Americans abroad analysis
Scally, Reyna, Pulisic, & Konrad lead mixed weekend for Americans abroad
August 16, 2021
THE FIRST TRULY BIG weekend of the 2021 season for Americans in Europe was decidedly mixed. There were some obvious highs and some difficult lows – with the best moments coming from established players as well as players taking their first major steps of their career.
Of course, there were some players who were missing, and this has given the talk of possible transfers. Matthew Hoppe did not play for Schalke and is now linked by the English media as being a target of Everton – although the price seems a bit low.
Another American player worth watching right now for a potential move is Ricardo Pepi at FC Dallas. Gazzetta dello Sport linked the talented teenage forward to Bologna although Pepi’s price is probably going to be significantly more than what Dallas sought for even Bryan Reynolds at Roma.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reporting interest in FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi from Bologna https://t.co/E3MYReIdx1— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 15, 2021
Meanwhile we are still looking for more concrete news on other players likely on the move – including Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Erik Palmer-Brown (the trio of defenders on the 2015 U-20 World Cup team).
But for all those currently on teams and suiting up for action, here are my thoughts on the top stories from the weekend.
Scally’s big Bundesliga debut
After a promising club debut last weekend for Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Cup, former New York City FC fullback Joe Scally had the biggest Bundesliga debut possible – at home against perennial champions Bayern Munich.
In short, the Long Island teenager passed with flying colors. Typically, Scally has been a right back throughout his youth career but in this one he lined up on the left side and was tasked with defending Leroy Sane.
Scally, 18, was sharp from the get-go and in the first half, he was probably the best player in the game. The second half became a little harder for him (and for everyone else on Gladbach) as Bayern stepped up the game. But this game was nothing less than a homerun.
Joe Scally: Raw # for Gladbach in 1-1 draw vs. Bayern— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 13, 2021
59 touches (most on Gladbach)
4/5 long balls
2/2 aerials won
- Big time Bundesliga debut for the 18 year old former #NYCFC fullback
The game finished 1-1 and Scally had the most touches of any Gladbach player. His duel-winning (8/11) was first rate for a young player going against a physically dominant club like Bayern. While right footed, Scally played the left back position in a way where he looked his best when he cut centrally with possession to almost play like a midfielder.
Scally started in this game because starting left back Ramy Bensebaini has been out with an injury. Scally’s success ensures that the club can take its time with Bensebaini and not rush him back. Bensebaini will likely return to the starting lineup once he’s healthy, but Scally has also proved that he can compete and keep the leash short for Bensebaini. Of course, Scally can also play right back and that is still probably where he will play once healthy.
If Scally continues to get minutes for Borussia Monchengladbach, he has an excellent chance to be called up to the U.S. national team – despite having no caps. Both right back and left back have a lot of players in the pool, but few have cemented their status outside of Dest. Bryan Reynolds, DeAndre Yedlin and Reggie Cannon aren’t settled with playing time at their clubs. Antonee Robinson is now in the Championship and is yet to convince under Berhalter. Sam Vines just completed a move to Belgium and has to fight for a starting job at Antwerp.
September might come too soon for Scally, but he’s in a great spot heading into October and November.
Pulisic’s impressive Chelsea opener
Christian Pulisic, 22, picked up from where he left off after his groundbreaking season in 2020/21 with a strong start to 2021/22 with Chelsea. The Hershey native got the start against Crystal Palace and was dangerous throughout in a 3-0 win in a London derby.
The highlight is that he scored his team’s second goal of the day.
He played both wings throughout but also had plenty of touches in the middle of the park. The result is that he was very effective even if his duel-winning numbers were below his norm.
- 82 minutes
- 43 touches
- 2 shots
- 1 goal
- 0 key passes
- 22/24 passing
- 2/2 accurate long balls
- 4/14 duels won
- 2/4 dribbles
- 2x fouled
- 2 fouls
- 1 interception
Regardless, Pulisic played like an impact player on the reigning Champions League winners – which is at the elite levels of the game.
Reyna and BVB standout
Borussia Dortmund had a tough opponent in its opener against an Eintracht Frankfurt team which finished fifth in the Bundesliga last season. In this game, however, Borussia Dortmund looked like a team so strong in a 5-2 win that it could be the club to finally dethrone Bayern Munich in Germany.
