simply that the best American player in the game is back and his minutes should be increasing sooner than later.
Cannon strong in Boavista draw
Reggie Cannon, 22, had his best game since joining Boavista earlier this month when he went a full 90 in a 1-1 draw against Moreirense on Friday. After a 5-0 thumping last weekend at the hands of Porto, Boavista came out strong in this one and took a lead via a spectacular goal from distance from Angel Gomes.
Moreirense eventually found an equalizer on a penalty but Cannon was very good over 90 minutes on both sides of the ball.
His numbers on the day reflect a complete outing.
- 90 minutes
- 58 touches
- 1 shot
- 2 key passes
- 0 aerials
- 2 dribbles (3 attempts)
- 1x fouled
- 2 tackles (2 attempts)
- 4 interceptions
- 4 clearances
- 5 duels won, 2 lost
- 72.4% passing (21/29)
- 1/2 accurate long balls
- 1/2 accurate crosses
With his four interceptions, four clearances, and winning five of seven duels, Cannon was very disruptive defensively. He was also able to get involved and his 58 touches reflect that. His passing, long-balls, and crosses were fairly solid although Boavista will hope he can attempt more than two crosses in games.
Cannon was decent in the first game and struggled (albeit not as much as the rest of his teammates) in the loss to Porto. This was a big step forward.
This was a big move for Cannon and Boavista is the stepping stone that could lead to Lille next season – if he plays well. There was always going to be an adjustment period – as there was for him when he left UCLA to play for Dallas. But right now, he seems to be progressing nicely.
But Boavista remains winless through three games. In the two games it has drawn, Boavista has blown leads in the second half.
Brooks stands tall for Wolfsburg
John Brooks is one of the most interesting and one of the toughest American players in the pool to figure out. There are times when Brooks puts on an extended string of strong performances and it looks like he is one of the best central defenders in the Bundesliga. Then there are times when he struggles, gets benched, and his club seems desperate to find a way to get rid of him.
American fans are certainly happy to note that Brooks is on one of his strong runs right now for Wolfsburg. Brooks and Wolfsburg have drawn all three of their games to start the season but have given up just one goal over the first 270 minutes of 2020/21.
On Sunday, Wolfsburg played to a 0-0 draw with a significantly improved Augsburg team that had outscored its opponents 5-1 over the first two games. Brooks got a way with a late mistake in the closing minutes from inside the six-yard box but was bailed out with a nice save. But overall, his numbers were great.
- 90 minutes
- 112 touches
- 2 shots
- 2 key passes
- 86.3% passing
- 1 dribble
- 2 tackles
- 3 interceptions
- 5 clearances
- 10/17 accurate longs balls
The 112 touches, the five clearances, and the 10 completed long balls were the best in the game among all players from either team.
This was the type of Brooks performances that should make Gregg Berhalter feel very comfortable about his central defense. It remains a big open question who starts alongside Brooks.
Robinson makes his Premier League debut
After not playing in any of Fulham’s first three Premier League games, Robinson had to showcase himself in tough-to-read League Cup games of questionable importance. Robinson, 23, generally performed well in these games and with Fulham having lost its first three games of the season, a shakeup was needed and Robinson earned the start on Sunday away at Wolverhampton.
It was always going to be interesting how Robinson would get into the lineup at Fulham given that one of the team’s best players, Joe Bryan (who was the hero of the promotional final with two goals), occupied that position.
On Sunday, Fulham manager Scott Parker made the decision to move Bryan up into the midfield and put Robinson into the left back spot – at least offensively. On the defensive side, Bryan shifted into left back Robinson almost occupied a third central defensive spot. It was always likely that Parker was going to have to get creative with fixing central defense and midweek it hit a low point when the club chairman publicly tweeted and apologized for not bringing in central defenders during the current window.
The bad news is that Fulham still lost 1-0 and is now without a point after four games. The good news is that Robinson played well and this was still probably the best Fulham has looked so far in its return to the top flight.
Robinson’s numbers were generally solid:
- 90 minutes
- 90 touches
- 1 shot
- 1 key pass
- 3 aerials won
- 87% passing (50/57)
- 1 dribble
- 1 time fouled
- 1 tackle
- 4 clearances (team highest)
- 1/6 accurate crosses
- 2/4 accurate long balls
Robinson surely did enough to remain in the starting lineup. His crossing needs to be a little sharper but his athleticism to get up and down the line as well as his work rate to earn 90 touches (with no major mistakes) in this role are all positives signs.
On another note, it must have been a tough game for Tim Ream to play after the public comments from the chairman apologizing for a lack of central defenders. Ream was pretty solid in his game and while he was involved in the goal from Wolves, he didn’t have much of an opportunity to get off an adequate clearance. Overall, his passing numbers were solid and the reason for the loss were a total lack of chances created.
Gioacchini hits winner for Caen
Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, is one of the most “under the radar” American players at the moment. Born in Kansas City (where he later moved to Bethesda, Md for high school) to a Jamaican mother and an Italian father, the SM Caen attacker has been singled out by U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter as a player who might have been called up to the cancelled March friendlies.
