Americans abroad preview
Robinson vs. Liverpool, Reyna vs. Matarazzo, Adams vs. Sargent top weekend abroad
December 11, 2020
DECEMBER HAS been a wild ride in the world of American soccer. The MLS playoffs have been very entertaining and MLS Cup will be played on Saturday. The U.S. national team rolled past El Salvador and it ushed in the debut for many other young players. A record number of American players have already played in the Champions League and the league seasons in Europe and South American continue to be successful.
With all of that success, Thursday saw one of the worst bits of news of the year in American soccer when it was announced that Richard Ledezma had suffered a torn ACL in the 18th minute of PSV’s 4-0 win over AC Omonia in the Europa League. A star of the 2019 U-20 World Cup, Ledezma recently came off a strong debut with the U.S. team in its 6-2 win over Panama and was talked about as a key player for the U.S. U-23 team in 2021 for the Olympics and possibly Olympic qualifying. Ledezma will now be sidelined for seven to nine months and his season along with Olympic hopes are over.
But in a manner of optimism, here is a look at one of the all-time greatest moments from the U.S. national team that came from Clint Mathis, who was less than a year removed from tearing his ACL.
But league play now takes center stage as European competitions are paused until next year and the next international window isn’t until March. So squad rotation will not be as complex as coaches aren’t forced to value certain tournaments more than others.
It’s a simple time of year with league games now the priority and here is what I will be watching.
Fulham – Liverpool
The Premier League
Sunday, December 13: 11:30am EST
Fulham has quietly been playing better and after losing its first six games of the season, it is out of the relegation zone (albeit by one point). On Sunday, it will welcome the reigning champions into Craven Cottage it what should be an uphill climb for London-based club.
Antonee Robinson continues to be among the better players on Fulham and he put up nice numbers in last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City. This will be another huge test and opportunity for the U.S. national team left back. Tim Ream will probably be on the bench for this one.
Borussia Dortmund – VfB Stuttgart
Saturday, December 12: 9:30am EST
Two of the breakout Americans in Europe in very different capacities will face each other on Saturday when Borussia Dortmund hosts VfB Stuttgart. Gio Reyna, 18, made his first team professional debut early in 2020 and has become one of the best teenagers in Germany during that span. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s own Pellegrino Matarazzo earned his first managerial job during the last winter break and guided Stuttgart to promotion. Now in his first season in the top flight, he has VfB Stuttgart coasting inside the top 10 of the league with a well-balanced attack.
This will be a huge challenge for Matarazzo and his team although Borussia Dortmund aren’t quite the imposing opposition with Erling Haaland out injured. Dortmund comes into this game on the heels of a tough draw last weekend to Eintracht Frankfurt and a loss the weekend before to Koln. Midweek, it needed to rally to escape St. Petersburg with a 2-1 win over Zenit in the Champions League.
Stuttgart, meanwhile, is coming off an impressive 2-1 win over Werder Bremen last weekend in the Bundesliga. Both of these teams like to attack and while Stuttgart doesn’t defend particularly well, it has a shot in this one against a limited Dortmund team. For Reyna, he should have plenty of space to work with to create chances.
Everton – Chelsea
The Premier League
Saturday, December 12: 3:00pm EST
Christian Pulisic is still being eased back into the mix for Chelsea after a difficult stretch of injuries in the first half of the season. Last weekend, he came off the bench for 60 minutes and scored the final goal in a 3-1 win over Leeds. The fact that he was an unused sub in the Champions League draw with Krasnodar probably highlights his freshness to play in this game.
Chelsea is surging in the Premier League and after 11 games is just two points back of co-leaders Tottenham and Liverpool. After a torrid start to the season, Everton has drifted back to reality and has fallen into midtable with 17 points from 11 games.
Both Pulisic personally and Chelsea as a team have all the momentum heading into this game – that bodes well for the Hershey native.
RB Leipzig - Werder Bremen
Saturday, December 12: 9:30am EST
Two popular American players dating back to the 2017 U-20 World Cup when they were teammates will face each other on Saturday when Tyler Adams and RB Salzburg hosts Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.
Leipzig is coming off a hard-fought 3-2 win over Manchester United on Wednesday to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Tyler Adams played only the last 15 minutes of that game so should be rested to start this game. Last weekend, he played well defensively in a wild 3-3 draw against leaders Bayern Munich.
