Americans abroad analysis
Sonora, Reyna, Wright, & Fulham defenders highlight otherwise disappointing weekend for Yanks abroad
August 30, 2021
IF WE ARE BEING HONEST, this past weekend was mostly a disappointment for Americans abroad. Yes, there were some noteworthy exceptions – which we will touch upon. But for the most part, the top games heading into the weekend were a letdown.
For one, it wasn’t a weekend for the heavy hitters. Christian Pulisic is still in quarantine, so he missed Chelsea’s away draw with Liverpool. Jesse Marsch, Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig lost to Wolfsburg – which was good for John Brooks. Josh Sargent came off the bench again for Norwich and had a decent moment, but the club still lost. Sergino Dest also did not start, but instead came off the bench for Barcelona in a 2-1 win over Getafe. Weston McKennie struggled and lasted just a half for Juventus in a 1-0 loss to Empoli. Both Zack Steffen at Manchester City and Ethan Horvath were unused backup goalkeepers this weekend.
The lackluster news kept rolling in. Tim Weah is injured again – and missed Lille’s win over Montpellier and the injury also forced him off the U.S. national team roster for September.
There were a few noteworthy club debuts in top leagues – but both were rocky. Gianluca Busio played a full 90 for Venezia in a 3-0 loss on the road to Udinese. Busio played well in the first half, but struggled in the second half (along with everyone else on Venezia) and the club does not look ready for Serie A. Tanner Tessmann was an unused sub. Similarly, Matt Miazga and Deportivo Alaves both struggled in a 3-0 loss to Valencia. The best thing that could be said from that game from an American perspective is that Yunus Musah returned from injury and played the final minutes to see out the win. Tyler Boyd also struggled for Rizespor in his club debut – a 3-2 loss to Antalyaspor. Dante Sealy made his debut for Jong PSV but he played just the final two minutes in a 1-0 loss to Helmond Sport.
A lot of teams with American players this year look like they could be dealing with relegation battles – Norwich, Venezia, Deportivo Alaves, are a few – but so is Greuther Furth. Furth made no real improvements over the summer after getting promoted and dropped an ugly 3-0 decision to Mainz. Julian Green started and played 60 minutes but had no impact. Head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart dropped a 3-2 decision at home to Freiburg.
Mark McKenzie also played just a few handful of stoppage time minutes for KRC Genk in a 1-0 win over Anderlecht in Belgium. His former U.S. U-20 teammate Chris Richards was an unused substitute for Bayern Munich in a 5-0 romp over Hertha BSC. DeAndre Yedlin was not in the 18 for Galatasaray in a 2-2 away draw with Kasimpasa. Shaq Moore was an unsued sub for Tenerife in a 0-0 draw with Real Oviedo in Spain's Segunda.
Uly Llanez and Alex Mendez were once considered top prospects of the 2019 U.S. U-20 team. Llanez was an unused sub for St. Poelten in a 2-0 win over Austria Vienna’s reserve team in Austria’s second tier. Alex Mendez also did not play for Vizela in a 1-1 draw with Boavista.
Meanwhile, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reggie Cannon are not playing as they presumably look for new clubs. Erik Palmer-Brown is on the verge of joining Troyes (another City Football Group club) after his transfer to Venezia fell through.
With those stories above, there is no way we can consider this a good weekend for Americans abroad. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some good news here and there. You had to dig a little deeper after the more “high-profile” players to get to it.
Here are some of the more positive stories to get past a tough weekend.
Haji Wright’s hat trick
As mentioned earlier Antalyaspor defeated Rizespor 3-2 in Turkey’s top flight. Tyler Boyd struggled in the loss but Antalyaspor won this game behind a hat trick from American forward Haji Wright who forced a loan to Antalyaspor after a falling out with his Danish club, SonderjyskE.
Wright, 23, has struggled in his first few games with Antalyaspor but was able to come to life against a lower-half club in Rizespor. This was a solid performance from Wright and his hat trick was boosted by two penalties. It should be noted that he had a goal called back that was probably his best technical moment of the game.
As for Wright’s future with the U.S. national team and getting into this picture, he needs to show a lot more. He can finish from up close but still has holes in his game – in this game he was only 9/15 passing and was a poor 0/7 in his dribble attempts. He plays a little bit like Jordan Pefok, only Pefok is doing it much better right now.
Reyna scores for BVB
Giovanni Reyna, 18, had a very good game for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-2 win over Hoffenheim on Friday. While Reyna was taken out in the 64th minute, he had very nice impact on the game.
Gio Reyna: raw # for BVB in a 3-2 win vs. Hoffenheim— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 27, 2021
2 key passes
33/38 passing (87%)
22 of 33 completed passes were in attacking half
1/3 long balls
5/15 duels won
Reyna’s highlight came in the 29th minute with a nicely taken goal to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The best thing you can say about Reyna right now is that he is thriving in the middle of the field. His move centrally was always going to come with more professional experience, but it is paying off big time right now. In this game, he tended to drift to both sides but still had a big impact.
Reyna has been very impressive to start the season for BVB and it looks like he is poised for a big breakout. He has a world of momentum heading into qualifying and he should be among Berhalter’s most trusted players.
On another, this was a very impressive milestone.
The youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach 50 appearances, Gio Reyna ???????????? pic.twitter.com/5ganZfbyCY— Borussia Dortmund (@BlackYellow) August 27, 2021
Fulham Americans keep rolling
Fulham has come out with a true purpose to start the season and it looks like a club that will be a strong contender for a promotion back to the Premier League. Both American defenders – centerback and team captain Tim Ream, and left back Antonee Robinson – are playing very solid soccer. Both were very strong on Saturday in a 3-0 win over Stoke City at Craven Cottage.
