Americans Abroad

Sargent, Tillman, Vazquez, and Zendejas shine in otherwise quiet weekend for Yanks abroad

ASN's Brian Sciaretta writes the book for weekend among Americans abroad. While it wasn't as good as last weekend, this past weekend saw the continued success of Josh Sargent, Malik Tillman, and Brandon Vazquez. It comes at a time when all three are looking to make strides for the USMNT. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 04, 2024
12:05 PM

THE MONTH OF February concluded with a historically good weekend for Americans abroad where goals where players scored goals or assisted in each of the top leagues in Europe. The month of March, however, began with a mostly disappointing weekend with only a few players standing out.

With such a high number of players playing abroad, there are always going to be a few standouts. And this past weekend’s top players were three players who shouldn’t come as a surprise as they’re all having great seasons – Josh Sargent, Malik Tillman, and Brandon Vazquez. Joining them was Alejandro Zendejas who had a huge outing in a short appearance off the bench for Club America in a 5-1 rout over Atlas.

But after these four players, there weren’t too many standout performances to write about. One bit a big news broke on Monday in that Weston McKennie is expected back this weekend. That’s big news for both Juventus and the U.S. team.

In that interest, this column will be a little bit shorter than typical weeks so we can move on to more pressing matters this week.


Sargent continues stellar season


Remember when Josh Sargent was breaking out at the 2017 U-20 World Cup (now almost seven years ago) and everyone said this was the American striker of the future? Then remember when he was struggling at Werder Bremen and people started writing him off?

It looks like people were right the first time. What is easy to forget is that it takes a long time for a No. 9 to develop, and a good No. 9 can be valuable well into his 30’s.

Sargent, who just only turned 24, is blossoming into a quality No. 9 who has the ability to lead a team into the Premier League. On Saturday, the St. Louis native scored his 11th goal of the season in under 1100 minutes. Despite missing four months this season and still playing through pain, Sargent is scoring all types of goals.

You can see that he is adding skills to his game that just weren’t there. He is separating himself from defenders. He is beating defenders with the dribble. He is out muscling defenders.

Just look at the winning goal he scored on Saturday in the 52nd minute of Norwich’s 1-0 victory over Sunderland. It was an enormous win that now has Norwich just one point out of the playoff positions in the Championship. Had Sargent not been injured this season, Norwich would be safely inside the playoff bubble.

Sargent is getting it done at an important time and he is a true impact player in the Championship, and there is a ton of value to such players.

Now, this obviously raises a few more questions. Can Sargent get it done in the Premier League should he get Norwich up? He struggled in the top tier before, but he’s a better player now. But how much better? That is an interesting test.

Then there are questions over the national team. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if Sargent is left off the Nations League roster. Norwich manager David Wagner has said Sargent is playing through pain and maybe it’s best for Sargent to get some rest and medical work without the pressure of several games for two weeks.

But for the summer, Sargent is clearly outplaying Ricardo Pepi and Flo Balogun. At what point does Sargent bump one of the two forwards who have been preferred in 2023? Does Gregg Berhalter take three No. 9’s? Is that just to keep players happy, or is there a real benefit to having three?

Either way, Sargent is making the decisions harder for Berhalter – and that’s a good, good thing.


Vazquez keeps shining for Monterrey


Staying with American No. 9 forwards, Brandon Vazquez bagged another goal for Monterrey in a 3-0 win over Pumas UNAM on Sunday night. He now has five Liga MX goals in under 550 minutes with another goal in the CONCACAF Cup.

In terms of Vazquez and his move to Monterrey in January, it’s been a home run. Monterrey is a big club with deep pockets, and Vazquez has proven to be a smart buy. Long term, it remains to be seen how quickly Monterrey wants to hang onto him, or when they would consider a sale. But for now, Vazquez is asked to score goals and bring home silverware. So far, so good as Monterrey is in the final 16 of the CONCACAF Cup and are atop Liga MX on goal differential.

Unfortunately, the next team who will be asked to stop him is Cincinnati – where Vazquez was a breakout player.

In terms of the national team, Vazquez is pushing hard. If everything was completely on merit, Vazquez and Sargent are the most in-form U.S. strikers. But a national team is not an all-star team. It still is a team and changes to teams are gradual. Berhalter will probably be reluctant to change both his top two forwards during the middle of two major tournaments. Maybe one of Pepi or Balogun gets replaced by Sargent. It’s hard to see both.

One avenue for Vazquez this summer could be the Olympic team as an overage spot as he would miss minimal (if any) Liga MX games due to the Olympics overlapping with the Leagues Cup.