For Josh Sargent, he has just one goal on the season but has played better than that number suggests. One year after narrowly escaping relegation, Werder plays a very ugly but scrappy style. That was effective early in the season but the wheels are slowly coming off at it has lost its last two games and is winless in five games. In last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Stuttgart, Sargent saw very little of the ball in dangerous positions.
Adams and Leipzig are heavily favored in this game but Sargent has played well against good teams and his best outing was against Bayern Munich. Werder could really use a similar outing from the St. Louis native in this one.
Salzburg – LASK
The Austrian Bundesliga
Sunday, December 13: 11:00am EST
While focusing on the Champions League, Red Bull Salzburg’s American manager Jesse Marsch was forced into heavy squad rotation in Austrian Bundesliga games. As a result, it fell out of the lead in the domestic league and was overtaken last weekend by LASK. In its last four Austrian Bundesliga games, Salzburg has just one win, a draw, and two losses. Last weekend, it dropped a 1-0 decision to Admira while LASK’s 3-0 win over Ried moved one point beyond Salzburg.
On Wednesday, Salzburg fell to Atletico Madrid 2-0 in the Champions League to finish third in its group. While it did not advance to the knockouts, it qualified for the knockouts of the Europa League in February.
But now is a chance for Salzburg to reclaim first place in the Austrian Bundesliga and Marsch should be eager to field his first-choice players in this one, despite it being on limited rest from a grueling game on Wednesday.
Genoa - Juventus
Sunday, December 13, 12:00pm EST
There is no American player more in-form at the moment than Weston McKennie who has scored in his last two games for Juventus in huge games against Turin-rivals Torino where he ignited a 2-1 comeback win and against Barcelona at the Nou Camp where he joined in on a 3-0 rout with a spectacular goal. That is beyond impressive and McKennie is making a claim to be the best American player of 2020 – after being the lone bright spot for Schalke at the conclusion of 2019/20.
Weston McKennie’s goal at the Nou Camp against Barca! pic.twitter.com/ncE0dN5pv9— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) December 8, 2020
This should be a big opportunity for Juventus to rack up three points as Genoa sits in 19th place in the 20-team league and has just one win from its first 10 games of the season. It will be fun to see what McKennie should be able to do with Juventus expecting to dominate its opponent.
SM Caen – Troyes
Saturday, December 12: 9:00am EST
Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, has not scored for SM Caen since his MOTM performance for the U.S. team against Panama where he buried two first half goals. But during that three-game span, he has drawn two very important penalties which have ensure draws for Caen.
Caen has stumbled a bit in recent weeks in Ligue 2 and has fallen into seventh place with 22 points from 14 games. The standings remain tight with just two points separating it from fourth place Auxerre which has 24 points.
SM Caen can make a push but it will need a big effort from Gioacchini and company on Saturday when it hosts league leaders Troyes which has 27 points from 13 games and has four wins and draw in its last five. Gioacchini is among the most fouled players in Ligue 2 and is impressing. 2021 could be a big year for him in the U.S. team but promotion with Caen would be a huge step as well.
Barcelona – Levante
Sunday, December 13: 3:00pm EST
It has been a tough week in an lackluster season for Barcelona which was routed at home by Juventus in the Champions League midweek (while still advancing to the knockouts) while dropping a 2-1 decision to Cadiz last weekend. It is an awkward period for the traditionally world-dominant club as it enters a transitional period which will usher in a new core while gradually seeing the departures of some of the game’s most iconic players.
Sergino Dest, 20, has acquitted himself very well, despite the struggles of the team. The U.S. international right back has proven that he should be part of the team’s future. But what about the team’s present? It has just 14 points from 10 games and has played one or two fewer games than most other teams in the league. The chances of it catching leaders Atletico Madrid are extremely remote but it might be able to climb in the weeks ahead without the distraction of Champions League games.
Levante at home is a very beatable opponent as it has just 11 points from 11 games. While it posted a solid 3-0 win over Getafe last weekend, Barcelona at home is the heavy favorites in this one.
Dundee United – Rangers
The Scottish Premiership
Sunday, December 13: 7:00am EST
After earning promotion last season, Dundee United has been up and down this season in the top flight – which is fine as it sits midtable in the Scottish Premiership. Ian Harkes has typically started but come off the bench at times in central midfield to be an asset for the club while fellow American midfielder Dillon Powers has been a steady presence off the bench.
Rangers are running away with the Premiership at the moment so this will be a huge test for the two Americans. Rangers has 14 wins, 2 draws, and 0 losses in 16 games. But with difficulty comes great opportunity and Hakes and Powers will have the chance to step into the spotlight of playing the best team in the league.
