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Americans Abroad

Yanks in Germany, Scotland Making Their Presence Felt

Bobby Wood returns from suspension and makes a strong impression; Julian Green moves away from Bayern Munich with an eye on playing time; Fabian Johnson talks about consistency with Bruce Arena.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 22, 2016
9:05 PM

Bobby Wood Ends Goal Drought

On October 30, Bobby Wood earned a red card for throwing a (very light) elbow into an opponent’s chest. Despite the recipient's overreaction, Wood landed a three-match suspension which kept him off the field for most of November.

This past week, Wood returned in very impressive fashion, scoring a pair of  goals in two games for HSV, including a crucial strike in an important 2-1 win over Schalke.

It was his fourth goal in 745 minutes this season which is not bad given HSV’s poor midfield. Most importantly, the three points pushed Hamburg closer to safety as it now sits in 16th place, two points away from clawing out of the relegation zone.

U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena said last week that he is looking forward to having Wood at his disposal for the crucial qualifiers ahead.

“I saw Bobby Wood play against Damrstadt a couple of weeks ago,” Arena said. “Although it was just a short run of about 20 minutes, I was very impressed with him. I like his pace, his ability to hold the ball, and the kind of energy he has in the attacking third of the field. He's a player I really think is going to help the national team. I look forward to having him as part of our group on March 24.”

Since then, Wood has gone on to score two goals. Look for him to be a key starter moving forward.


Green transfers to Stuttgart

On Wednesday Julian Green finally parted ways with Bayern Munich and transferred to VFB Stuttgart, currently in third place in the 2.Bundesliga. The opportunity presents a very good challenge for the 21-year-old Florida native.

As a Bayern product, much will be expected of Green wherever he goes but he is walking into a team that is a promotional contender and might not want to change things up too much. Still, he needs an opportunity to play at his age and this is better than a relegation fight in the Bundesliga.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Green will join a host of other American players including Dusseldorf’s Jerome Kiesewetter, Sandhausen’s Andrew Wooten, and Bochum’s Russell Canouse. None of these players are currently in the plans of the U.S. national team. It will be interesting to see what happens with Green. But one thing is for sure, he needs to play. Arena made it clear that he does not see sitting on the bench as being beneficial even if you are at a highly respected club like Bayern.  

“For me it makes no sense if a player is playing for a reputable club abroad and doesn't get on the field,” Arena said.

Celtic closing in on Nagbe?

If Scottish reports are to be believed, Darlington Nagbe’s transfer to Celtic could materialize sooner rather than later. It has been well known that Nagbe has been in Scotland recently to visit Celtic and attend trainings and games but how it was unclear if the Portland Timbers and Celtic were close in terms of a transfer fee. Yesterday it was reported that the Scottish giants are prepared to make an offer of £3 million
That is a serious offer that would probably suffice to get the deal done or at least move negotiations forward. Of course, Nagbe would have to find a way to secure a U.K work permit but if Perry Kitchen can obtain one, Nagbe should be able to as well.
U.S. soccer fans should hope this deal gets done. Portland was a very good place for Nagbe. He developed as a professional and playing domestically allowed him to obtain his citizenship and establish a spot with the U.S. national team. But after winning MLS Cup in 2015, he has little to prove here and a fresh set of challenges would serve him well.

Of course the Scottish Premier League has been on the decline in recent years but Celtic holds itself to a very high standard with expectations of being in the Champions League every year. The 26-year-old Nagbe could position himself for one big move within Europe should he succeed in Glasgow. 

National Team full of Hearts

Bruce Arena has said that Hearts captain Perry Kitchen is in his plans for the national team as a defensive midfielder.

“Perry is a player I was in contact with recently and I was uncertain about the schedule for Hearts,” Arena said. “I wanted to invite him into the January camp but through our conversation I understood Hearts had a cup competition in the third week of January and then their league competition resumes at the end of January. But he's a player we're going to look at. He can play a defensive midfield way.”

It makes sense. Kitchen was an established player in MLS with D..C United and while the Scottish Premier League is likely inferior to MLS, Kitchen immediately established himself at the Edinburgh club and quickly became the captain.

But what about target forward Bjorn Johnsen who was recently named the Scottish Premier League player of the month for Hearts? The target forward added another goal on Saturday in a 1-1 draw with Patrick Thistle. Arena also added he is looking at more forward combinations.

The fact that Kitchen is at the club helps Johnsen to potentially catch Arena’s eye but Johnsen will have stiff competitions with Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, and Bobby Wood all locks for a 23-man roster. After that, Johnsen will have to beat out Juan Agudelo, Kekuta Manneh, Aron Johannsson, and potentially even Clint Dempsey, depending on his health.

Johnson and Brooks injured

Borussia Monchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson and Hertha Berlin’s John Brooks are two of the most important players on the U.S. national team. But both players have missed the last few games for their respective clubs due to Achilles injuries.

Fortunately, both have the Bundesliga winter break coming up and will have time to recover. That said, they will need to be ready when winter break resumes or else they could find themselves behind others for their starting positions. It's crucial that both are on the field and in good form heading into March’s qualifiers.

Arena recently revealed that he met with Johnson and the two discussed his position, which was often confusing under Jurgen Klinsmann.

“I met with Fabian in Germany this past month,” Arena said. “His answer to me was, 'I can play either position but I would just like to play one of them and have a little consistency with where I play for the national team.' We're going to evaluate him over the next few months and take into account where he is playing with Gladbach. Is he healthy? I know he's coming off an injury and we are going to monitor that. But obviously he is going to play on the left side of the midfield or at left back."

At this point, if Arena is going to consider where Johnson is playing at Gladbach, he will likely only see him in the midfield. But the question then becomes finding a suitable candidate to play left back. If he fills that left back role, Johnson will likely play in the midfield for the U.S.

Wagner to stay at Huddersfield

This past week the German media exploded with reports that former U.S. national team forward David Wagner was going to take the job as manager at Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga. Currently at Huddersfield in the English Championship, Wagner has enjoyed tremendous success this season taking the small club into a promotional fight. As a result he has become extremely popular with the club’s supporters.

While Wagner admitted to talks with the club in Germany, on Tuesday he announced he is going to remain in England despite Wolfsburg being a big—but currently underachieving—Bundesliga club.

“It is correct that there has been interest from a few Bundesliga clubs,” Wagner said Tuesday. “They have obviously seen the way we are going at Huddersfield Town and the journey we have been on together over the last 12 months. It’s important for me to clarify that my focus is on moving forward at Huddersfield Town. We want to develop what has been a good season so far into a great one—with the staff, players, and fans together as one!”

"We are creating something special here.”

The German-born American is quickly becoming one of the more intriguing new managers in European soccer. Might he be a future candidate for the U.S. national team? Stranger things have happened. 

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