Ream on the bench as Fulham surges


Fulham now have two big cleansheet wins in a row. First there was a 2-1 away win over Manchester United. Then on Saturday it was a 3-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion. The Cottagers are pushing for a top 10 finish for the second straight season after earning promotion. That would be an impressive sign of stability and a good foundation for growth in the Premier League.

From an American perspective, Antonee Robinson was very strong in this recent weekend on the defensive side. Even when he is not clicking offensively, he is still a handful. But good performances from Robinson are now like clockwork and he’s the most dependable American player in the game right now.

On the flip side, Ream has been on the bench for the past two wins. Given Fulham’s success without him on the field, he’s going to be on the bench for at least a few more weeks. At 36, it is an open question about whether he is now shifting to the backup position. I haven’t always been right in predicting his career as he has aged better than most players would dream. But at some point, Father Time will win. Fulhaml knows this and probably has a plan.

For the U.S. team, at what point does Berhalter shift to other options?


Tillman’s goal helps PSV draw


How good of a season has Malik Tillman had for PSV? On Sunday, the USMNT attacking mid scored and helped PSV to a 2-2 draw with Feyenoord. A draw for first place PSV isn’t great, but it kept second place Feyenoord from gaining any ground and after this weekend the gap is still 10 points. Feyenoord needed to win, so this was still a satisfactory result for PSV – especially as Feyenoord had a 2-1 lead into the 70th minute.

Tillman scored the opening goal of the game in the fourth minute. He now has six goals and five assists in 873 Eredivisie minutes. He also has three assists in 413 Champions League minutes.

Those are terrific numbers, and it sets the stage for PSV exercising its option to buy on its loan from Bayern Munich. Absent an injury, PSV doesn’t even have much of a choice unless the option is absurd. Tillman is showing himself to have too much value. Even if PSV’s had a cash crunch, they could likely flip him quickly for a profit.

Meanwhile, Sergino Dest also went 90 minutes for the win. It was far from his best performance of the season (1/6 crosses, four passes into the final third, three touches in the Feyenoord box) but he was still solid. Like with Tillman, Dest carries with him an option to buy. It’s likely much higher for PSV than Tillman but one which PSV and Earnie Stewart will have to exercise.

Finally, Ricardo Pepi was an unused substitute which is unfortunate. His numbers this season are good, but how many important minutes has he played? Almost all of the time he has played as come with multigoal leads against an overmatched opponent. This would have been a test for him. At some point, PSV will need to trust Pepi with important minutes. That is a critical part of his development.


Johnny assists in loss to Atletico


It wasn’t the result that Real Betis wanted, but Johnny Cardoso put in another strong performance for Real Betis in a 2-1 away loss to Atletico Madrid. In the end, Real Betis gave Atletico everything it could handle and had 57% possession.

Cardoso had a generous assist on the Betis goal when he played a simple horizontal side-footed pass to William Carvalho, who banged it in from over 25 yards.

But beyond the assist, Cardoso was so smart with his passing and with his defense that it is easy to see why Real Betis fans are thrilled with their purchase of only $6 million.

Internationally, these next six months are going to be the most important of his life. Tyler Adams is still recovering and won’t be at 100% for a long time. Cardoso is in the form of his life. This is his chance to stake a claim on the national team heading into the Copa America and the 2026 World Cup.


Zendejas MOTM in 19 minute outing


Alejandro Zendejas came into the game for Club America in the 71st minute on Saturday with his team up 2-1 on Atlas. He ended up scoring two goals and adding an assist in what turned out to be a 5-1 win.


The big win has Club America just one point behind a three-way tie atop Liga MX. For Zendejas, this gives him momentum as the season progresses and it might put him in the mix for a Nations League call-up as the wing depth is thin.

Zendejas has not had a good time with the national team since committing last year. At times, it seems like he is putting a lot of pressure on himself and is trying to force plays. But performances like this will keep him in the mix. Eventually, he will need to have an impact performance for the team.


Italy: Pulisic solid, Venezia’s bad loss


In Serie A, AC Milan travelled to Rome and came away with a nice 1-0 win over a Lazio team that became unglued with three red cards by the end. Christian Pulisic had one of his best games where he neither scored nor assisted. He was effective getting the ball forward, he put in a tireless 90 minutes on the defensive side (which is critical to keeping him on the field and being a trusted starter), and he was great getting under the skin of Lazio players.

Pulisic was the subject of a lot of online hate after the game and it reminds us of how bad social media can be sometimes for players (and why some of the smarter players tune it out entirely). It also is good but sad that the club felt the need to stick up for Pulisic publicly.