On Saturday, Gioacchini got the start for SM Caen in its matchup against Amiens. Gioacchini scored in the 42nd minute and it was all Caen needed in a 1-0 win. It was Gioacchini’s second goal of the season – which is now six games old. The win moved Caen into fourth place of Ligue 2 and the club holds legitimate promotional hopes
Gioacchini checks a lot of boxes for both the United States national team and the U.S. U-23 team. His versatility to play on the wing, center forward, and the No. 10 position gives his manager options. Plus he is very athletic and can handle the physical side of the game well. At this point, he should be in strong consideration for the full team in November since the roster will likely consist entirely of European-based players.
From there, it will be up to how he performs. But he is in a good situation and on a very nice path.
Weah’s uncertain Lille Status
It remains worth watching the situation of Tim Weah at Lille. Earlier in the season, Weah made a pair of sub appearances just over 10 minutes each and it looked like the Ligue 1 club was easing him back into regular minutes.
But the past two games, his playing time has gone the other direction. Last weekend he did not get off the bench in a 2-0 win over Nantes
On Sunday, Weah played just the final minute of stoppage time in a 3-0 win over Strasbourg. This was perhaps more of a concern as his team had a multiple goal lead from the 53rd minute (at a time no subs had been made). It had a three-goal lead from the 68th minute and by that time it had made just one sub.
If there was a time for Weah to get an longer run of minutes, it would have been this game as Lille had it under control almost the entire second half. The fact that Lille didn’t use this opportunity to continue work him back is not a great sign.
Palmer-Brown solid for Austria Vienna
Erik Palmer-Brown, 23, is off to a strong start to the Austrian Bundesliga season where he is at Austria Vienna – on loan from Manchester City. Two weeks ago, he was named to the league’s Team of the Week. On Saturday, the Kansas City-born central defender earned the start against WSG Swarovski Tirol.
Palmer-Brown’s numbers in this one were once again solid and he was a big reason why Austria Vienna cruised to a 2-0 away win. He made a few mistakes that didn’t end up costing his team, but overall it was a very positive performance. When looking at his numbers, what stood out was his long-ball accuracy.
- 90 minutes
- 54 touches
- 41/42 passing (97%)
- 6/6 passing in opponent’s half
- 4 duels won, 1 lost
- 7 clearances
- 3 aerials won
- 0 interceptions & tackles
- 7/7 accurate long balls
With the win, Austria Vienna joined logjam of four teams that are even at seven points for second-place – behind leaders Red Bull Salzburg.
Right now, Palmer-Brown is getting a regular slate of games and building up confidence. If he keeps playing this well, moving to a bigger club in a bigger league is likely this winter.
Novakovich’s goal lifts Frosinone
Andrija Novakovich, 24, was a regular starter last year for Frosinone and the club narrowly missed out on promotion to Serie A after losing the promotional playoff final on the tiebreaker that saw the higher-seeded team advance.
Last weekend, Novakovich came off the bench in the Serie B opener – a 2-0 loss to Empoli. In the season’s second game, Novakovich again was on the bench. But with the game scoreless in the 51st minute, Novakovich entered the game.
Then in the 58th minute, Novakovich found the back of the net when his teammate held the ball up in the box and hit Novakovich with a short pass in box. The Wisconsin native made no mistake with the finish and it gave Frosinone a 1-0 lead. The visitors would later add a second for a 2-0 win.
This performance off the bench should help Novakovich get back into the starting lineup for Frosinone and he could be in the running for a return to the U.S. national team in November. Thus far, Novakovich’s only call ups have happened in 2018 under interim manager Dave Sarachan.
Sargent starts in Werder win
Josh Sargent, 20, made his third consecutive start for Werder Bremen to open the season. After a tough opener during a 4-1 loss to Hertha BSC, Sargent was sharp in the second game during a 3-1 win over lowly Schalke. In that game, Sargent earned an assist with a header off a corner.
On Saturday, Werder Bremen hosted newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld and walked out with an important 1-0 win. Last season, Werder was mired in a relegation battle which it narrowly escaped. If the team is going to avoid another similar battle, it needs to gain points against the most vulnerable teams – most notably Schalke and the newly promoted teams. Last week’s comfortable win over Schalke was a step in the right direction. This win was an even more significant step.
Sargent in this one was relatively quiet and his numbers reflected that.
- 80 mins
- 28 touches
- 0 shots
- 1 key pass
- 2 aerials
- 64.3% passing: 9/14
- 1 dribble
- 2x fouled
- 3 fouls
- 1 clearance
- 0 crosses
He wasn’t too involved with the ball but worked hard and handled a lot of the physical requirements asked in even-matched games.
As for Sargent, he remains tough to figure out. He had a great preseason where he was scoring goals consistently and looked on the verge of a breakout. Thus far in the season, he hasn’t been too dangerous but his team still appears to play much better with him on the field – due to his hold-up play, his ability to press, and his chemistry with his teammates.
