Americans abroad analysis

Vines and Antwerp remain perfect but many Yanks struggle in tough weekend

Even with the games in England and Scotland postponed, it was a tough weekend for Americans aborad as many key players in the remaining leagues either didn't play or didn't play well. The one exception was in Belgium where Vines, McKenzie, and Reynolds were all part of nice wins. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 12, 2022
1:00 AM

THE WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS abroad was about as non-eventful as you could get – void of any real standout performances or individual accomplishments. Even when you consider all the games in England were postponed, there was nothing very memorable from the performances elsewhere.

In total there were a lot of Americans in the national team pool who just didn’t play. Dest, de la Torre,Weah, and Brooks didn’t play and then in England you have Ream, Robinson, Aaronson, Adams, Pulisic, Steffen, Turner, and Horvath didn’t play. Weston McKennie, Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok, and Gio Reyna were subpar.

Even in the up-and-coming players, Richard Ledezma, Cole Basset, Taylor Booth, Gianluca Busio, and Kevin Paredes did not get on the field. Others like Konrad de la Fuente were lackluster.

Still, there is a lot of news worth covering and even a lackluster weekend will affect the status of players within their clubs and within the national team.

Here is a far shorter analysis of the games than in weeks past.


Vines and Antwerp remain perfect


While it was a very dull weekend overall, the most positive news from American players came from Belgium.

Sam Vines continues to start and play a consistent role with Royal Antwerp which defeated Cercle Brugge 2-0 away today. Antwerp now has a perfect 24 points from eight games to start this season.

His performances this year for Antwerp haven’t been eye-catching and he is rarely among the top performers in games, but he passes well and is remarkably steady and consistent. It’s not too far off how he played in Colorado.

There is a lot of debate right now among American fans about the role of Vines right now with the national team. It makes sense as Vines is playing well for a good team and there is no clear backup to the clear first team starter Antonee Robinson (who is also injured). The issue Berhalter must consider is that the way Vines players left back is remarkably different than the way Robinson plays left back. Robinson is a lot more athletic and quicker getting up the sidelines.

Does it make sense to have a backup who is completely stylistically different than the starting option? It comes down to the other options. Assuming the struggling George Bello is now out, Berhalter could play Dest or Scally out of position on the left side. Both are primarily right backs who sometimes provide cover on the left. Or Berhalter could look at John Tolkin who is a bit more athletic than Vines and is having a great season with the New York Red Bulls.

Vines is clearly worth a look in September and Tolkin might be as well if Robinson is unable to go. If Vines is an option, the team needs to readjust to playing with him due to his differences with Robinson. It has been awhile since Vines was last with the team.


McKenzie & Genk roll


Mark McKenzie and Genk posted their best win of the season on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Union St. Gilloise. After comfortable wins over lower-half teams, Genk now defeated not just a good team, but a good team away.

Genk now has 19 points from eight games and is even with Club Brugge for second behind Antwerp.

McKenzie has clearly done a nice job after the sale of Jhon Lucumi to Bologna – a move that ensured McKenzie would have the starting job. He is now enjoying his best run of games with Genk since arriving from Philadelphia in early 2021. In this game, he made no costly mistakes and helped in the win. It was a good outing, overall.

Does McKenzie have a chance at Qatar? It seems unlikely. If you assume that Zimmerman and Richards are locks, then there are two (maybe three) remaining central defense spots open. That means McKenzie is in pool of players including Carter-Vickers, Palmer-Brown, Long, Ream, Brooks, James Sands, and maybe even Miazga. McKenzie would have to be near the top of that list and that doesn’t seem likely unless things change quickly.


Reynolds & Westerlo upset Anderlecht


Bryan Reynolds and Westerlo upset Anderlecht 2-1 on Sunday and it was a very impressive win for the newly promoted team. Reynolds was making just his second start with the club. Perhaps Reynolds has found a place where he can settle into the position and learn. Roma isn’t the answer and Kortrijk was in a nosedive during his loan last season.

Reynolds played fairly well in the win over Anderlecht and his athleticism makes him an intriguing prospect. The right back position is still new to him, but he is growing into the role.

