Americans abroad analysis

Yanks abroad: Matarazzo sacked, McKennie, & Dest struggle, others return from injury

ASN's Brian Sciaretta opens up his notebook for Americans playing in Europe and sees a lot of good and bad. This was a big breakdown on either side. Matarazzo getting sacked was tough and the USMNT core, while there is promise, isn't where it needs to be. Plus, there is a lot of young Americans is shakey spots. On a flip note, Americans in Belgium and the Championship are thriving. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 11, 2022
6:00 PM

THE NON-STOP run of soccer in Europe up to the World Cup continues and for Americans, it has continued to be a VERY eventful time with a lot of very big positives and a lot of troubling negatives. We will, of course, get to it all.

As we are going to be doing over the next month, we are going to be spending a lot of time talking about the players who are core to the national team. The form of these six or seven players heading into the World Cup will likely be the decisive factor of the team’s success (or failure) in Qatar. When the team struggled in the two September friendlies, it was not surprising that the core players all arrived in camp either with injuries or in a poor run of form with their clubs. So, we’ll spend more time with them separately.

But we’ll also look at a troubling situation where a bunch of young Americans are simply not in great places. Unfortunately, it is becoming a trend. But then, we can also look at some hopeful signs as other players have shown how quickly fortunes and change for the better.

Let’s get right into it looking at the news and games from the weekend and into the start of the week.


Matarazzo Sacked


The top story among Americans in Europe that that Pellegrino Matarazzo, one of the few American managers to have success in Europe, was fired by Stuttgart on Monday. This comes on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Union Berlin which was the team’s third loss in a row. The team only has a -5 goal differential but has been prone to conceding late goals to squander results. The team is winless on the season and has five draws for five points through eight games. That has it in 17th place in the 18-team league.

Matarazzo was hired by VfB Stuttgart in the winter break of the 2019/2020 season while it was in the 2.Bundesliga. He led the team to promotion and the team avoided relegation in its first two seasons in the Bundesliga. Last season, safety was secured on the final day with a dramatic string of results.

Here are some thoughts about Matarazzo’s sacking.

First, a very, very good manager is now on the market. Managing Stuttgart is not an easy job. It is one of Germany’s biggest clubs, but it has been a dysfunctional mess for 15 years. The club’s problems long predate Matarazzo’s hiring, and they will continue after he has been fired. Matarazzo has been managing a club with constant roster turnover and a revolving door of players. He made the most of the opportunity.

Yes, at any big club a manager always has to answer for poor results. Even if the problems are deeper than the manager, the manager is always the first to go. Matarazzo understood this when he was hired and he likely is not surprised he was dismissed.

Second, is that most teams and clubs throughout Germany – and perhaps beyond Germany – realize that Matarazzo did well with the hand he was dealt. This was Matarazzo's first ever job as a first-team manager and he accomplished promotion and survival under a lot of pressure. He is smart (mathematics major at Columbia University), he has learned from some of the best in the business (Julian Nagelsmann is his former boss, mentor, and friend), and he now has successful big club experience.

For many clubs looking for managers, he is going to check a lot of boxes. The fact that the European Leagues will soon go on a long break for the 2022 World Cup, there will be numerous openings.

This leads to the question over where his next destination will be. Most likely it will be Germany. This is where his experience has been, this is where his reputation is at his highest, and this is where he would likely not need much time to learn the specific nature of his next job.

Would he consider outside Germany? Perhaps. He is fluent in Italian. His fluency in Germany and English, of course, could make him attractive to clubs in Austria, Switzerland, and elsewhere. But if he stays in Germany, it will be interesting to see if it will be that the Bundesliga or the 2.Bundesliga level. The 2.Bundesliga level is tricky and he turned down a 2.Bundesliga offer before taking Stuttgart, so he understands that the 2.Bundesliga can run the risk of managing a club that is completely unstable.

A lot of American fans are also wondering if he would consider a move to MLS or within U.S. Soccer. For me, the answer is unlikely but certainly not impossible. Matarazzo’s entire family lives near his hometown of Fair Lawn, NJ (near New York) or in the New York Metropolitan area. He has said that the plan was always to go back at some point, but he probably wants to continue to push himself in Germany where he has lived for over 20 years. His career as a player and then as a manager has been non-stop progression.

