Americans abroad analysis

Weah, Wright, Sargent enjoy big days but USMNT core still in mixed

Americans in Europe continue to have some really good performances and Tim Weah made a statement in just his second apperance of the season for Lille, but when looking at the top American players - it is still very mixed. ASN's Brian Sciaretta opens up his Americans abroad notebood breaks everything down. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 17, 2022
12:45 PM

THE WEEKEND ABROAD for Americans certainly had some important highs. Tim Weah was brilliant and forwards Josh Sargent and Haji Wright impressed. In Belgium, Mark McKenzie and Genk took over first place and in Scotland, Malik Tillman snapped out of a slimp. But, as we’ve been saying, it’s all about the U.S. national team core right now and things are decidedly mixed with more negatives than positives.

Let’s break down the weekend in detail and start with the U.S. team’s core because that is the leading indicator for the U.S. team’s chances in Qatar. The form of the entire pool is still important but if the core isn’t playing well, the team is in trouble. On the flip side, if the core is playing well, they’re in good shape.

This World Cup is so much different than any other World Cup. There is no month-long camp leading up to the tournament and there are no send-off friendlies. The form players have at the club level will then carry over into the tournament – which starts within days of players arriving in Qatar.


The core is still struggling


Dest and Pulisic


Over the weekend, both Sergino Dest and Christian Pulisic were unused substitutes for their teams’ respective games. Pulisic watched as Chelsea defeated Aston Villa away, 2-0. Likewise, Sergino Dest also was also a spectator as AC Milan posted a solid 2-1 away win over Verona.

It’s easy to say that this is not a good sign for either player.

Pulisic was very strong last weekend in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Wolves, but he didn’t get into the midweek Champions League clash vs. AC Milan (which was understandable given Chelsea’s dominance and early Milan red card, which decreased the need for offense) and now this. Pulisic has shown Graham Potter some positive performances, but Potter is still electing to go with others. We will see if that still applies through the very congested period of the schedule – starting Wednesday vs. Brentford.

Meanwhile Sergino Dest’s situation is also not good. He came off the bench to oversee a sure loss in the Champions League and did not get into a good win over the weekend. AC Milan doesn’t have a midweek game this week either – so there is no explanation that relates to squad rotation. AC Milan is also dealing with a wave of injuries, which should open the door for Dest – but so far, really hasn’t.

The good news for Dest is that Milan manager Stefano Pioli continues to be publicly supportive of Dest and is preaching patience.

Either way, both players have more concerns and are question marks with regards being at their best form for the World Cup.


McKennie starts in Juventus win

The good news for Weston McKennie is that he started and played 90 minutes for Juventus in a 1-0 win over city rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole.

The bad news is that McKennie really did not make much of an impact in this game and was rarely part of anything noteworthy. Over his complete game, he had just 31 touches and 16 completed passes. He was 0/3 in winning ground duels and was 1/1 in aerials. He managed two shots although neither were dangerous.

It was far from an uplifting performance from McKennie and while the team won, this was not a performance that is likely to give him confidence. In recent weeks, McKennie occasionally delivers. He had a goal in a Champions League loss to PSG and an assist in a win over Bologna. But the consistency isn’t there.


Reyna gets late sub minutes


Gio Reyna played the final eight minutes plus stoppage time for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in its 2-0 loss Union Berlin. No goals were scored when he was on the field.

Reyna, 19, is still at tough stage to assess in his return from last season’s injury (and reinjuries). He plays occasional minutes and sometimes has played over 60 minutes. But sub appearances are uneven in duration and are still sporadic. This game was a good example. Reyna was the fifth and final substitute in this game (all of which were made when Dortmund was down 2-0).

Is Reyna being saved for Wednesday's DFB Pokal match against Hannover? It’s still tough to read Dortmund’s exact timetable and reading on Reyna is right now. In some of his limited minutes, he’s shown some terrific glimpses. His outings are still inconsistent in duration and quality.

Right now, it still seems like his most likely role in Qatar is as a super sub. Maybe he can start a game. But it’s getting rather late to see his fortunes change to the point where he can start multiple group stage games. It’s also tough to determine if he will dependably put on a good outing.