Tim Ream is a terrific player in the Championship and has been a cornerstone of multiple promotional efforts. Returning from injury last weekend, Ream was 54/58 in passing in this game, 71 touches, and 6/9 in long balls. Fulham controlled this game, but Ream was firmly in command of the defense.
Meanwhile, Antonee Robinson is finally getting a chance to play for a winning team after relegation battles at Bolton, Wigan, and Fulham last season. This year he is getting to showcase a different side of his skillset where he gets more opportunities to get forward. He is thriving as an attacking player in these situations.
Soñora MOTM for Independiente
Alan Sonora has been struggling to breakthrough at Independiente in recent years but he has had a great month where he has taken advantage of several big opportunities to start. On Saturday night, he had the best game of his career with a pair of goals in a 3-0 win over Colon in Argentina’s Primera.
His numbers across the board were fantastic, in addition to the goals. The passing and passing range also stood out.
Alan Soñora: raw # for Independiente in 3-0 win over Colon— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 29, 2021
1 key pass
9/10 long balls
6/9 duels won
?Independiente back into 1st in Argentina
Sonora, 23, showed a lot of quality on both goals – with the second coming off a beautiful left footed free kick.
Alan Soñora abre o placar para o Rey de Copas: Independiente 1x0 Colón.pic.twitter.com/adexPZF13f— Futebol Albiceleste (@fut_albiceleste) August 28, 2021
As for Sonora’s potential with the national team, he simply needs to keep it up. He’s starting right now for an Independiente team atop the Primera. That’s certainly impressive but it wasn’t that long ago when he was struggling. It’s just a matter of keeping it up and eyes are certainly watching him.
Konrad assists for Marseille
Konrad de la Fuente, 20, made a very good move in joining Marseille from Barcelona this summer. He’s starting and being given a chance to make an impact on the wings.
On Saturday in a 3-1 win over St. Etienne, de la Fuente started and played 56 minutes. This wasn’t his best outing and he still had more turnovers than before – but still, even when he wasn’t playing well he was able to deliver an impressive assit.
With regards to the national team, de la Fuente will arrive into camp as a more important player than before as the injury to Tim Weah has left the team short on wingers. While de la Fuente plays primarily on the left at Marseille and Weah is on the right, de la Fuente is more than capable of filling in there.
Durkin & St. Truiden win
Chris Durkin had an effective game on Saturday for St. Truiden in a big 1-0 win on the road over Cercle Brugge. Offensively, he was not involved but Durkin had a very good defensive game that allowed his team to hold a cleansheet and earn three points.
- 90 minutes
- 46 touches
- 1 shot
- 20/35 passing
- 2/8 long balls
- 1 key pass
- 3/5 duels won
- 2/2 tackles
- 3 clearances
- 1 interception
For Durkin and his team, the goal is to avoid a relegation battle. Finishing midtable would be a nice accomplishment and it would be one that perhaps generates some interest in the Richmond native. He’s generally performing well in Belgium but St. Truiden is a tough team for a player to stand out.
Brooks wins over Marsch
John Brooks will arrive at the national team camp playing the best soccer out of anyone else on the team, arguably. The central defender has been part of Wolfsburg’s strong start to the season which included a 1-0 win over Leipzig on Sunday. That gave Wolfsburg a perfect nine points from three games.
Brooks didn’t standout but he was steady and helped anchor a backline that kept a cleansheet.
- 90 minutes
- 0 shots
- 43/51 passing
- 4/7 long balls
- 4/6 duels won
- 2 clearances
As for Adams, it was a tough outing for him and his team. Leipzig had the edge in possession and shots but were not able to show any killer instinct in the win.
Pefok scores for Young Boys
Jordan Pefok scored again on Sunday for BSC Young Boys in a 1-1 away draw against Basel. It was far from a goalazzo as he scored from close range – but it was effective and Pefok, like Gyasi Zardes, has a knack for getting in the right place at the right time.
Pefok is an interesting player. He rarely beats defenders off a dribble and he doesn’t engage too much in hold-up play. He’s just a finisher and his main skill is that he doesn’t need the best of service to do so.
It’s working. In 10 games across all competitions this season, Pefok has six goals.
Ramirez equalizes for Aberdeen
Another American to get on the scoresheet this weekend was Christian Ramirez. It is understandable why his story is under the radar in the United States. Outside of the Old Firm, Scotland isn’t well covered and Ramirez is over 30.
But he’s been doing really well for Aberdeen to start the season and his second goal of the Premiership gave Aberdeen a 1-1 draw against Ross County. He could be in a position this year to grab double-digit goals.
Whether or not it is national team related, American success anywhere is a good thing. It simply generates interest in the American player and it only increases players’ values and reputations.
In Belgium, Sam Vines played the full 90 for Royal Antwerp in a 2-2 draw with OH Leuven.
In the Championship, Duane Holmes played the final 12 minutes for Huddersfield in a 4-0 win over Reading. In League One: Lynden Gooch started and played 90 minutes in a 3-1 win over Wycombe.
In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso started for Internacional and played 60 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Atletico Go.
In Scotland, Ian Harkes came off the bench and played the final 37 minutes for Dundee United in a 2-0 loss to Hearts.
In Denmark, Christian Cappis played the second half of Brondby's 2-0 win over Midtjylland. Cappis played well in this one and the score was 0-0 when he entered.
In France's Ligue 2, Nicholas Gioacchini made his first start of the season for Caen and played 74 miutes in a 0-0 draw with Nimes.