But there is money in the game in the United States, there is his family, and there is the American education system that served him very well. A move to the West Coast seems far more unlikely than the Northeast. A club like NYCFC, which is operating with an interim manager, should at least make a phone call. They love to play up to the New York image and a manager with big Euro experience from Bergen County, New Jersey who is an alum of nearby Columbia checks a lot of boxes. If Gerhard Struber leaves the Red Bulls this winter, they should also make a call. Matarazzo will most likely decline, but it’s worth at least speaking with him (and if it doesn’t work now, maybe it will in a few years).

Would Matarazzo consider U.S. Soccer? First, it’s not even clear if U.S. Soccer would be interested. But seeing as he is an American with impressive experience, it remains within the realm of possibilities. Gregg Berhalter’s contract is up this year, and it is completely possible that there will be another coaching search. If Matarazzo wants to throw his name in the ring, my guess is that it would be considered. Berhalter has praised Matarazzo on occasion.

But it remains to be seen if Matarazzo wants to coach internationally. It is a completely different type of coaching than at the club level. Games are far more infrequent and without World Cup qualifying, most of the competitions before the 2026 World Cup will center around Nations League and the Gold Cup. That is not going to interest every manager who also has Bundesliga options – especially for a manager still building his reputation and resume. Plus, there is the necessity of living in Chicago. He would get to visit New Jersey far more than he does now, but is that enough?

No matter what, Matarazzo will have options moving forward and a very promising managerial career in front of him.


The Core: Pulisic impresses, Weah, Jedi, & Musah return


As mentioned above, the players core to the USMNT right now are going to get the most attention because they are the bellwether for the team’s success next month in Qatar.

In short, the core is still far rom where it needs to be. There is still some good news - Pulisic playing well over the weekend, Robinson and Musah looked promising in his return, Adams was okay in a loss. But McKennie and Dest are not in a good spot. Weah is still on the fence after missing so much time. Aaronson is still adjusting to the Premier League. 

So yes, there is hope, but the core is still not in a great spot to help the U.S. team be at its best. 


Pulisic’s big outing, then sits


Christian Pulisic made his first start over the weekend for Chelsea under Potter, played 72 minutes, and scored a big goal en route to a 3-0 win. It was a big outing for Pulisic and the combination of relief and joy was reflected in his body language.

On Tuesday, Pulisic did not get off the bench for Chelsea as it defeated AC Milan 2-0 in the Champions League. I wouldn’t read too much into this, however, as AC Milan was reduced to 10 players in the 19th minute and Chelsea had a 2-0 lead early in the game. It was not a game where Potter was looking to bring in offense.

The real statement was made over the weekend and while Pulisic is not yet a regular starter for Chelsea, he has begun to build his case for more minutes. This was a huge development for the U.S. team, which needs its best players to be playing well heading into Qatar. Of course, it is far from determined that this will correlate to continued success at Chelsea but success has to start somewhere. Like with most players, Pulisic needs to be in a good mental state to be at his best.

We will see where this takes him, but this was very much needed for Potter, for Pulisic, and for Berhalter.


Robinson, Weah, & Musah return

It what was also a huge bit of welcome news, three members of the core group of players all made their return from injuries which kept each player from participating in the September window. In short, Musah and Robinson look like they are ready to be starters again for both club and country. Weah might take a bit of time, but he’s also been away the longest of the three.

Tim Weah played the final 17 minutes for Lille in a 1-0 win over Lens and it was his first appearance of the season. The rust was evident, and he missed a golden chance which he should have scored. Still, he was active enough to get into that chance. He also had 13 touches. The fact that Lille went on to win softens the blow of the miss. What this means is that Weah is likely going to continue to play but seems unlikely to be a regular starter anytime soon. Whether this is good enough for the U.S. team depends on how he performs. But the minutes should be there.

Antonee Robinson returned from his ankle injury and played 90 minutes for Fulham in a 3-1 loss to West Ham. It was a poor result from Fulham who were outplayed despite being on the wrong end of a controversial second West Ham goal. Robinson’s crossing still needs to be better but his athleticism was on full display and he was one of best Fulham players. This was easily a very promising development for both Fulham and the U.S. team.

Yunus Musah came into the game in the 62nd minute for Valencia while they were up 2-0 on Osasuna. Valencia ended up prevailing 2-1 on Friday. The game was pure madness the last 20 minutes as Osasuna picked up two red cards, the ref lost control, and Valencia missed a penalty. Like with Robinson, this was a positive performance from Musah who really added an element of pace and explosiveness to Valencia’s game. He should return to the starting XI soon and this was a performance to build from in the run-up to the World Cup.


McKennie & Dest struggle

The past five days have been days to forget for Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest.