Reynolds needs to focus on his club play and simply learning. That will give him more options after this year once his loan is over. Internationally, he should aim for the 2024 Olympics where he, along with Joe Scally, are the two best age-eligible options for the position.


Reyna subs into loss


After an eye-opening performance in the Champions League on Tuesday when he played the final 67 minutes and assisted twice in a 3-0 win over Copenhagen,  it was a step back for Gio Reyna over the weekend. The American subbed into Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 loss to Leipzig in the 61st minute when the score was 2-0.

Reyna’s first possession was impressive, and he nearly assisted. After that, it was a tough game where he made some mistakes and didn’t really contribute much.

All this is to be expected after missing as much time as he did last season. This past week he showed his class and ability, but he also showed that his consistency is still not there. Typically, in a long recovery, the consistency is the last thing to return.

If he stays healthy, Reyna is a lock to go to Qatar. But what is his role and how much can he play there. Can he start all three group stage games? That doesn’t seem likely. But how many can he start? How long can he come off the bench for?

It’s still unsettled.


Pefok misses penalty, but helps Union


Jordan Pefok missed a penalty in the 10th minute of Union Berlin’s big 1-0 win over Cologne on Saturday but still made a positive impact on the game. He played 75 minutes, won his aerials, and helped in defense as Union Berlin now sits atop the Bundesliga after six games with 14 points.

Pefok missed the last two games with an injury, but he returned to the starting XI for what is a very good team. He is also finding ways to help the team win even when he is not scoring. As of now, he looks like a strong bet to return to the national team in September with a resume that compares well to Sargent, Wright, Vazquez and Pepi – his primary competitors.


Scally impresses for M’Gladbach


Joe Scally impressed on Sunday for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 0-0 draw with Freiburg. Scally has now played 96% of Gladbach’s minutes in all competitions this season. In this game he completed 22/24 of his passes and was generally steady in the win.

Scally now has 36 Bundesliga appearances in his career and he is still a teenager. Even when he is not flashy with his performances, he is generally always highly competent.

His U.S. national team prospects are improving by the day with no real backup left back settled (and the first-choice is hurt), Dest not playing, Cannon playing as a right central defender, Vines still unproven, and Yedlin struggling in Miami. Scally’s quiet competency might be the best possible solution even if he is still very young.


Elsewhere in Germany


Elsewhere in Germany, Pellegrino Matarazzo’s VfB Stuttgart team fought very hard for a 2-2 away draw with Bayern Munich. Stuttgart sits in 15th place but this game showed a lot of character with a stoppage time equalizing penalty rescuing a point for the American-managed team. Matarazzo’s teams have a reputation for fighting extremely hard.

Kevin Paredes did not get off the bench for Wolfsburg in its impressive 1-0 away win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Paredes was building off two solid sub appearances for Wolfsburg. Timothy Chandler also did not play for Eintracht in this game.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Lennard Maloney went the distance for Heidenheim in a 0-0 draw with Karlsruhe to remain in third place.

Ryan Malone and Hansa Rostock lost their third game in a row in a 3-1 loss away to Fortuna Dusseldorf. Malone started in central defense for Rostock.

Terrence Boyd and Kaiserslautern played Damrstadt to a 3-3 draw on Saturday with Boyd going the distance in a wild game where Kaiserslautern trailed 2-0 into the 74th minute, rallied to take the lead in the 87th minute, but suffered a stoppage time equalizer.

Things continue to get worse for George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld. The American joined the Bundesliga club in January but struggled as they got relegated. Now in the 2.Bundesliga, Bello plays few minutes and the club sits in the bottom of the table eight games into the season. On Friday, he subbed into a 0-0 game with Nurnburg in the 87th minute and was on the field when Nurnburg scored a late winner. Arminia Bielefeld now sits in 16th place in the 18-team league.

Sitting in last place is Greuther Furth which has just four points on the season after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Madeburg. Timothy Tillman started and played 88 minutes in the loss while Julian Green subbed into the game in the 59th minute for Furth. It’s been a tough start to the season for both German-Americans.


Musah & Valencia fall to Rayo Vallecano


Yunus Musah and Valencia dropped a 2-1 decision to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. The U.S. national team midfielder went the distance in the loss.