Weah makes a big statement


Injury has kept Tim Weah out of the season until October. He missed the September international window and was only able to make his first appearance last weekend when he played the final 17 minutes in a 1-0 win over Lille (where he notably missed a big chance to make the game 2-0).

On Friday, Weah made a huge statement for Lille when he came off the bench in the 65th minute with Lille up 1-0. He made a massive impact assisting on goals in the 76th and 80th minute to help Lille pull away to a 3-0 win.


The performance was big on numerous fronts. For one, it puts another member of the U.S. national team core into good form. This is what it is all about. With Reyna looking more and more like a sub option for the U.S. team, Weah and Pulisic are likely the starting wingers.

One appearance doesn’t prove the needed element of consistency, but Weah should surely be confident right now.


As for Lille, this team looks as if it should contend for Europe so long as they keep Jonathan David through the January window. He’s one of the best forwards in France right now. But to have him and Weah there together, that is a big combination for Lille. They’re not going to contend again for another title, but a top five finish is certainly realistic.


Aaronson & Adams play well, lose

Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams both started and played 90 minutes for Leeds United on Sunday in a hard-fought 1-0 loss at home to leaders Arsenal.

Aaronson, in particular, was one of the most dangerous players on the field for either team and this was his best outing in some time. Aaronson was at the heart of about three of the team’s best 4-5 chances to score. While he did have turnovers, the Red Bull/Marsch system is more based on volume where you quickly move on and push for more chances – as opposed to being patient. Aaronson still is at the heart of most of what Leeds wants to do.

Adams is the same but on the defensive side. He is always looking to win the ball and get the ball forward to attacking players like Aaronson.

Heading into the World Cup, both of these players are the least of the team’s problems.


Musah starts in Valencia draw

The final member of the USMNT core is Yunus Musah, who started and played 75 minutes for Valencia in a 2-2 draw with Elche. It was a good performance from Musah who was careful with the ball and made no major mistakes. He is a handful to defend and this makes him valuable – even if he doesn’t create any major chances.


Against Elche, Musah wasn’t at the heart of either of the goals or any major chances, but he helped open the game and was also instrumental in winning the ball in his duels.


Robinson impresses for Fulham

Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream (who isn’t in the core) both went the distance for Fulham on Saturday in a 2-2 draw at home vs. Bournemouth. The draw wasn’t great, but it avoided a loss that would have had people talking about a Cottager collapse after a strong start.

Now recovered from his ankle sprain, Robinson looks like he is in a good spot. His athleticism is very good on the defensive side, and he is a more well-rounded player than the last time Fulham was in the Premier League two seasons ago. His crossing remains erratic and in this game against Bournemouth, his crosses were rarely on target. But it’s time to accept that this is who Robinson is in this area of the game.

Despite his flaws, he is one of the best, if not the best, pure left back the U.S. team has ever had heading into a World Cup. Judging by this game, the injury is pretty firmly behind him.


Conclusion: work to be done

On the team’s core, it’s still not great. Pulisic, Dest, McKennie, and Reyna are too many holes at the moment. That being said, the big outing from Weah and the effective performances from Aaronson and Musah are huge additions.

The most important players moving forward are McKennie and Pulisic. If those two can start getting into a better place, that transforms the narrative of the team’s place heading into November.



Wright scores brace in loss


Antalyaspor forward and U.S. national team hopeful Haji Wright came into Friday’s game away at Alanyaspor on a four-game goal drought where he has also struggled to get serious opportunities.

Wright, 24, snapped out of the skid in a big-time way scoring two goals. The two goals now gives him seven on the season and he is second in the scoring lead, three goals behind Fenerbahce’s Enner Valencia.

Unfortunately for Wright and Antalyaspor, they lost this game 3-2 and Wright’s goals in the 57th and 87th minutes pulled Antalyaspor back to 2-1 and 3-2 deficits. With the loss, Antalyaspor sits in 16th place and in the relegation zone.

The fact Wright is performing so well for a relegation-battling team speaks even better for him as his service isn’t the best.

Will it be enough to get him to Qatar? Probably not. The problem for Wright is that other forwards have also been performing well as of late. Jesus Ferreira is a different type of forward, but has been doing well.