Erling Haaland is probably the best center forward in the world and he scored two of the team’s goals and assisted on another two. The only goal where Haaland was not involved was scored by U.S. international Gio Reyna.
If Dortmund can manage to hold on to Haaland, they have a real shot to win the Bundesliga this season as they are so deep and talented. Selling the Norwegian would generate a lot of money but replacing Haaland is nearly impossible.
In this game, Reyna was sharp and is certainly one to watch this season. The son of the former U.S. captain looks set to take his game to yet even another level. Last season, Reyna started strong, had a really tough middle of the season, but then finished very strong.
Reyna, 18, was based centrally in this game instead of the wing – and that is where he will likely settle as he matures and settles with his career. This gets him more touches and allows him to create in a manner that fits his skillset.
- 87 minutes
- 61 touches
- 1 shot
- 1 goal
- 1 key pass
- 27/35 passing
- 2 crosses
- 4/11 duels won
- 1/2 dribbles
- 3x fouled
- 2 fouls
With Haaland on this team, Reyna will have the chance to be part of something special and flex his muscle to the elite clubs as to what he can do when surrounded by top talent.
De la Fuente impresses again
Konrad de la Fuente, 20, had a great debut last weekend for Marseille in a thrilling win over Montpellier. On Sunday, the Miami native had a chance as he earned the start at home against Bordeaux in the club’s home opener.
For de la Fuente, he was electric – especially in the first half. He was wrongfully denied a penalty in the first half and was the player most responsible for the team’s opening goal.
Here’s the Marseille goal which Konrad de la Fuente created. Impressive stuff pic.twitter.com/mSBbz9f7jy— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 15, 2021
Unfortunately for Marseille, the squad squandered a 2-0 halftime lead and settled for a point in a 2-2 draw.
In the second half, de la Fuente saw his influence on the game decline a bit but he has shown himself to be a player with enormous potential and well worth the high price paid by Marseille. Even if he is in a game with limited touches, he can still be a player that can make a difference.
For the national team, de la Fuente is one of the few players with a chance to be called up to the national team despite not having been part of either the Nations League or Gold Cup winning teams (other players include Chris Richards, Joe Scally, and Ricardo Pepi). De la Fuente is a player who can create something out of nothing and make a big play on a near individual basis.
Dest solid for post-Messi Barca
It is the start of a new era for Barcelona as Lionel Messi has finally left and joined Paris St. Germain. This had been coming but now it is finally official Barca have entered into a new era.
On Sunday, it began well with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad. Sergino Dest got the start at right back, played 73 minutes, and left with Barca up 3-0. He was not on the field when Sociedad made a late rally to push for a draw.
Dest, 20, was strong on both sides of the ball and, often, looked more comfortable in the attack than he did for most of last season before the team switched to a three-centerback formation with two wingbacks.
- 71 minutes
- 55 touches
- 6/8 duels won
- 2/2 dribbles
- 1x fouled
- 1 foul
All eyes were on Barcelona in this game and Dest was part of an impressive effort. This year, without Messi, Barcelona will have its character tested and it will be interesting to watch Dest be part of that and mature himself.
Fulham cruises past Huddersfield
In the Championship, a trio of Americans started when Fulham traveled north to visit Huddersfield on Saturday. Both teams have different objectives as Fulham hopes for promotion back to the Premier League while Huddersfield could be in jeopardy of relegation.
That is exactly how it played out as Fulham posted a lopsided 5-1 victory over a poor Huddersfield team.
The two Americans on Fulham played well. Antonee Robinson had 80 touches at left back and was able to get up the field with ease. Tim Ream, stayed back at left central defense and was a calm and steady presence. Ream and Robinson both looked in-synch and it will be interesting to watch them shift from a relegation-battling squad to a team expected to win regularly.
For Robinson, this will be the first time in his career he will not be on a squad battling relegation. How will that affect his game? Will he be able to attack more? So far, the early returns are promising.
As for Holmes, he wanted to return to his hometown club at Huddersfield. He got his wish but he is probably a bit surprised at how tough the shape of the club is right now. This could be a tough battle this season.