Meanwhile, Yunus Musah’s minutes continued to decrease, and he was unused entirely in this game. For him, it’s only a matter of time before he sees the field but it becomes even more important that he shows well in his next appearance.

Also in Serie A, Weston McKennie has been photographed with his arm in a sling last week and he was out for Sunday’s 2-1 away loss to Napoli. This game showed just how much they miss his two-way presence in the midfield.

Tim Weah came into the game in the 66th minute for Juventus but only had 10 touches and five completed passes (5/5) after coming on. Juve remained in second place but is only a point ahead of AC Milan.

It was a terrible weekend for the Yanks in Serie B.

The worst came in Venezia’s “six-pointer” in the promotion race against Como. In a meeting between two teams chasing promotion, Venezia dropped a 2-1 decision away at Lake Como. Tanner Tessmann went 90 minutes while Gianluca Busio went 76 minutes in the loss. Tessmann earned positive reviews from the attending media and nearly scored a spectacular goal in the second half while Busio struggled.

With the loss, Venezia fell from second to fourth place while Como moved into third. Unfortunately on the Como side, Nicholas Gioacchini was an unused substitute as he is yet to climb the club’s forward depth chart since moving from St. Louis in January.

Palermo fell to sixth in the Serie B table after a 4-2 loss to Brescia on Saturday. Kristoffer Lund played 90 minutes for Palermo but couldn’t do much after his club was reduced to 10 players in the first half.

Meanwhile, Andrija Novakovich and Lecco sunk deeper into last place of Serie B after a 1-0 loss to Sudtirol. Novakovich needs to start making plans for a new club in the summer or else he could fall into the abyss of Serie C.


Ligue 1: Balogun & Sabbi generate little offense


Last week, Folarin Balogun showed signs of snapping out of a rut when he scored a great goal for Monaco in a win over Lens. On Friday, he had a tough assignment as third place Monaco hosted leaders Paris St. Germain. He ended up finishing with four shots, but three were blocked. He had a good chance in the fifth minute but hit it too close to the keeper for a save.

The game finished 0-0 and Monaco remained in third. For Balogun, it was a mostly disappointing effort considering he was brought into the team to be an efficient scorer.

Down the table, Le Havre dropped a 1-0 decision to second place Brest. The loss saw Le Havre sink to just one point clear of the relegation playoff position. It is a disappointing fall considering how well the team started the season. Emmanuel Sabbi did not generate much offensively as he played 76 minutes for Le Havre.


Germany: Hoffenheim continue climb


After a tough run in February, Hoffenheim has won two in a row to move into seventh place, looking for a top six finish to qualify for Europe. The team managed by American Pellegrino Matarazzo defeated Werder Bremen on Sunday for another important win. John Brooks, 31, had a steady outing for Hoffenheim on the left side of a three-man backline. I

t’s been an up and down year for Brooks but he’s back trending positively. Will this get him back into the national team? There might be room if Ream continues to ride the bench, but probably not. He’s been playing better than this and has not been called-up.

Wolfsburg dropped a 3-2 decision at home to Stuttgart to extend its winless skid in the Bundesliga to nine games. Kevin Paredes went 81 minutes for Wolfsburg and he created a decent chance in each half and won a lot of his duels to be among the team’s best players. The big question for Paredes is whether he goes with the full team or the Olympic team in the months ahead in 2024.

Jordan Pefok missed a big chance in he 60th minute for Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday in a 1-1 away draw with Mainz. The American forward saw his right-footed chance saved as M’Gladbach’s disappointing season rolled on. Pefok will likely continue to be outside the national team picture as he doesn’t seem to do much when he’s not scoring.

Meanwhile, Joe Scally was unused for M’Gladbach and his playing time could be in trouble with the return of Stefan Lainer from cancer.

Brenden Aaronson entered the game in the 69th minute for Union Berlin but he was unable to prevent a 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund at home. Aaronson had one shot in the 89th minute which he missed wide with his left foot. So far this season, Aaronson has just 592 minutes in the Bundesliga with another 183 in other competitions.

Mistakes cost Heidenheim a result on Saturday in a 2-1 loss at home to Eintracht Frankfurt. Lennard Maloney is out with a ligament issue in his knee and is listed as week to week. Timothy Chandler went unused for Eintracht.

In the 2.Bundesliga, manager Fabian Hurzeler and leaders St. Pauli dropped a 3-1 decision on the road to Schalke.