In terms of other forwards Wright is competing against, Josh Sargent at Norwich and Ricardo Pepi have also been scoring in droves the past month. If either of those two can’t go, Jordan Pefok seems like the next one to go.

That doesn’t mean Wright isn’t doing big things right now for his career. For one, he is putting himself into a great position to get sold inside of the next two windows. With regards to the national team, Wright is still going to be just 28 for the 2026 World Cup. Even if he doesn’t go to Qatar, he is building a case for a look during the 2026 cycle.


Sargent scores in Norwich loss


Josh Sargent scored another impressive goal for Norwich on Sunday. Unfortunately for the St. Louis native, his 45th minute goal wasn’t enough as Watford ended up closing out a 2-1 win. The loss dropped Norwich into third place in the Championship and is the team’s second straight loss.

Sargent’s goals are all impressive. He’s scoring from shots around the edge of the box, and this was his eighth of the season. He is now tied for the lead in the Championship.

I am bullish on Sargent’s chances of getting to the World Cup and for him to start at least one group stage game. His variety in the types of goals he is scoring seems particularly useful and he is thriving in physical battles. Given his long history with the team, he seems to be the likely fit to fill the role of a true No. 9.


Pefok assists, subbed out


As mentioned in the note on Gio Reyna, Union Berlin defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0 on Sunday to remain four points clear atop the Bundesliga table. It’s a very impressive run for Union Berlin and the team is vastly exceeding all expectations.

Jordan Pefok, 26, started for Union Berlin and assisted on the team’s second goal. While Janik Haberer (who scored both goals) did most of the work, Pefok’s hold-up play and physical strength were important to the goal.

Pefok, himself, had a solid outing even if he hasn’t scored in five games for Union Berlin. Physically, he demands a lot from defenders and this has opened the door for other players.

Pefok was forced out of the game in the 67th minute with what looked like a knock to his calf, but it remains to be seen if it is serious – although it didn’t look all that bad.

Did Pefok help his case for the World Cup team? Yes. While he is still competing against competition that is playing well (Sargent and Pepi), he is still the starting forward for the team leading the Bundesliga. While he is in a bit of a goal-scoring slump, he is perhaps impressing even more now. The knock on him used to be that if he wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t doing anything else to help. That’s not the case. He’s a physical presence that demands defensive attention. His hold-up play has been very good and he is combining well with his teammates.

As always, things can change very quickly.


Scally & Paredes feature in draw


Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach played to a 2-2 draw over the weekend. Two Americans featured in the game as Joe Scally went the distance for M’Gladbach and showed no signs of his injury last weekend. U.S. U-20 winger Kevin Paredes played 17 minutes for Wolfsburg.

For Scally, he played a pretty good game. He defended well as he handled the speed of Wolfsburg and was also a physical presence. Offensively, he struggled a bit and he didn’t connect well with his teammates.

Scally continues to be a steady player and he is firmly on the bubble for the World Cup team. With Cannon still missing time, Dest not in a great place, and Yedlin’s season over in Miami, Scally might make it because of his consistent playing time, his versatility to play on the left, and the fact he is playing in a top league.

As for Paredes, his appearances off the bench for Wolfsburg are becoming regular and at some point he will stop. He looks like a player who has a good opportunity in front of him this year and the U-20 World Cup in May should be a launching pad for him internationally.



Drama in Belgium


As I mentioned last week, the Americans in Belgium have been playing very well – almost entirely across the board. But with Americans in starting spots for the top two teams to start the season, this weekend we saw a change at the top.

Mark McKenzie and Genk surged into first place with a big 1-0 win on the road over OH Leuven. Genk took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute and then went down to 10 men in the 43rd. That put a ton of stress on McKenzie and Genk’s backline. But they held on for the clean sheet.

McKenzie’s passing was effective for Genk to help keep possession to see out the win. This was an important game for him as he is neck and neck for a World Cup spot (especially with Chris Richards continuing to miss time) and his time in Belgium is only helping him.

With the win, Genk took over first place in the First Division A due to Royal Antwerp falling to Standard Liege 3-0. Sam Vines started but was subbed out for tactical reasons in just the 17th minute after Standard scored three goals in the first 10 minutes. Vines had a large share of the blame on the final goal when he lost his man.