AC Milan defeated Juventus 2-0 on Sunday. Weston McKennie played the second half while Sergino Dest did not play at all. Then on Tuesday, both players played in awful defeats for their respected clubs.

For McKennie, in his half against Milan, he was decent at times and at other times, he struggled along with the entire group of Juventus players. Then on Tuesday, McKennie was very poor for Juventus in a 2-0 loss on the road at Maccabi Haifa. McKennie started but was pulled at halftime with the final score of 2-0 already set.

But overall, McKennie is far from where he needs to be to be successful at a high level and to be at his best for the World Cup. Yes, Juventus is struggling and it seems like the team wants Max Allegri out. But McKennie was poor in the September window for the U.S. team and he is poor right now.

As for Segino Dest, injuries at AC Milan should get him on the field but it has been a struggle. He didn’t play over the weekend and missed out on a big win over Juventus. Then against Chelsea, he struggled and really looked missing in confidence with the ball.

Between McKennie and Dest, it is not a good situation.


Reyna still easing back

As for Reyna, he missed out on Borussia Dortmund’s 2-2 draw with Bayern on Sunday. Dortmund continue to heavily manage his minutes and brought him back for Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Sevilla in the Champions League.

He came into the game against Sevilla in the 71st minute with the score already 1-1. Most of his outing was forgettable until he made a very nice run with the ball where he waltzed through the defense only for no one to be at the end of his final ball.

It’s more of the same with Reyna. He plays and then misses time. He shows glimpses talent but there is a lack of rhythm and the consistency is not there. Unless he seriously reinjures himself, he will be in Qatar, but he continues to look like an option off the bench. If he can start, it will probably only be for one group stage game.


Aaronson, Adams, & Leeds lose again

For the fifth straight game, Leeds United failed to win. This time it was a 2-1 loss on the road to Crystal Palace (Chris Richards continued to miss time with Palace).

Despite the loss, Tyler Adams was one of the few bright spots with Leeds United and he has been one of the few consistently performing Americans in Europe all season. He was busy all game breaking up plays and making smart passes.

As for Brenden Aaronson, it continues to be an ongoing learning experience in the Premier League and he is in a very tough role at Leeds. He uses a ton of energy in pressing, but this system is not as easy to implement on a weekly basis in the Premier League. He is also extremely aggressive when he has the ball but this is also tougher in the Premier League than in Austria. He still shows that he can pull it off on occasion, but adjusting to this league is a process.

Jesse Marsch needs a win soon. After a strong start, Leeds is drifting back towards the relegation line and Leeds has shown that it will pull the trigger if they sense relegation is a possibility. A lot of teams will be assessing things during the long World Cup break.


Too many tough situations


Looking back, a lot of young American players have made moves over the last three international windows (Summer 2021, Winter 2022, Summer 2022) and while some moves have worked out very well (take a bow Sam Vines), there is a lot of room for concern for too many moves. Most of these players are in the 2001-2002 birth years and would have been part of the 2021 cancelled U-20 team. Many of them have hit serious roadblocks.

Konrad de la Fuente’s loan to Olympiacos, Taylor Booth’s move to Utrecht, Cole Bassett’s loan to Fortuna Sittard, Justin Che’s loan to Hoffenheim, and George Bello’s move to Arminia Bielefeld have all been concerning – at best.

Konrad De la Fuente simply isn’t making the matchday roster at Olympiacos right now and a big reason has to do with the fact that he doesn’t have an EU passport and the Greek Super League limits teams to having just five non-EU players on a matchday roster. Typically, non-EU players are big imports into the Greek Super League and de la Fuente has tough competition. It’s a pretty bleak situation.

Taylor Booth is now fading quickly at FC Utrecht. After two appearances to start the season when he was removed at halftime and then another when he subbed into the game which it lost, minutes are now hard to come by for Booth. The fact he isn’t making the bench and is playing for Jong Utrecht also paints a tough situation.

Cole Bassett is on loan at Fortuna Sittard from Colorado and might need to use an exit clause to get out of the loan in January. What has made his move so difficult is that he moved to Fortuna during a coaching change. He is now only seeing late sub minutes and he played the final two minutes of its recent 2-1 win over Vitesse – it’s third win in a row. With the club winning and Bassett not having a big role (and having an exit clause), this move seems unlikely to last the season. He probably won’t return to the Rapids but his resume in 2022 hasn’t given him a big resume to head into a shop window.

