Reading's Andrija Novakovich saw first-team minutes for the first time on Saturday—a major milestone for any young player. Meanwhile, the American contingent in Germany continues to fight the good fight.
WITH JUST ONE MORE WEEKEND
March 16, 2015
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before the March international break arrives, several Americans are improving their club situations—most notably Timothy Chandler, who continues to sparkle with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Here's a quick look at how some key Americans performed over the weekend .
Novakovich debuts for Reading
It's always a positive sign when a young American player makes his professional debut in Europe. Three weeks ago Desevio Payne made his Eredivisie debut for Groningen, and last week former U.S. U-20 forward Jerome Kiesewetter made his Bundesliga debut with Stuttgart.
On Saturday, U.S. U-20 forward Andrija Novakovich became the third American inside of a month to debut in Europe. Despite Reading’s 4-1 loss to Watford, his 86th-minute substitute appearance was a pivotal moment in the Wisconsin native’s career—a reward for his consistent play for Reading’s youth teams.
Novakovich joins Bobby Convey, Marcus Hahnemann, and Danny Williams as Americans who have played for Reading’s first team. Not surprisingly, sources have told ASN that Novakovich has been called up by U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos for an upcoming camp in London, although Reading have yet to sign off on his release.
Hertha barely misses massive win
U.S. national team central defender John Brooks has been playing terrific soccer recently, solidifying his place in the upper echelons of the ASN 100. On Saturday Brooks seemed well on his way to another fantastic performance for Hertha but was partially at fault on Schalke's stoppage-time equalizer.
Schalke's Joel Matip beat Brooks in the air—no easy feat—and Hertha had to settle for one point instead of three. Despite the slip up, a draw against Schalke is a good result for Hertha and Brooks continues to show impressive progress since getting benched in October.
Chandler and Eintracht roll
While he has yet to turn in an exceptional performance with the U.S. national team, Timothy Chandler is looking very strong this season. The Bundesliga fullback was solid again on Saturday in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 4-0 rout of Paderborn.
Paderborn had no success attacking down Chandler's side of the field and the German-American was very active, attacking repeatedly out of the right back position. Whoscored.com rated Chandler the best defender in that game.
Can Jurgen Klinsmann get Chandler to play as effectively for the national team as he does in the Bundesliga? It would be great to see some progress on that front in the March friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland.
Morales and Ingolstadt slumping
After sprinting to a seemingly insurmountable lead atop the 2.Bundesliga table, Ingolstadt has fallen back to earth and will have a fight on its hands to earn promotion to the German top flight.
On Sunday, Ingolstadt dropped a 3-1 decision to fourth-place Karlsruher, which is now just five points behind the frontrunners. Worse, both the second and third place teams in the league now trail Ingolstadt by just three points.
Alfredo Morales has been a consistent starter for Ingolstadt but he and his teammates will be severely tested the last nine games of the season. Next up: an away match against fifth-place Eintracht Braunschweig on Saturday.
Guzan and Villa climb toward safety
Aston Villa is still in a relegation fight but there is no denying the significance of its resounding 4-0 win over a collapsing Sunderland side on Saturday. Villa is three points clear of the relegation zone but with two wins in a row, it has far more momentum than the four clubs below it.
Guzan only had to make two saves in the win but he has had a solid year in his first season as the U.S. national team's No. 1.
Corona, Garza, Xolos in a good groove
Tijuana continued its winning ways on Friday, defeating second-place Veracruz at home by a 3-1 score. Joe Corona started the game for the league-leading Xolos, eventually giving way to fellow American Greg Garza in the 80th minute. Garza, a first-team regular with Tijuana, has been rehabbing a recent injury.
The win moved Tijuana four points ahead of Veracruz with just seven games remaining until the playoffs.
Speaking of which, if the season ended today six Americans would participate in the Mexican top flight's playoffs: Garza, Corona, Ventura Alvarado, Edgar Castillo, Michael Orozco, and Herculez Gomez.
Pearce Playing Center Back at Goteborg
The Allsvenskan season has yet to begin but the Swedish Cup is well underway and early signs suggest that Heath Pearce will be seeing a lot of minutes for a league power IFK Goteborg.
On Saturday, Goteborg cruised past Helsingborg 2-0 to move into the semifinals of the Swedish Cup. Pearce actually played in central defense and did a solid job to help anchor the backline. The game featured two Americans, as Helsingborg started Illinois native Matt Pyzdrowski in goal.
Pearce, 30, is bucking the trend of Americans heading from Europe to MLS by choosing to go the other way for his second stint in Europe. Goteborg is one of Sweden’s most powerful clubs and if he succeeds there, perhaps his national team days are not yet over.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.