Americans Abroad notebook

Soto in limbo, Amon nears return, Dest rumors fly, & Johnson on the move

Soccer is gradually returning. The Bundesliga will open this weekend and other leagues are working towards restarts. With that progress, actual news involving players and clubs also returns. With that, here is the latest edition of Brian Sciaretta's notebook for Americans abroad. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 15, 2020
6:05 AM

AS WE PREPARE for the first country to offer a restart in play from the COVID-19 shutdown, actual news is starting to surface regarding Americans abroad. Some Americans are preparing for restarts while others are on the move in looking for new clubs.

Here is the latest

Soto signs for Norwich/Denied Work Permit

2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup forward Sebastian Soto had a difficult season in 2019/20 with Hannover. Following the club’s relegation from the Bundesliga last season, Soto rarely played this year and it became public that he was not interested in signing a new deal with the German club. In January, his coach made negative comments regarding his performance.

Yesterday, German media reported that Soto had signed in England with Norwich City through 2023 but was denied a U.K Work Permit. The result is that he will have to go on loan and reapply when he believes he has a fair chance of winning an appeal.


For non E.U. citizens like Soto, winning a U.K work permit is hard. There are two ways to get one. One is to meet certain criteria which makes a work permit automatic. This involves a points system that weighs high wages, transfer price, and appearances in top leagues. It also weighs national team participation in official, non-friendly games over a two-year period (the percentage is dictated by where the national team is ranked). The second way to obtain a work permit is via an appeals process. This is when a player comes up short to meet the automatic criteria for a work permit but argues his case on subjective standards in front of a board.

Over the years this has become harder. In history, bigger English clubs have faired better in winning work permit appeals for players but Norwich City is in last place of the Premier League and will likely be relegated should the season resume. 

So now Soto must head on loan to build his case for a work permit and most likely he will need to win it by an appeal. Wherever he lands, he will need to both play and put up impressive numbers. If that is enough to earn U.S. national team caps, then that will only boost his chances.

But winning an appeal is going to be very hard. Juan Agudelo tried this. After he was denied a work permit to play for Stoke City, he was loaned to Utrecht in the Eredivisie. Despite being a regular starter for a half-season for Utrecht, he was denied on a second work permit appeal.

Soto will likely head to Belgium, Holland, Denmark, or a lower level team elsewhere on the continent of Europe. Out of these, Belgium seems to make the most sense and anywhere else in Europe (Norway, Sweden, etc, runs the risk of not being impressive enough to win an appeal). But being a loan player is always tough. A player on loan must be better than the clubs existing options on contract. If it is close, coaches usually prefer to go with players who are under contract at that club to boost the value of their players.

When Agudelo went through such a tough process, he had a good resume when he was denied a work permit for the second time. He had good MLS numbers, he had a good season in the Eredivisie, and had played for the U.S. national team in the Gold Cup and scored against Argentina in a friendly.

Soto’s resume so far is three Bundesliga appearances last season for a total of 26 minutes. Two 2.Bundesliga appearances this season for a total of 16 minutes. Three appearances for Hannover’s second team in the Regionaliga for a total of 218 minutes. He is yet to score for Hannover or Hannover II and doesn’t have a U.S. national team cap.

He looked impressive at the youth levels for Hannover and the U.S. U-20 team but hasn’t yet passed through the challenges of transitioning from the youth levels to the first team levels. 

Agudelo took his uphill chance to get a work permit because he wanted to play in the Premier League and had a pretty good resume. Soto has an even more uphill climb to not only start his resume, but also join what will likely be a Championship club soon.

Amon back ahead of Superliga restart?

The second country to attempt a restart is likely to be the Danish Superliga. That league is schedule to resume on May 28 and conclude at the end of July with a Europa League playoff.

The league is home two a few Americans including Hobro’s Christian Cappis and Emmanuel Sabbi who are in the middle of a tough relegation fight. Regardless of the battle, both players could be at different clubs next year. Emmanuel Sabbi will move to OB (currently midtable) next year and Cappis has impressed to the point where he could be sold.

But South Carolina native and Nordsjaelland winger Jonathan Amon is also nearing a return and the club recently posted a picture of him to promote the restart. It’s been a very difficult season for Amon who has struggled with injuries in his career and has only played twice in 2019/20 for a total of 38 minutes. He has two caps with the U.S. team in his time and has shown an explosive skillset when he's been able to stay on the field. 

Amon and fifth-place Nordsjaelland will visit 14th and last-place Silkeborg on Friday, May 29.

Sabbi, Cappis and 12th-place Hobro will visit seventh-place Randers on Tuesday, June 1.

Taitague suffers another setback

Schalke winger Nick Taitague was one of the best American prospects and at 21, he’s still young. But he has never been able to stay healthy for an extended period of time. There had been hope he had been progressing with Schalke extending his contract.

But Taitague suffered another injury this past week with an irritation of the tendon in his foot. According to the club, he will undergo further treatment.


Dest rumors continue

It’s been hard to keep up with Sergino Dest rumors. His first season with Ajax was cut short but he impressed in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League. Despite struggling the final month before the shutdown and still showing the need to work on defense, big clubs see the upside are willing to pay big money on the bet that he will materialize and realize his potential.

First it was Bayern Munich, then it was Tottenham earlier this week. Now it is Bayern Munich again.


What might best for Dest’s development, however, is another year at Ajax where he can play almost every game, earn more Champions League experience, and work on the areas he needs to improve. But when big clubs get involved and making big offers, moves usually get made.

Johnson likely on the move

Fabian Johnson, 32, has had a great career so far. He has played for 1860 Munich, VfL Wolfsburg, 1899 Hoffenheim, and now Borussia Monchengladbach. When he broke through at 1860, he was a teammate of Gregg Berhalter – who was the team’s captain. He has also earned 57 caps for the U.S. national team and has played in big games such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Copa America.

But Bild reported on Thursday what was widely expected – that Johnson is in the last year of his contract and is unlikely to return to Monchengladbach.


Johnson can still help a lot of clubs. He is extremely versatile and can play wing or fullback on either side. Expect numerous MLS teams to be among those interested in Johnson.

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