Llanez makes Heerenveen debut
After arriving in Holland from Wolfsburg for a season-long at Heerenveen. Llanez, 19, played last season with Wolfsburg’s youth teams but never made a first-team appearances. The Bundesliga club is hoping that this loan will help prepare him for the German top-flight once he returns next year.
Heerenveen began the season with a perfect nine points in three games. In this game, it was 1-1 in the second half. Llanez made his professional, first-team debut in the 67th minute and his performance was uneventful. It was tough for him to make an impact after the 82nd minute when Heerenveen was reduced to 10 players.
Uly Llanez— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 2, 2020
0 shots/0 key passes
1 duel won
2 duels lost
0/1 on dribbles
- Pretty low-key debut for Llanez but his team went down to 10 players in the 82nd and played for a draw. #USMNT
- Here's his touch map (attacking to left) https://t.co/a9DXncgZpM pic.twitter.com/B2GGr0kZIy
Llanez at times appeared nervous at times and wasn’t able to really get going. But with his debut now behind him, Heerenveen will likely continue to find situations to get him integrated. The Eredivisie is one of the best leagues for a young attacking player and the games are often more open. Llanez should eventually settle in and do well.
Elsewhere around the globe
Staying in the Bundesliga, Timothy Chandler was an 87th minute sub for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim.
Queens Park Rangers and its American captain, Geoff Cameron, walked away from a visit to Sheffield Wednesday with a 1-1 draw thanks to an equalizer from Macauley Bonne in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time.
After three losses to open the season, Derby County found its first win of the season when a late Wayne Rooney free kick sent it past Norwich 1-0. Last weekend, American attacking mid Duane Holmes made his first appearance of the season in his return from a thigh injury. On Saturday he earned his first start. While Holmes was quiet in this one and left in the 62nd minute with the game scoreless, it was a sign progress to see him play from the opening whistle.
In England’s third tier League One, United States U-20 attacker and Aston Villa loanee Indiana Vassilev came off the bench for Burton Albion in the 66th minute of a 4-2 loss to Portsmouth. The game was 3-2 when the Georgia native entered into the game.
Staying in League One, Lynden Gooch started and went the distance for Sunderland in a 0-0 away draw to Charlton Athletic.
In the Scottish Premiership, Ian Harkes went the distance for Dundee United but it suffered a painful 2-1 loss at home to Livingston when the guests scored stoppage time winner. Dundee United could be in a relegation battle this season and these types of losses could haunt the club later in the year.
In the Dutch second tier, Jong PSV defeated Telstar 3-0. 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup star Sebastian Soto started for Telstar (where he is on loan from Norwich) but was subbed out at halftime with his team down 2-0. His former U.S. U-20 teammate, left back Chris Gloster, played the final 27 minutes for Jong PSV in the win.
In Turkey’s Superlig, Eric Lichaj played 73 minutes for Fatih Karagumruk in a 2-1 loss on the road to Fenerbahce.
In Belgium’s top flight, St. Truiden and Kortrijk played to a 0-0 draw. St. Truiden defensive midfielder and Richmond, VA native Chris Durkin along with Kortrijk defender and Colorado native Brenden Hines-Ike both went as unused substitutes.
Staying in Belgium, Georgia native Joe Efford played the final 17 minutes for Waasland Bevern in a 1-1 home draw vs. Genk.
Close followers of Americans abroad will recall the name Gboly Ariyibi who was an attacker on the unsuccessful U.S. U-23 team in 2015. He is now on Panetolikos in the Greek Super League. Check out the goal he scored on Saturday in a 1-1 draw vs. Asteras Tripolis
U.S. U-20 midfielder/left back Leon Flach did not get off the bench for St. Pauli in a 1-0 road loss to Sandhausen.
Tyler Boyd had an up and down game for Besiktas where he went 63 minutes in a tough 1-0 home loss to Genclerbirligi
Emmanuel Sabbi has had a strong start to the season but the winger had a tough outing on Sunday for OB in a 1-0 loss at home to Vejle Boldklub. OB had to play down a man starting in the 22nd minute and eventually conceded an 87th minute goal in the loss. Sabbi was subbed out in the 84th minute.
Haji Wright’s goal scoring string for SonderjyskE (3 goals in 2 sub appearances) came to an end on Sunday against Lyngby. Wright came into the game in the 67th minute with the score 1-1. SonderjyskE took the lead in the 76th but conceded a stoppage time equalizer in a 2-2 draw.
Red hot Aron Johannsson actually did not score for Hammarby this weekend in a 1-1 draw to Djurgaarden on Sunday. Johannsson went the full 90 as his team conceded a stoppage time equalizer.
Also, in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Mix Diskerud played central defense for Helsingborg in a 3-2 loss to Mjaellby.
In the Swiss top flight, Jordan Siebatcheu was an 89th minute sub for reigning champs Young Boys in a 1-0 win over FC Vaduz