Valencia - Athletic Club
Saturday, December 12: 8:00am EST
Will he play for the United States or England in the future? Probably Yunus Musah doesn’t even know right now, but for now he plays for Valencia in Spain’s La Liga. The New York-born Musah has big decisions ahead of him in 2021 and for now American fans are eagerly tracking his progress.
While full of potential, Musah, 18, hasn’t been particularly sharp the last two games for Valencia but seemingly everyone at the club hasn’t been great recently. But fresh off a massive extension that runs through 2026, Musah is part of the club’s future and he will hope to end the team’s current skid where it has just one win from its last eight games and has fallen to 13th place.
Musah prefers central midfield but has been playing wide right over his 11 appearances for Valencia this season. Playing at home in this game, Athletic Club is in 14th place and even on points with Valencia (but has played one fewer game). This is a winnable game for Valencia and a loss here could see it continue its slow drift to the relegation line.
Brondby – Sonderjyske
The Danish Superliga
Sunday, December 13: 12:00pm
After struggling mightily in season in Germany with Schalke and then in Holland with VVV Venlo, Haji Wright has been terrific in the Danish Superliga this season where he seven goals in just 568 minutes for Sonderjyske. Normally one of the smaller teams in the top flight, Wright’s efforts have helped lift Sonderjyske into second place after 11 games.
But this will be the toughest test for Wright this season as Brondby is typically one of the strongest clubs in Denmark is and is even with Sonderjyske on points with Sonderjyske having the advantage only on goal differential. Earlier in the season, Wright took teams by surprise but now he is heavily scouted as the focal point of the team’s offense.
Also with Wright, he has generally been out of the U.S. picture since his days on the 2015 U.S. U-17 team. He was cut from the 2017 U.S. U-20 team without appearing in meaningful camps, he has yet to feature for the U.S. U-23 team this cycle but perhaps that will change if he plays well heading into 2021.
Anderlecht – Genk
The Belgian Pro League
Friday, December 11: 2:45pm EST
Matt Miazga, 25, has played well since arriving on loan at Anderlecht in October although the club has stumbled its upward climb lately with three draws and a loss in its last four games. The U.S. national team central defender from New Jersey will have to play well in this one for Anderlecht to have a chance as Genk is currently atop the table and is riding a five game winning streak in the league and has scored 19 goals in those five games.
Anderlecht enters this game in eighth place with 23 points from 15 games. It is eight points behind Genk heading into Friday’s game.
Wolfsburg - Eintracht Frankfurt
Friday, December 11: 2:30pm EST
Both John Brooks and Wolfsburg have been in fine form to start the season. Coming into Friday, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen are the only two teams in the Bundesliga yet to lose a game. While Wolfsburg’s run began with strong defense, in recent games it has been the team’s offense serving as the difference maker with it having scored multiple goals in each of the last four games.
Wolfsburg had its toughest game of the season last weekend in a 2-2 draw with Koln where it needed to rally for two equalizers to secure the draw.
After a strong start to the season, Eintrach Frankfurt has not won in its last seven Bundesliga games – although six of those seven games have been draws, including its last five. But Wolfsburg currently sits in fifth place and is undefeated. Playing at home, a Wolfsburg win should be expected.
South America report
In 2020, a growing number of American players began to play more regularly in South America and that should continue this weekend.
In Argentina’s newly created Copa Diego Maradona, the Sonora brothers both have a chance to feature as the Championship Round begins with two groups of six teams.
In Group A, Hurcan and Independiete face off on Sunday night (7:30pm EST). Alan Sonora is likely to start in this one for Independiente. The 22 year old midfielder who was born in New Jersey has begun starting regularly for the big Argentine club and scored his first career goal last weekend. The younger Sonora brother is yet to feature for the United States at any level although would accept a call-up.
In Group B, Joel Sonora has mostly been a bench option for Talleres de Cordoba and on Saturday night (7:30pm EST) Talleres will visit San Lorenzo. The 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran enjoyed one of the best moments of his career in November when he scored the winning goal against Boca Juniors in the tournament’s first stage.
In Brazil, U.S. national team central midfielder Johnny Cardoso, 19, is hoping to return from his ankle injury in time for Internacional’s matchup against Botafogo on Saturday (5:00pm EST). Internacional is winless in its last seven games in Brazil’s top flight but Botafogo is winless in seven games and has lost its last five. If Internacional loses this game, alarm bells will ring in Porta Allegre.