Musah, 19, had a very tough start to this game. He along with most of the Valencia players really struggled for the first 40 minutes. Trailing 1-0, Musah made a nice attacking play in the 43rd minute for Valencia’s best play in the first half.

In the second half, Musah was improved despite Rayo Vallecano taking a 2-0 lead in the 54th minute due to an own goal. He started winning duels to win possession and helping Valencia try to get back in the game. In end, it was not enough and Valencia dropped a 2-1 decision (with a late goal).

It wasn’t Musah’s best game overall, but he improved as the game went along.


McKennie’s wild day


Weston McKennie started for Juventus on Sunday in a controversial 2-2 home draw with Salernitana. McKennie played 85 minutes and left with Juventus trailing 2-1. He was not on the field for the ending mele.

Overall, it was a day to forget for McKennie who (aside from his midweek goal in the loss to PSG) has not had a good start to the season. Part of it could be due to the lack of preseason because of his shoulder injury but he’s not making big and impactful plays at nearly the same rate.

The last 10 minutes were insane. Leonardo Bonucci scored the rebound after a missed penalty in stoppage time. Then Arkadiusz Milik scored what looks to be a winner. It is called back for a terrible offside decision Milik gets sent off as does Cuadrado. For Salernitana, Federico Fazio was given a red.

Following the final whistle, Juventus boss Max Allegri was sent off.

Juventus is not playing well, even if they were robbed this game. They should never have been in a position to be trailing Salernitana 2-0 at home. McKennie is not the team’s biggest problem, but he’s not the solution either. The American’s form at this point should be a major concern for Juventus and the U.S. team.


Palmer-Brown & Troyes lose


Erik Palmer-Brown started for Troyes on Saturday in a 1-0 loss to Lens. While Palmer-Brown has been playing very well the past several weeks, this was a tougher game for him. He lost Kevin Danso on the team’s only goal when a free kick was sent into the box on the left side and Danso cut in front of Palmer-Brown.

In the ninth minute, Palmer-Brown nearly was called for a penalty on a tough tackle but the referee ruled it clean.

Palmer-Brown ended up going 66 minutes as Troyes fell to 13th place and Lens rose to third place in Ligue 1.

As for Palmer-Brown on the U.S. team, it is going to be a very close call and with Ream, Carter-Vickers, and even McKenzie playing well, Palmer-Brown has a lot of tough competition.


Cannon starts in win


Boavista defeated Arouca 2-1 away on Sunday. Reggie Cannon started for Boavista but played just the first half with the score 1-1 when he was taken out.

There were a few reasons for Cannon's early hook. The first is that Arouca was reduced to 10 players in the 10th minute (but still managed to score first). With teh score even at the half, Boavista wanted to go into a more attacking formation.

The second reason is that Cannon picked up a yellow card just before half and this made his removal understandable.

Arouca's only goal came in the 27th minute on a looping ball over the backline from Tiago Esgaio sent Rafa Mujica in a alone vs. the keeper. Cannon was one of three players who could have done better on the play.

Cannon is still playing as a right central defender, which makes his national team spot as a back-up right back unclear. Berhalter visited Cannon last week and attended his game. But Boavista is doing well with 12 points from six games (good for sixth place). With his experience, he’s probably in a good spot but he remains a tough one to read.


Pepi assists in Groningen debut


Ricardo Pepi made his Groningen debut on Saturday in the club’s 1-0 win over Cambuur. The American forward came into the game to start the second half with the score 0-0.

The term “assist” flatters Pepi in this case because it got on the end of a very poor Cambuur backpass and passed to Tomas Suslov who did almost all the heavy lifting on the goal.

Pepi had 20 touches in his 45 minutes and played relatively well. The assist might not have been too impressive, but it was probably the best thing for him on the field since last October. Confidence is a big thing for strikers and if a little thing like this gives Pepi something to build from, then it will be a nice debut.

As for the national team, it still remains tough to take Pepi to Qatar, but he will be in his 20’s for the next two World Cups. He has a long future ahead of him.


Elsewhere around the globe


One of the hottest Americans in Europe is actually in Hungary. Eduvie Ikoba, 24, who plays for Hungary's Zalaegerszegi TE. On Sunday, he scored for ZTE in a 1-2 loss to Puskas FC Academy. Despite the loss, it was his third straight game with a goal and his fifth goal over his last three games. Those five goals have him in a four-way tie atop the scoring charts.