In that game, Marlon Fossey started for Standard Liege and played a very good game at right back before he was subbed out in the 77th minute. Fossey, a part of the 2017 U.S. U-20 team, recently joined Standard from Fulham and this was his second appearance. His athleticism at right back has been very impressive in his first two games.

Genk now has 10 wins and a draw in its last 11 games. They have 31 points from 12 games, one point ahead of Antwerp which as lost two of its last three.

minutes and continues to progress consistently on this loan. Look for him next year with the U.S. U-23 team. Westerlo sit in eighth place and are playing very well to start this season, fresh off promotion.

Finally in Belgium, American attacker Jorge Hernandez played the final 17 minutes for Mechelen in a 3-0 loss to Gent. It was a tough assignment for Hernandez, 21, as Mechelen had a 49th minute red card


Yanks in the Championship


Aside from Sargent, there were plenty to talk about among Americans in the Championship.

Ethan Horvath and Luton Town defeated QPR 3-1. Horvath wasn’t at fault for the goal and made four saves in the game. He has been playing well to make a case to be the team’s third goalkeeper in Qatar, although the chance of him playing there is slim. But the thing to watch with Horvath right now is the next cycle – which starts in just a few months. That’s where things will start to even out with him and the rest of the pack.

There wasn’t much Zack Steffen could have done to stop Middlesbrough’s 2-1 loss at home to Blackburn. Boro just looks like a very unhappy environment, under an interim manager, and now in the relegation zone. Just as disappointing is that Matthew Hoppe was not in the matchday squad and if this situation doesn’t work for him, what will be the next step? If he doesn’t play much in 2022/23, it will be a second straight lost season.

Duane Holmes started and played 66 minutes for Huddersfield in a 2-1 loss to Rotherham United. Just months after making the promotional final at Wembley, Huddersfield is in the relegation zone now in the third month of the season.

It was a tough Sunderland win for Lynden Gooch to celebrate on Saturday. The Santa Cruz native started against Wigan but was pulled at the half with Sunderland down 1-0. His team then rallied for a 2-1 win.

Auston Trusty continues to be one of the biggest surprise stories in Europe as he has been an absolute rock in Birmingham City’s backline. The continued to be the case on Saturday as he went 90 minutes for the Blues in a 2-0 away win over Hull City.

Many expected Birmingham City to be a relegation contender this season but they are sitting comfortably in midtable, and Trusty has been a big part of that. What’s important for Trusty is that he’s playing for his future. On loan from Arsenal, Trusty is putting himself into a great spot for an even better loan next year. Arsenal is likely a bridge too far next season but there is no reason why he can be part of a promotional contender next year in the Championship – or a good top division on the European continent.

Trusty should be a player who is in the mix for the national team next cycle. Players like Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Chris Richards, and Miles Robinson will all be in their prime years during the next cycle but McKenzie could put himself in that group if he continues to improve as he has this season.   


Scotland: Tillman & CCV impress


In Scotland, two Americans impressed with Old Firm clubs.

For Cameron Carter-Vickers, it was a relatively pedestrian outing at Celtic as they completely outclassed Hibernian 6-1. Celtic’s defense was never under much serious pressure but what is most telling from this game is that Carter-Vickers continues to wear the armband for Celtic. It speaks volumes about how highly regarded he has been with the club and there is pressure that comes with that, even if Celtic is rarely tested in the Scottish league.

Rangers defeated Motherwell 2-1 and Malik Tillman not only played a full 90 minutes, but he scored the best goal in the Premiership for the weekend when he waltzed through numerous Motherwell defenders and finished for a 2-0 lead.

It was a very important goal for Tillman who had not been playing well for Rangers over the past six weeks. He still needs to show consistency and he needs to work hard each game, but this play showed that he has the talent to score big goals in the Premiership.

Tillman continues to be a bubble player for the U.S. team regarding Qatar but this certainly helps him – particularly as Berhalter needs to search for difference makers.

In a bit more of a setback in this game, James Sands was unused for Rangers and his tough run has now put him in a tough spot to earn minutes. Meanwhile, Joe Efford was not in the squad for Motherwell.