In Ecuador's top flight, team captain Michael Hoyos and third place Guayaquil City host Independiente Valle on Sunday.
Elsewhere in Europe
DeAndre Yedlin will hope to make the bench again for Newcastle United when it hosts West Bromwich Albion on Saturday
U.S. national team goalkeeper Zack Steffen will surely be the backup for Manchester City when it travels across the city for a derby matchup against Manchester United on Saturday.
In the Championship on Saturday, Cameron Carter-Vickers is still likely out injured for AFC Bournemouth when it hosts Huddersfield. Duane Holmes will likely start for Derby County when it hosts Stoke City. Team captain Geoff Cameron and U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman host Reading on Saturday. Matthew Olosunde and Rotherham United host Bristol City.
In League One on Saturday, Lynden Gooch is still probably out injured for Sunderland when it visits Lincoln City. U.S. U-20 attacker Indiana Vassilev will hope to make the bench for Burton Albion as it visits Milton Keynes Dons.
In the Bundesliga, Chris Richards will probably be on the bench for Bayern Munich when it visits Union Berlin on Saturday. U.S. U-20 forward Matthew Hoppe will look for his third straight appearance for last-place Schalke in a visit to Augsburg on Sunday.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green and Greuther Furth visit Sandhausen Friday. Bobby Wood and Hamburg visit Darmstadt on Saturday. Jan George and Jahn Regensburg host Holstein Kiel on Saturday. Kevin Lankford, Leon Flach, and St. Pauli host Erzgebirge Aue on Sunday. Alfred Morales and Fortuna Dusseldorf visit Karlsruher on Sunday.
In the 3.Liga, red hot Terrence Boyd and Hallescher host Dynamo Dresden on Saturday. Head coach Joe Enochs and his FSV Zwickau team had their game against Ingolstadt postponed.
In Italy’s Serie B, Andrija Novakovich will look to build off his two-goal performance for fifth-place Frosinone when they visit third-place Lecce on Saturday. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Barone has been an unused sub for first place Salernitana recently but will hope to make his pro debut on Saturday in a visit to Brescia.
In Spain’s Segunda, Shaq Moore and Tenerife visit Real Oviedo on Friday.
After scoring midweek for Lille in the Europa League against Celtic (in a meaningless game for both teams), Tim Weah will hope to earn meaningful Ligue 1 minutes against Bordeaux on Sunday.
In Ligue 2, U.S. U-20 eligible Patrick Koffi will hope to return to the bench for Paris FC when it hosts Rodez on Saturday.
In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre will start for Heracles when it hosts Fortuna Sittard on Friday. Desevio Payne is still out of action for Emmen which hosts ADO de Haag on Saturday. Uly Llanez and Heerenveen visit Vitesse on Sunday.
In the Dutch second tier, Sebastian Soto is probably still out for Telstar for its game on Friday against Almere City having played for the U.S. team on Wednesday in Florida.
In Turkey’s top flight, Erik Lichaj and Fatih Karagumruk visit Hatayspor on Saturday. Tyler Boyd is still unregistered for Besiktas which visits Alanyaspor on Sunday.
In the Portuguese Cup, U.S. national team right back Reggie Cannon and Boavista visit Estoril on Saturday.
In Scotland, U.S. U-20 winger Cam Harper will hope to match the bench for Celtic when it visits Kilmarnock on Sunday.
In Belgium, Brenden Hines Ike and Kortrijk host OH Leuven on Saturday. Chris Durkin and St. Truiden host Sporting Charleroi on Saturday. Backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath and Club Brugge Visit Antwerp on Sunday. Joe Efford and Waasland Beveren visit Mechelen on Sunday.
In Belgium, backup goalkeeper Michael Lansing and AC Horsens host AGF Aarhus on Sunday in the Danish Superliga. Also in the Superliga, Emmanue Sabbi and OB host leaders Midtjylland on Monday.
In Austria’s Bundesliga, Erik Palmer-Brown and Austria Vienna visit Wolfsberger on Sunday.
In Norway’s top flight, Henry Wingo and Molde visit Rosenborg on Sunday.
In Switzerland’s Superliga, Jordan Siebatcheu and BSC Young Boys host Servette on Sunday.
In Poland’s top flight, Kenny Saief and Lechia Gdansk host Wilsa Plock on Monday.
In Greece’s Super League, 2015 U.S. U-23 attacker Gboly Ariyibi and Panaitolikos visit Volos NFC on Sunday.