Weah & Lille blown out
While Tim Weah and Lille won Ligue 1 last season, the squad had a rocky offseason. The club made no noticeable upgrades and head coach Christophe Galtier left for OGC Nice. Last weekend, Lille had to rally for a 3-3 draw against Metz and on Sunday it faced Galtier and Nice in its home opener following the title win last season.
This game likely shocked the home crowd as Nice came away with a 4-0 win in what was a brutal effort from Lille. With the upgrades Paris St. Germain and Nice made, it doesn’t look like Lille will be in the running this season. Based on the first two games of the season, it has a lot of serious questions to address.
Tim Weah got the start in this game and the best you can say is that he was among the liveliest Lille players who started this game. The bad news is that is not saying much – at all. It will be very interesting to see how Lille changes things up in the coming weeks in both Ligue 1 and in the Champions League.
Adams & Marsch suffer bad loss
It was expected to be an anticipated reunion for Tyler Adams and Jesse Marsch who impressed in MLS in 2017 before both headed to Europe to continue success. Tyler Adams has been with Leipzig since 2019 and Marsch is his third coach since getting the RB Leipzig gig this summer.
Last weekend’s win over Sandhausen in the German Cup went well. Saturday’s Bundesliga opener away at Mainz was very disappointing as Mainz scored in the 12th minute on a goal from Moussa Niakhate and held on for a 1-0 win.
In this game, RB Leipzig simply couldn’t get anything going. The midfield was disjointed and there were frequent turnovers. Tyler Adams wasn’t as effective defensively as he normally has been in the Bundesliga and his passing was rarely progressive.
Marsch, Adams, and the rest of Leipzig has a lot to do in order to right the ship. Next weekend the club will take on a Stuttgart team that impressed in its opener – and the that game will draw attention back in the states as it features the first time two clubs in the big five leagues of Europe have met, who were both coached by managers born and raised in the United States.
Green and Furth are blown out
It was a great story last year when Greuther Furth earned promotion to the Bundesliga with 2014 World Cup veteran Julian Green playing a big part. During the offseason, the club made few improvements and it led many to predict an immediate relegation. Meanwhile Furth’s opponent on Saturday, VfB Stuttgart, impressed last season under American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo.
This game lived up to expectations as Stuttgart ran away with a 5-1 blowout victory. Green was hardly to blame as Furth was simply better in every area of the field. Furth are going to need to win soon or else their fate could quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy, much like Schalke last season following an 8-0 loss to Bayern in the opener followed by a long string of defeats.
As for Matarazzo, his team looks great. After earning promotion in 2020 followed by a top 10 finish last season, he has Stuttgart playing its best soccer in a decade. He is clearly a manager going places.
Club debuts: Tessmann, Wright, & Sargent
A trio of players made their club debuts with a varying level of success.
Josh Sargent came off the bench in the 77th minute for Norwich City in a 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool. The good news is that Sargent played well and looked both active in dangerous in his cameo. Despite the loss, Sargent brought energy to an unwinnable game. Manchester City, Leicester, and Arsenal are the next three opponents for Norwich’s brutal schedule to open the season. By the looks of it, Sargent will get minutes.
Tanner Tessmann made his debut for Serie A’s Venezia in a Copa Italia matchup against Frosinone (sans an injured Andrija Novakovich). Tessmann came into the game in the 82nd minute and played the remaining eight minutes and all 30 minutes of extra time. The good news is that Tessmann had a promising debut and that Venezia won 8-7 in a shootout. The only real bad news is that Tessmann missed his penalty. Still, it was a good debut ahead of next weekend’s dauting Serie A opener away at Napoli.
Venezia defeat Frosinone at the Copa Italia in a shootout (8-7) after a 1-1 draw. Tanner Tessmann made his club debut and played the last 38 minutes (33 touches, 17/23 passing, 3/5 duels won, 2/2 tackles, 2/3 long balls but missed his shootout penalty)— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 15, 2021
That's very cool if Tessmann gets the number 8 for the season. That's a big time number. Shows their regard for him pic.twitter.com/HPwr6k5Sy3— 3rd Degree (@3rdDegreeNet) August 16, 2021
Haji Wright got the start for Antalyaspor in Turkey’s top flight and struggled in a 1-1 draw with Goztepe. The Californian on loan from Sonderjyske in Denmark played the full 90 and had just 23 touches, zero shots, 7/12 passing, zero key passes, zero dribble attempts, and won just 6/16 of his duels. The best thing for him is that he drew three fouls – two in dangerous locations for free kicks.