Elsewhere in Scotland, Scott Pittman played 90 minutes for Livingston in a 1-0 win over St. Johnstone. Pittman continues to set another record for the most appearances in Livingston FC history.

Ian Harkes did not get off the bench for Dundee Untied in a 1-1 away draw vs. Ross County. The same could be said for Christian Ramirez who watched as Aberdeen defeated Hearts 2-0. Dante Polvara did not even make the bench for Aberdeen in this one.


Rough weekend in the Eredivisie


Four Yanks played this weekend in the Eredivisie although it was mostly a weekend to forget in the Dutch top tier.

A red-hot Ricardo Pepi started for Groningen and for the first time since arriving at the club on loan from Augsburg, he failed to register either a goal or an assist. Groningen was completely outplayed in a 3-0 loss to Twente, which came into the game focusing on shutting Pepi down.

This is going to be Pepi’s challenge moving forward. Unlike at Augsburg, teams are now going to be focusing defensively on shutting him down. He will have to respond, and Groningen doesn’t have many other good scoring options. Pepi still remains in a good position to book a ticket to Qatar but he cannot go into another slump as Pefok and Wright are still knocking at the door.

Cole Bassett played just the final two minutes for Fortuna Sittard in a 0-0 draw with RKC Waalwijk. With Fortuna Sittard punching above their weight to start the season and Bassett only at the club on loan, he seems to be a luxury player. It’s not a good spot for the Colorado Rapids loanee who can leave the club this winter if he does not meet a minute threshold. That seems like a good bet.

Two Americans featured when PSV Eindhoven defeated Utrecht 6-1 in a lopsided affair. Taylor Booth earned a rare start for ninth-place Utrecht. Booth, 21, struggled in his 77 minutes on the field. He completed just nine passes and had 21 touches. He won just 2/8 of his duels and created no real chances. He didn’t help his case for more minutes – which have been few and far between the past two months.

Richard Ledezma came on in the 62nd minute for PSV with the score 4-1. He was not part of the final two goals and the competition is tough for him to get on the field. He didn’t help or hurt his chances in this game. He seems as if he could benefit from a loan in January although if PSV makes some sales, he might be needed. Regardless, he needs real minutes soon. All his minutes this year have essentially been mop-up minutes which don’t really help with his development.


Ikoba’s big run in Hungary


Eduvie Ikoba is tied atop the scoring table in Hungary’s NB I after he scored the opening goal for Zalaegerszegi TE in a 3-0 win over Paksi FC. For the Iowa-born Dartmouth graduate, it was his seventh goal of the season.

Ikoba will turn 25 next week and he is as generally played well in lower Eastern European leagues but this has been a breakout season for him. It’s quite a rise for a player who was drafted by FC Dallas with the 63rd pick of the 2019 MLS Draft but was not offered a contract. His brother, Tega Ikoba, is currently signed to the Portland Timbers on a homegrown contract.

If Ikoba is continues to be among the best forwards in Hungary, it will open doors. Perhaps MLS teams will show interest – but will they be among the highest bidders?


Notes elsewhere


Chris Richards was once again out for Crystal Palace in a 0-0 draw at Leicester City. At what point is he going to lose his spot in Qatar. With players like McKenzie, Carter-Vickers, and Palmer-Brown all playing well and Richards uncertain about when he’ll return and if he will play when he does, it’s a big question.

In the Bundesliga, Timothy Candler was an unused substitute as his Eintracht Frankfrut teammates demolished Bayer Leverkusen 5-1. Justin Che continues to be out of the picture for Hoffenheim and missed his team’s win over Schalke.

In Ligue 1, Erik Palmer-Brown played the second half for Troyes in 1-1 draw vs. AC Ajaccio. Both goals were scored in second half with Ajaccio scoring an 88th minute equalizer to deny a Troyes win. 

In La Liga, Luca de la Torre was an unused substitute for Celta Vigo in a 2-1 loss at home to Real Sociedad. It’s been a tough start to the season for de la Torre as the minutes have not been there. De la Torre will still probably make the World Cup team but what can be expected of him in Qatar.