Eintracht Braunschweig fell back into the relegation playoff position after a 2-1 loss away to Nurnberg. Jonathan Gomez started for Braunschweig but was pulled at halftime. German-American (but Germany U-21) left back Nathaniel Brown went 90 minutes for Nurnberg.

Maximillian Dietz went 90 minutes for Greuther Furth (with Julian Green injured) in a 4-0 loss away to Karlsruher. Futh was once in a race for promotion but have now lost four of five to see their Bundesliga hopes take a serious hit.


England: Horvath gets cleansheet


In the Premier League, it wasn’t a good weekend. Nottingham Forest lost to Liverpool 1-0 at home. Matt Turner was on the bench and Gio Reyna was out with a “minor knock” as this loan continues to offer Reyna little in terms of development or helping him advance his career. Forest is in the last safe place in the league but still has a four point cushion.

 Chris Richards had some decent moments for Crystal Palace but he could prevent a 3-1 loss away to Tottenham on Saturday. The USMNT central defender still had eight clearances and four interceptions as Palace was pinned back for long stretches.

In the Championship, Ethan Horvath made three saves, including a good one on a shot from Mark Sykes in the 19th minute, to help Cardiff City defeat Bristol City 1-0 on the road. With the win Cardiff City moved into 11th place in the Championship. It seems as if promotion is a stretch this season, but next season could offer Cardiff better chances as Horvath now gives them a good presence in net. Most importantly, Horvath has been mistake free since joining his new club and any signs of rust after a long layoff have been minimal. He might push Matt Turner for the starting job at the Copa America.  

Coventry City are seeing their promotional hopes go up in smoke after a 2-1 loss to West Bromwich on Saturday saw the club fall to ninth place, five points out of the top six (playoffs). Haji Wright came off the bench to start the second half and he scored the team’s only goal when he converted a 76th minute penalty (that was drawn by Kasey Palmer). Wright connected just four passes and had two shots (including the penalty) in his 45 minutes.

Stoke City are still in the relegation zone but only goal difference is keeping them out after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Middlesbrough. Lynden Gooch went the distance at right back for Stoke. On the other side, Matthew Hoppe is still nowhere to be found for Boro.

QPR is now clear of the relegation zone after a shocking 1-0 upset over promotional favorites Leicester City. QPR pulled off the dramatic away win despite being thoroughly outplayed. Reggie Cannon was an unused sub for QPR.

Meanwhile, in League One, Barnsley is in the promotional playoffs and Saturday’s 4-2 away win over Wycombe helped the team solidify their stance. Donovan Pines got the start and scored the team’s third goal in the win.

For the effort, Pines was named to the League One Team of the Week.


Spain: LDLT helps Celta move towards safety


Luca de la Torre was unspectacular but solid for Celta Vigo in a bit 1-0 win over Almeria on Friday in a La Liga relegation “six-pointer.”  With the win, Celta is in the league’s last safe position but has a five-point cushion over the relegation zone.

The USMNT midfielder played 89 minutes and had a good chance in the 49th minute which saw his left-footed shot go wide. He connected on 43/51 in passes and had seven touches in the attacking box as he had several chances to push forward.

In the Segunda, it was a tough day at the office for Jonathan Gomez as the U-23 Olympic hopeful left back played 90 minutes for Mirandes but conceded a penalty in the 22nd minute.

Also in the Segunda, Konrad de la Fuente went unused for Eibar in a 2-0 away win over Leganes.


Netherlands: Younger Booth scores in bad loss


Zach Booth, 20, got the start and played 90 minutes for Volendam in an otherwise ugly 5-2 loss at home to NEC Nijmegen. Booth scored late in the game with the result already known and Nijmegen’s defense on the play was comically bad.  But it was still a nice run an shot for the Utah native.

Booth is at Volendam on loan from Leicester and if Leicester goes up to the Premier League, Booth will need another loan. With Volendam dead last and sinking in the Eredivisie, his future is unlikely there as well. Because of all this, he’s likely playing for another loan next season. Consider it a shop window display for the rest of the season. This was a nice performance but he needs more to find himself a steady club in the fall.

Paxten Aaronson also went 90 minutes for Vitesse in a 2-1 loss at home to FC Twente. It was a mostly quiet performance from Aaronson (who still created a pair of chances) and Vitesse still sit in the relegation zone, but are only two points behind RKC Waalwijk for the relegation playoff. Sure enough, next weekend Vitesse will travel to face Waalwijk in the biggest game of the season for either team. The winner will get a lifeline.

Anthony Fontana had a rare opportunity to play for Zwolle and he went the last 16 minutes in a 2-0 away loss to Heerenveen.

