Americans abroad analysis

Steffen, Dest, Miazga, Sonora impress in mixed weekend for Americans abroad

There was a lot to talk about from this weekend regarding Americans abroad. Even with some of the top players not standing out, there were plenty of positives to take away. ASN's Brian Sciaretta with a big breakdown of it all. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 19, 2019
3:00 AM

THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad was decidedly mixed with some great high points and some of the most high-profile players not standing out. But there was a lot to take in.

What this weekend showed was the depth of Americans abroad. For one, it was still mostly positive despite Josh Sargent and Tim Weah receiving only late-game cameos, Tyler Adams still injured, Tyler Boyd not having a great Besiktas debut, and Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic playing in lackluster games.

Instead, we had an American goalkeeper shining in one of the best leagues in the world (which has been a rarity since Tim Howard left). We also had an American score in a team off to a strong start in Argentina. We also had Americans who are on the team’s of the week in the Championship and in Sweden. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an American teenager made an impressive first Eredivisie start for Ajax.

So all-in-all you take the good with the bad, and it was mixed but still plenty of great positives.

Here were the best stories.

Steffen strong in Bundesliga debut

Zack Steffen made his Bundesliga debut on Saturday for Fortuna Dusseldorf (on loan from Manchester City) who visited Werder Bremen in the season opener for both teams.

Steffen had a great performance and was certainly the American abroad player of the week. Fortuna walked away from the game with a 3-1 away win and Steffen stood tall making nine saves in the process and was not at fault for the goal.

This was the perfect result for Steffen as it was critical for him to get off to a hot start in his Bundesliga campaign. His last tenure in Europe did not go well and it was over quickly but now he has momentum and confidence after his Bundesliga debut.

Sargent and Weah cameos

For Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, the weekend wasn’t that great as both were relegated to the bench after starting for their clubs last weekend.

Josh Sargent was invisible last weekend for Werder Bremen in a lopsided German Cup win where he was pulled after an hour. In this game, Sargent came on in the 81st minute and did more in this game than he did last weekend for 60 minutes against an inferior opponent. He managed two shots, both on goal, and had six touches.

Did Sargent do enough to get back into the starting lineup? Maybe. Werder had 23 shots in this game, 10 on goal, and only scored once. That might be enough to force a change.

As for Weah, he played the final five minutes for Lille in a 1-0 road loss to Amiens. Lille played the final 8 minutes down a man. Weah saw the ball but wasn’t able to do anything against a bunkering opponent that managed to earn the three points. But like Sargent, Lille might have to make changes for next week.

Dest impresses in first Ajax start

Sergino Dest earned his first Eredivisie start for Ajax and was very impressive in a 4-1 away win over VVV-Venlo. His passing and his dangerous runs were first-rate and he is in good position to earn plenty of minutes to start the upcoming season.

On the defensive side, Dest was pretty solid aside from a few moments. But at his age, he is on a fast track at Ajax and one that should have him on the U.S. national team sooner than later.

Boyd’s disappointing Besiktas debut

Tyler Boyd had a weekend to forget as he earned the start for Besiktas in its Super Lig season opener away at Sivasspor. After a great loan spell last season in Turkey with Ankaragucu, Boyd’s debut with Besiktas was awful. He was unable to get anything going offensively and defensively he did little.

Things went from bad to wore for Boyd after a collision with Sivasspor’s goalkeeper left him and the goalkeeper injured. Boyd continued but perhaps shouldn’t have.

It was a game to forget for Boyd but it was bad for everyone at Besiktas who suffered a lopsided 3-0 defeat to an opponent it was favored to beat. Next up will be its home opener on Friday vs. Göztepe but it remains to be seen if Boyd will be healthy for the game.

McKennie and Pulisic in lackluster games

Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie are two of the most highly regarded American players right now but both were involved in very forgettable draws this weekend.

For Weston Mckennie, he got the start for Schalke in its Bundesliga opener away at Borussia Monchengladbach. The game was exceptionally boring and finished 0-0 but McKennie played well defensively and won a high number of aerial duals. But it was tough for Mckennie to get involved offensively due to Schalke’s lack of attacking quality.