In Italy’s Serie B, Venezia dropped a 3-1 decision at home to Frosinone on Friday. The team was roundly criticized by the local media for its lack of intensity. The criticism is deserved as Venezia sit in 16th place in the 20-team league (relegation playoff zone). Gianluca Busio started and played 66 minutes while Andrija Novakovich came into the game in the 66th. Tanner Tessman was disappointingly an unused substitute. Neither Patrick Leal or Jack DeVries made the bench. Busio is the player with the most question marks as has lost his spot on the national team, and is not playing well. He needs to be a player who can deliver wins at this level.

Also in Serie B, Anthony Fontana made a rare appearance for Ascoli when he came on as an 89th minute sub in a 2-0 away win over Bari in Southern Italy.

In the 2.Bundesliga in Germany, Greuther Furth drew Hansa Rostock 2-2. Julian Green started and played 86 minutes for Furth and Timothy Tillmann also started for Furth and played 79 minutes. The big story of this game was from Massachusetts native Ryan Malone. The former Division III player at Springfield College came into the game for Hansa Rostock to start the second half in central defense. In stoppage time, Hansa Rostock earned a penalty down 2-1. Malone elected to take the kick and he converted it to force a draw. Furth remain in the relegation zone in 16th place while Hansa Rotock is in 13th place.


The rest of the weekend was brutal for Americans in the 2.Bundesliga.

George Bello started and played 90 minutes for Arminia Bielefeld in a 2-0 loss to Hannover. Arminia Bielefeld remain in last place just months after playing in the Bundesliga.

Terrence Boyd started and played 90 minutes for Kaiserslautern in a 3-0 loss at home to Jahn Regensburg. Boyd missed two big chances in the game.

Lennard Maloney has been playing as a defensive midfielder for Heidenheim lately as opposed to his normal central defense role. He started as the No. 6 against Holstein Kiel but was pulled at the half of a 3-1 loss away to Holstein Kiel.

Finally, Bryang Kayo was an unused substitute for FC Nurnburg in a 1-0 away win over Fortuna Dusseldorf.

In the Portuguese Cup, John Brooks made his first start for Benfica in a heavily rotated squad against third tier Caldas.  Brooks ended up going 120 minutes as Benfica prevailed on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

In Sweden’s Allsvenskan, GIF Sundsvall remain deep in last place and all-but relegated after a 4-1 loss to Hacken. Forrest Lasso started in central defense for GIF Sundsvall and scored an own-goal while Joe Corona started and played 63 minutes.

Degerfors still have a chance to avoid relegation, but it will likely have to come through the playoff. They drew Elfsborg 1-1 over the weekend with Jeff Gal playing in goal while Joe Gyau played 90 minutes at left back.

In the Danish Superliga, the Copenhagen Derby was a thriller as Brondby played FC Copenhagen to a 1-1 draw. Christian Cappis came on in the 67th for Brondby up 1-0. In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Brondby was reduced to 10 men. Copenhagen equalized in the 8th minute of stoppage time to deny Brondby the victory.

In Norway’s Eliteserien, Rosenborg defeated Stromgodset 3-0. Sam Rogers played 83 minutes for Rosenborg in the back of a three-man backline. With the win Rosenborg moved into 3rd place. Also in the Eliteserien, Kobe Hernandez-Foster played the final minute to kill time for Hamkam to preserve a 0-0 draw away at Aalesund.

In England’s League One, Alex Mighten went as an unused substitute for Sheffield Wednesday and watched his team defeat Cambridge 2-0. Sheffield Wednesday is in a promotional hunt and Mighten’s minutes have been tough to read. He’s played well at times, then has been riding the bench on other times. A good season probably gets him looks with the U.S. U-23 team next year after he completes his one-time switch from England (who he represented at the youth level) to the United States (where he was born.

In Greece’s Super League, Caleb Stanko started and played 57 minutes for Asteras Tripolis in 0-0 draw vs. Panetolikos. Meanwhile, Konrad de la Fuente continues to not make the bench for Olympiacos as his team lost to PAOK on Monday. His move has not worked out and without his EU passport, it will be tough for him to play. He is looking at a lost season unless things change.

In Croatia, Rokas Pukstas was an unused sub for Hajduk Split in a 1-0 away win over HNK Gorica.

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