Copa Italia update
The Copa Italia essentially got things underway for the top teams in Italy this weekend and aside from Tanner Tessmann (discussed above) two other Americans were in action in Italy this weekend – both coming off the bench.
Weston McKennie came off the bench in the 63rd minute for Juventus in a 3-1 win over Atalanta. The game was 2-1 when he entered and McKennie, 22, had little impact in the game for Juventus – either good or bad. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the plans of new manager Massimiliano Allegri early in the season.
Bryan Reynolds made his first Roma appearance under new manager Jose Mourinho on Saturday in a 5-0 win over Raja Casablanca. The former FC Dallas fullback played the final 19 minutes and came into the game with Roma up 3-0. At this point, it looks like Reynolds might not get loaned out but rather stay as a backup. That, however, remains a fluid situation.
It will be a big week ahead for Brenden Aaronson and Salzburg which will take on Brondby (currently shorthanded due to a COVID-19 outbreak) in the first leg of its Champions League playoff round. Salzburg has won all four of its games this season, but has not impressed in recent games. This past Saturday, the club eked out a 1-0 win over Admira Moedling in a very average performance from every player.
It was a tough task for Luca de la Torre and Heracles on Saturday as they hosted PSV Eindhoven. PSV walked away with a 2-0 victory. De la Torre did not stand out terribly much in this game.
In Belgium, Chris Durkin started for St. Truiden in disappointing 2-1 away loss to Eupen which leaves St. Truiden with just four points from its first four games (it is winless after an opening weekend win).
U.S. national team defender Mark McKenzie played just the last 10 minutes for KRC Genk in a 4-0 win over OH Leuven and his playing time will be worth monitoring closely in the early parts of the season.
Meanwhile, U.S. national team left back Sam Vines made the bench for the first time for Royal Antwerp but did not play in a 1-1 draw at Sporting Charleroi.
In Denmark, Emmanuel Sabbi and OB Odense played to a 1-1 draw with Silkeborg. The American winger started and played 76 minutes.
In England, Zack Steffen did not play for Manchester City in a 1-0 loss to Tottenham. Fellow U.S. national team goalkeeper Ethan Horvath did not play for Nottingham Forest in a 2-1 loss to AFC Bournemouth. In League One, Lynden Gooch started for Sunderland in a 2-1 win over Milton Keynes Dons. He went the distance in the win but missed an 84th minute penalty.
In Portugal, Alex Mendez did not play for Vizela in a 2-1 win over Tondela on Saturday.
In Hungary, Henry Wingo didn’t start for Ferencvaros in a 4-1 win over Mez?kövesd Zsory. The former Seattle Sounder is being rested ahead of the Champions League playoff round against BSC Young Boys. He came off the bench for the final 18 minutes.
In South America, several Americans were in action. In Ecuador, Michael Hoyos started and played 63 minutes for Barcelona in a 1-0 loss at Orense. In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso did not get off the bench for Internacional in a 4-2 win over Fluminense. In Chile, Mattias Fracchia played the final 14 minutes for O'Higgins in a 2-1 loss to Deportivo Antofagasta. In Peru, Ernest Nungary played the full 90 for Sport Boys in a 2-0 win over Universidad San Martin.
In Argentina’s Primera, both Sonora brothers earned the start for their respective clubs. Joel Sonora started and played 65 minutes for Banfield in a 2-0 loss to Argentinos Juniors on Saturday. Alan Sonora, meanwhile, started and played the full 90 for Independiente in a 2-1 away win over Rosario Central. It was a positive performance from the younger Sonora brother to get a start for Independiente and perform well in the win over a relegation battling team. Sonora has yet to lock down a starting or even regular sub role for Independiente but this performance could open that door.