 Justin Che is still at Hoffenheim on loan from Dallas and is not in the club’s plans. He probably going to find another club in January but he’s not in a great spot. Like Bassett, and James Sands, the nature of these 18-month loans with options to buy doesn’t make clubs invested in the players. It is almost akin to taking a flyer on the player. It works out sometimes – like Chris Richards – but generally when teams pay a transfer fee, it means they’re far more likely to get a real shot. Che seems to be losing a lot of time while FC Dallas has clearly moved on.

George Bello played for Arminia Bielefeld over the weekend but is still mostly on the bench for a team that sits in the basement of the 2.Bundesliga.

Matthew Hoppe finally got into another game for Middlesbrough and the recent coaching change will likely help him only because it couldn’t be any worse. Over the weekend he played the final 15 minutes of a 2-0 loss to Millwall. Hoppe excited American fans in January 2021 when he scored five Bundesliga goals for Schalke in the span of about 12 days. But that is now a distant memory and he is currently aiming for minutes on a relegation battling Boro team under a new manager who likely knows nothing about him.

While these players are in tough spots, they join a whole host of other players who are also not in great shape. Richard Ledezma is still only playing extremely minimal minutes with PSV. Yes, he only returned from a long-term injury in the late spring, but his current situation doesn’t give any indication that minutes are forthcoming. Owen Otasowie’s move Club Brugge has been a disaster and Uly Llanez isn’t much better on an subsequent loan to St. Poelten where he isn’t starting.

James Sands and Malik Tillman started off the season in great form at Rangers. But their current form has them on the bench.

The three Americans who joined Venezia the past year (Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessman, and Andrija Novakovich – while not including the mostly second team Jack De Vries and Patrick Leal) are all playing but are now stuck with a Serie B team that doesn’t seem likely to bounce back up to Serie A anytime soon.

For those looking for a silver lining in this large number of Americans in poor situations, Ricardo Pepi and Mark McKenzie are example of players where prospects can improve quickly. Pepi was seemingly unloaded by Augsburg just to get rid of him, and he has been terrific since arriving in the Eredivisie. Mark McKenzie was playing very irregularly with Genk but all it took was for the club to unload a player and it paved his way quickly for a starting job on a very good Belgian team.

But Pepi and McKenzie were top MLS players and U.S. internationals when they were sold. Yes, a few of those who are struggling might find a way to turn things around quickly. But it will take patience, improvement, and good luck. Not all will be successful.  


Championship: Trusty, Sargent, Horvath Thrive


Three American players made the Championship team of the week: Auston Trusty for Birmingham City, Josh Sargent for Norwich City, and Ethan Horvath for Luton Town.

Auston Trusty has exceeded all expectations since joining Birmingham City and he’s arguably been their best player. While many predicted Birmingham City to be in a relegation battle this year, they look like a midtable team – thanks mostly to the team’s defense. Trusty has been showing to be valuable not just in defense, but in offense. The former Union homegrown and Colorado defender scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Bristol City.



Trusty has been among the most surprising success stories in Americans abroad. While I mentioned earlier the struggles of many young players. Trusty has made the move not at a young age but at the prime age of 24 and is crushing it.

Birmingham City manager John Eustace is pushing for Trusty to make the World Cup roster. That speaks volumes since he’s not even at the club on a permanent basis. He is a loan player but Birmingham City are standing by him. Even if he doesn’t make the team going to Qatar, he is putting himself into position to be in considerations next cycle when players like Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, John Brooks, and Tim Ream likely age out.

Josh Sargent scored his seventh goal in 13 appearances to start the season. His second minute goal opened the scoring for Norwich in what would turn out to be a disappointing 3-2 loss to Preston North End. Regardless of the result, Sargent continues to put himself in the driver’s seat heading into Qatar.

Despite the loss, Norwich remained in second place in the Championship.

Meanwhile, Ethan Horvath had perhaps his best game since moving to England on Saturday for Luton Town in a 0-0 draw with West Bromwich Albion. The fine performance put him on the Championship team of the week.

The race for who will be the U.S. national team third string keeper in Qatar likely won’t matter much, but it will be a close call between Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson.

Zack Steffen is still likely among the top two along with Matt Turner and despite the struggles of Middlesbrough. There was little he could have done about either of Millwall’s goals over the weekend as they defeated Boro 2-0.


Pepi continues to shine


On the one hand, Ricardo Pepi is doing very well. On the other hand, Groningen is not. But being that Americans abroad is more of a “stock watch” kind of thing (for better or for worse), most Americans see this is a big net positive.