After playing in college at Dartmouth, Ikoba was drafted by FC Dallas with the 63rd pick in 2019 MLS Draft. He did not earn a contract but has since played in Hungary and Slovakia to varying levels of success. His brother Tega Ikoba is currently a homegrown product with the Portland Timbers.

In Italy’s Serie B, SPAL defeated Venezia which had four Americans on the bench – Tanner Tessmann, Andrija Novakovich, Jack De Vries, and Gianluca Busio. SPAL ended up winning and just two of the Americans played. Tanner Tessmann came off the bench to start the second half but picked up his second yellow card in the 88th minute and was sent off. Novakovich came off the bench in the 58th minute but missed two good chances.

Also in Serie B, Anthony Fontana did not get off the bench for Ascoli in a 1-0 loss to Perugia on Saturday.

In Belgium, Owen Otasowie started for Club Brugge’s reserve team but was pulled in the 38th minute of a loss to Beershot.

Luca de la Torre’s time at Celta Vigo should be a big concern for the U.S. national team as he is very rarely playing. He was an unused sub in Saturday's 4-1 loss to Atletico Madrid. De la Torre has been the backup No. 8 on the U.S. team but his club form has not been great in 2022 as his Heracles team was relegated out of the Eredivisie and now he is not playing at Celta Vigo.

In Greece, Konrad de la Fuente was not able to capitalize on two big chances for Olympiacos in a 1-1 draw with NFC Volos. De la Fuente entered the game in the 78th minute, two minutes after Olympiacos equalized.

Also in the Greek Super League, Caleb Stanko played the full game for Asteras Tripolis in a 2-0 loss at home to Aris Thessaloniki FC.

In Holland, Taylor Booth for Utrcht, Cole Bassett for Fortuna Sittard, and Richard Ledezma for PSV each went as unsued substitutes over the weekend. Utrecht defeated Vitesse 1-0, Fortuna Sittard drew NEC Nijmegen 1-1, and PSV defeated KRC Waalwijk. All three players are eligible for the 2024 Olympic team.

In Portugal, John Brooks did not play for Benfica in its 1-0 win over Famalicao. Alex Mendez, Alejandro Alvarado, and Vizela take on Estoril on Monday.

Finally in Portugal, Joel Sonora started and played 57 minutes for Maritimo in a 2-1 home loss to Gil Vicente. Maritimo have lost all six games to start the season. Sonora only recently joined Maritimo to help the last-place team in a relegation battle.

In Turkey, Haji Wright has come back down to earth the past two games for Antalyaspor. On Sunday, he went the distance in a 2-0 away loss to Kayserispor. Antalyaspor has been shutout the past two games and have now lost three in a row.

Also in Turkey, Gbolyi Ariyibi started and played 62 minutes for Ankaragucu in a 2-1 loss to Alanyaspor on Saturday. The club’s lone goal was scored after the former U.S. youth international winger was subbed out. Ankaragucu is in last place with just one point from five games.

In Norway, injured Sam Rogers missed Rosenborg's 2-1 loss to FK Haugesund. Kobe Hernandez-Foster started but was pulled at the half for HamKam in a 2-1 loss to Viking.

In Sweden's top-flight on Saturday, last-place GIF Sundsvall loast to Elfsborg 2-1. American central defender Forest Lasso started but was pulled at the half while Joe Corona played the last 23 minutes. Joe Gyau went the distance for Degerfors in a 0-0 draw with Mjaellby. Degerfors remains in the relegation playoff position, seven points from safety.

In the Canadian Premier League, Osaze De Rosario, 21, bagged his 11th of the season to put him in second place in the Golden Boot race. It will be interesting to see if any MLS teams show interest in the son of Dwayne De Rosario.

In Brazil, Johnny Cardoso started and played 59 minutes for Internacional in a 1-0 win over Cuiaba. He was not on the field for the winner.

In Argentina, Alan Sonora and Independiente visit Sarmiento on Monday.

In Uruguay's Primera, American defender Mattias Fracchia started and played 90 minutes for the Montevideo Wanderers in a 3-0 loss to Danubio

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