Taylor Booth is still out injured and he missed Utrecht’s 2-0 loss away to Ajax on Sunday.

In the second tier Eerste Divisie, Justin Che went 90 minutes at right back for third place ADO Den Haag in a 2-0 win over Jong Ajax. Meanwhile, Dordrecht defeated MVV Maastricht 3-1 on Friday with Korede Osundina playing 80 minutes at forward in the win while his fellow American teammate John Hilton went 61 at left back for fourth place Dordrecht.


Belgium: All Yanks fail to win in tough weekend


Griffin Yow was his feisty self over 90 minutes but he along with teammate Bryan Reynolds (who went 90 at right back) could help Westerlo earn a result in a 1-0 loss at home to Sporting Charleroi. Yow had four shots, was 4/5 in dribbles, and won 10/12 ground duels but couldn’t not contribute to a goal. Both Yow and Reynolds are hoping to be part of the U.S. U-23 Olympic team. Westerlo fell to 11th place with the loss.

Mark McKenzie had a tough day at the office for Genk in a 3-0 loss at home to Club Brugge. Genk sits sixth and still hold on for a spot in a playoff for a European spot, but the team is not trending in the right direction.

Eupen sit even on points for last place following a 1-0 loss away to Anderlecht on Sunday. Gaga Slonina made two good saves in the loss and the club is now going to need him to be special down the stretch in a relegation battle.

Kahveh Zahiroleslam started for ninth place St. Truiden but was ineffective over 63 minutes in a 3-0 loss away to Royal Antwerp.

Marlon Fossey was injured and did not play in Standard Liege’s 4-2 win over Gent.


Scotland: Celtic fail to seize opportunity.


Cameron Carter-Vickers returned to the starting lineup for Celtic but he couldn’t help his team avoid a 2-0 away loss to Hearts. Normally such a loss would be catastrophic, but Rangers found a way to lose at home to Motherwell earlier in the weekend. Had Celtic won, they would have moved back atop the table.

As it stands now, the Old Firm derby on April 7 will decide the table, but Rangers might only need a draw at home. As for Carter-Vickers, it has been an okay season. He’s rarely tested, but bad losses like this are the fault of everyone on Celtic.

Dante Polvara played 90 minutes for Aberdeen in the midfield during an ugly 2-1 away loss to St. Mirren. Scott Pittman was not in the squad for Livingston in a 1-1 draw at St. Johnstone.


Elsewhere: Pukstas & Hajduk Split keep pace


In Croatia’s HNL, Hajduk Split kept pressure on leaders Rijeka after a 1-0 win on NK Istra 1961. Hajduk is just a point out of first place and it should be a close finish for the title. Rokas Pukstas went 90 minutes for Hajduk in the win and it seems very likely he will play for the U.S. U-23 team in March given that he was not on the Nations League roster and U-23 head coach Marko Mitrovic has said he has wanted to bring Pukstas into camp (he has yet to play for the Olympic team).

In Denmark, Jonathan Amon played the final five minutes for Lyngby in a 4-2 loss at home to last-place Hvidovre. Lyngby led 2-0 at one point and now sit 10th in the 12-team league.

In Poland, Danny Trejo was forced out of the game in the 49th minute due to injury as his Korona Kielce lost 1-0 away to 10-man Zaglebie Lubin.

In Austria’s Bundesliga, George Bello started but was pulled at halftime as his third-place LASK drew Altach 0-0. Meanwhile, Sebastian Soto wasn’t in the squad for Austria Klagenfurt in a 1-0 loss to leaders Salzburg.

In Greece, Caleb Stanko played 90 minutes for Lamia in a 2-0 loss at home to PAOK Athens.

In Portugal, Alex Mendez was an unused substitute for Vizela in a 0-0 draw at Portimonense. Vizela sit in last place and Mendez probably needs to think about looking for a new club.

In Mexico, Mazatlan defeated Necaxa 2-1. Former U.S. U-20 midfielder Fernando Arce Jr. was sent off in the 39th minute for Necaxa while Ventura Alvarado went the full 90 in the win.

It was a tough day for Cade Cowell in Chivas who were thumped by Cruz Azul away 3-0. Cowell went 76 minutes.

Joe Corona started but pulled at the half for Tijuana in a 1-1 draw with Club Leon. It was 0-0 at the half when Corona left the game.

In Uruguay, River Plate defeated Danubio. Matias Fracchia went 90 in central defense in the loss.

In Argentina, Matko Miljevic came into the game in the 88th minute for Newell’s Old Boys in a 2-2 draw with San Lorenzo on Sunday.

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