Pepi, 19, scored two goals for Gronginen on Friday in a 3-2 loss to a poor Waalwijk team. His 14th minute from the spot gave his team a 1-0 lead and then in the 74th minute, with his team down 10 men, he equalized the game at 2-2 shortly before Waalwijk would take a 3-2 lead.

Pepi is playing great. He is confident and happy. He now has four goals in his last three games for Groningen after merely assisting in his first game.

He’s building a case for Berhalter to have justification to take him to Qatar. It has also helped that Jordan Pefok has come back down to earth in his last three games as well. He might have struggled for a poor Bundesliga team, but success at FC Dallas and now at Groningen while still a teenager still justifies him as a very good prospect.


Belgium: Yanks continue to thrive


I’ve written about it before but it’s worth mentioning again that Belgium continues to be a great place for Americans to get adjusted to the European game. The league is not a big jump from MLS and there are few work restrictions for non-EU players to play in the league. That makes it different than the Eredivisie.

But that success was on full display over the weekend.

Mark McKenzie continues to play well after the sale of Jhon Lucumi. He went a strong 90 minutes for Genk in a 2-1 win over Kortrijk. The win kept Genk in second place with 28 points from 11 games, two points back of leaders Royal Antwerp.

Speaking of Royal Antwerp, after losing its first game of the season to Kortrijk the weekend before, the club got back on track on Friday with a 2-0 win over St. Truiden. Sam Vines went a full 90 in the win and was his normal solid form.

Bryan Reynolds started and played 73 minutes in a stunning 2-0 upset on the road over Club Brugge. In its first season after getting promoted, Westerlo are playing like a top third side in Belgium and Reynolds has been a nice addition. He clearly looks like someone who should be part of the U.S. U-23 Olympic team starting next year.

Finally, Marlon Fossey made his first team debut for Standard Liege after leaving Fulham over the summer. The 2017 U.S. U-20 right back played the final 26 minutes for Standard on Sunday in its 1-0 win over Sporting Charleroi.

In Belgium, everything continues to be very good for Americans.


Other top Americans


Josh Cohen impressed mightily for Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday when the team upset Juventus 2-0 in Israel. While Maccabi is unlikely to advance out of the group, this is the type of performance that raises Cohen’s stock and gets him a lucrative deal next year.

Cameron Carter-Vickers returned from his knee injury over the weekend. He started for Celtic on Sunday in its 2-1 away win over St. Johnstone. Then on Tuesday he was part of the 2-0 loss at home to Leipzig in the Champions League. He is going to be a very close call for the World Cup team. Missing the last camp hurt him but no one has completely taken his place.

John Brooks continues to be nothing more than a distant backup for Benfica. At least he is making the bench, even if he is not playing. He watched Benfica draw PSG 1-1 on Tuesday but once the injured players return to health, it might be a struggle to make the bench.

Alex Mendez has been having a good season so far for Vizela in Portugal’s top flight and his performance on Sunday in a big 1-0 away win over Casa Pia. If he continues to play well, he might be in a good position for a friendly call-up next cycle with the U.S. team.

Also in Portugal, Reggie Cannon continues to miss time with an injury for Boavista. He was not in action for a disappointing 1-1 draw at home vs. Maritimo. It was the first point of the season for Maritimo and unfortunately, American Joel Sonora went as an unused sub for them.

It was a tough outing over the weekend for Erik Palmer-Brown who played 60 minutes for Troyes in a 3-2 loss to Nice (the score was 3-0 when he was subbed out).

In Germany, Jordan Pefok played 65 minutes for Union Berlin in a 1-0 lead over VfB Stuttgart (the last game under Matarazzo). Pefok worked hard physically but it wasn’t a great game from him going just 6/18 in passing. He hasn’t been sharp in his last three games for Berlin.

Joe Scally had another very strong performance for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 5-2 win over Koln. He was subbed out in the 83rd minute with a knock and it has not yet been announced if he will miss any time but he recovered well from his poor outing the week before against Werder Bremen.

Kevin Paredes played the final 15 minutes for Wolfsburg on Saturday in a 1-1 draw against Augsburg. Paredes continues to look lively off the bench even if he is yet to have the big moment that grabs everyone’s attention. His first start should be coming at some point but he’s young and is in a good spot.

On Sunday, Haji Wright went 85 minutes for Antalyaspor in a 1-1 draw with Konyaspor. Wright has cooled off noticeably over the past month and Antalyaspor has drifted close to the relegation line.

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