Former U.S. forward David Wagner is now the team’s manager and it is a challenge to figure out what direction Schalke is heading in. The team is 15 months removed from a second-place finish in the Bundesliga but last year the team was in a relegation battle. So where is Schalke in the Bundesliga hierarchy? McKennie is part of a younger group that will reveal where the club stands in the years ahead. Overall, a 0-0 draw on the road against Borussia Monchenglabach is certainly not bad. But Schalke also looked to be a team very fortunate for the result.

In the Premier League, Christian Pulisic was ineffective for Chelsea in a 1-1 draw against Leicester City in its home opener. After a nice display against Liverpool midweek in the UEFA Super Cup, Pulisic earned the start in this game and had a tough time getting going. He played 70 minutes and did not manage to get a shot off or generate any dangerous opportunities.

This is a terrible situation for Chelsea as new manager Frank Lampard will be under serious pressure after a loss to Manchester United and a home draw to Leicester City to start the season. Pulisic is unproven in the Premier League and some managers under pressure often look for known options to dig out of a hole. Pulisic’s leash is not as long as it was in Germany and that is the nature of the gig when making a big, expensive move to a club like Chelsea.

Miazga shines in important Reading win

One American who came up with a big win when needed was Matt Miazga and Reading. A loss would have had it become the only team in the Championship without a point from its first three games.

But Miazga was one of the best players in the game as Reading came up with a big 3-0 win over Cardiff City to start moving in a positive direction. How dominant was Miazga in the backline? He was credited with winning 17 aerials and no one else on his team had more than five. He also had 13 clearances and completed 80% of his passes. In this game Miazga played as one of three central defenders but played at a Premier League-level.

For this effort, Miazga was named to the Championship Team of the Week.

Sonora scores for Arsenal de Sarandi

Joel Sonora, 22, had another strong outing for Arsenal de Sarandi in Argentina’s Primera Division and scored the team’s final goal in a 3-0 win over relegation fodder Defensa y Justicia. But this is one of the best stories of the month in Argentina’s top flight as Arsenal de Sarandi is fresh off promotion but is the only team in the league with a perfect nine points through the first three games of the season.

For 2015 U-20 World Cup veteran Sonora, this is his second goal of the season. But next up will be a huge test as Arsenal hosts San Lorenzo.

Gall earns MOTM for Malmo

Romain Gall hasn’t played as much as he would have liked so far this season in Sweden but he was given the start for Malmo on Sunday at home vs. relegation battling Falkenberg. But Gall reminded everyone how effective he can be in Sweden’s top flight as he scored a goal and notched two assists in a 5-0 win.

The three points moved Malmo back atop the table – although it might only be temporary as Djurgarden could overtake it with a result on Monday. Last season, Gall had 14 goals split between Malmo and GIF in all competitions. But despite his impressive output, consistent minutes have been difficult for him.

Whether or not Sunday’s performance changes that remains to be seen.

Hines-Ike part of Kortrijk’s rise

Brenand Hines-Ike, 24, is one of the least talked about players among Americans abroad but he is quietly having a very nice career. It began in Sweden but he has now moved to Belgium where he is a starter for Kortrijk.

On Saturday, Hines-Ike went a full 90 once again as Kortrijk down Anderlecht 4-2 to move into sixth place in Belgium’s top flight. Kortrijk is typically one of the smallest teams in Belgium’s Pro League but has been impressive to start the season with seven points from four games. Anderlecht, under player manager Vincent Kompany, is winless through four and is playing dismal soccer. American Kenny Saief is nowhere to be found on the matchday rosters.

Next up for Kortrijk is a difficult away match against Standard Liege.

American-heavy Hobro draw Midtjylland

Hobro had four Americans on its gameday roster on Saturday as it visited one of the best teams in the league in FC Midtjylland. Christian Cappis and Emmanuel Sabbi earned the start while Yosef Samuel and Louicius Deedson were on the bench.

Cappis was once again strong for Hobro in central midfield and the club looks significantly improved from last year’s team that narrowly avoided relegation. A result away against one of Denmark’s best teams is impressive but the team will likely be disappointed to not getting a win after conceding a stoppage-time equalizer.

Adams nears Leipzig return

Finally, Tyler Adams is nearing his return and according to RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann. In a press conference he said Adams was about two-three weeks away from his return.

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