Americans abroad analysis
Americans abroad: McKennie to Leeds, Paredes scores, LDLT assist, Booth & Mihailovic impress, & more
January 30, 2023
THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad was eventful despite most of the top U.S. national team players not seeing the field. But there was transfer news plus some impressive highlights including a thriller in the Eredivsie, an impressive pair of performances in Belgium, and a milestone from Kevin Paredes in the Bundesliga.
Sure, the list of Americans not seeing the field this weekend was noteworthy. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Sergino Dest, Haji Wright, Josh Sargent, Antonee Robinson, Reggie Cannon, and Chris Richards didn’t suit up this weekend.
But there was still plenty of news to report.
McKennie off to Leeds
Fabrizio Romano has been on top of this story from the beginning and on Monday he announced its completion. Weston McKennie will be joining Leeds United on loan for the remainder of the season with a €33m option to buy (likely contingent on Leeds United staying up).
Official, confirmed. Weston McKennie joins Leeds United on loan deal from Juventus for €1.2m fee plus €33m buy option clause and add ons. ?????????????? #LUFC— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 30, 2023
Contract signed, deal completed. pic.twitter.com/E2Byg7HisP
This is a huge deal for everyone involved. It likely means McKennie is out of European competitions for some time, but the Premier League could suit him well. He did well at Juventus but arrived when the club was in transition (on the heels of a nine scudetto run) and never oversaw a complete turnaround. Yes, he won a Coppa Italia and played in the Champions League, but this was a down period for Juventus.
Now, he will attempt to lead Juventus on an upswing. He brings some of what Leeds United badly needs. He can help shield the backline, he will bring some physicality in the midfield, and he is someone who can score and make plays. It doesn’t fix the club’s need for an improved central defense or central forward, but he can help on both sides of the ball.
Leeds United likes to press, win balls, and quickly transition the ball into the attack. McKennie could be a good fit.
Yes, this is exciting for American fans in that the club will now have three U.S. national team players – Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, and now McKennie. They will, of course, be managed by American Jesse Marsch. Not since the Fulham teams of 15 years ago has a team in Europe’s top leagues had such an American influence.
???? Friends Reunited! pic.twitter.com/yJaVMF1Ntb— Leeds United (@LUFC) January 30, 2023
But now there is pressure. Leeds United is just a single point above the relegation zone. The bottom teams have struggled – including Leeds. Is McKennie the type of player who can turn losses and draws into wins? Leeds United is betting heavily that he can.
If McKennie’s purchase option gets exercised, Leeds will have spent approximately $90 million on the three American players. That value needs to produce, otherwise it is scrutinized heavily and, perhaps unfairly, will make things tougher for American players.
For now, there is enough room for optimism. McKennie has gained a lot of experience in Serie A, the Bundesliga, and the Champions League to provide a body of work that justifies a high price tag.
The ball is up to Marsch to make it work.
De la Fuente update
After a failed loan to Olympiacos, the latest report has Marseille’s American winger Konrad de la Fuente linked with a loan to Saint Etienne.
French report links American winger Konrad de la Fuente with a possible loan to Saint Etienne with Marseille continuing to pay all of his salary. Saint Etienne is in a tough relegation battle in 2nd tier Ligue 2 (19th place out of 20 teams) https://t.co/VPn4GglozA— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 30, 2023
It's tough to spin this as good news, but it seems about right based on his experiences so far. The last rumor was AZ Alkmaar – which made no sense given AZ’s stellar season and de la Fuente’s lack of an EU passport.
De le Fuente, 21, is coming off a terrible 2022. He didn’t play for Marseille to end 2021/22 and then was sent on a loan to Olympiacos where he has only rarely made the matchday squad. Marseille has been trying to find another club for him.
But the rumor of Saint Etienne makes sense because the club, once one of the best in France, has fallen on exceptionally hard times. They sit 19th out of 20 in Ligue 2 and have little money to spend. What is even more revealing is that the report says Marseille will pay all of de la Fuente’s salary. In other words, he’s a total flyer for Saint Etienne who essentially has no “skin in the game” for this loan. There is no sign of confidence that Saint Etienne really wants him, only that they will take him for free.
Maybe de la Fuente will show some grit and impress there. But it is tough to get excited about a loan where the club shows sign of valuing in the player.
Mihailovic & Booth stand out in epic draw
One of the most entertaining games this weekend was AZ Alkmaar’s 5-5 draw with FC Utrecht. The 10-goal thriller saw American midfielders shine for both sides. Djordje Mijailovic started and picked up an assist in his 60 minutes of action. Taylor Booth assisted also picked up an assist but was a key part of the build-up for two other goals. Both Americans were busy creating multiple chances in the game and the statistics do not do it justice.
The draw was especially disappointing for AZ which was in second place in the Eredivsie and was looking to gain ground on leaders Feyenoord.
Both Mihailovic and Booth are in great positions to see their career take off. Booth was the Eredivisie player of the month for October and has continued to impress. He can get a USMNT look in 2023 but should also be looked at as a leader for the 2024 Olympic team in Paris. He has been one of the best American breakout performers this season.
Mihailovic, 24, is a bit older but his success is important, not just on a personal level but also in the big picture. Many of the top transfers out of MLS are to players 18-20. But having a player approaching his mid-20s command a big price (Mihailovic was the second highest transfer fee paid by AZ) do well, it opens the door for prime-age MLS players to command high fees. These players are not being brought in for future value but rather for present value.
Paredes opens Bundesliga account
The result is not what Kevin Paredes or Wolfsburg wanted, a 2-1 loss to Werder Bremen. It was especially disappointing given the run Wolfsburg had been on – winners of six straight Bundesliga games and 11 goals over the past two games.
Paredes, 19, has gradually seen his role increase with steady minutes off the bench each game. Last weekend, he assisted Wolfsburg’s fifth goal of a 6-0 win over Hertha BSC. But against Werder Bremen, the former DC United homegrown winger came into the game in the 80th with Wolfsburg down 2-0. It was a different approach than coming into the game with Wolfsburg leading by several goals.
In stoppage time, he did his best to propel a late comeback with his first Bundesliga goal. The strike took an impressive degree of skill as it was a half-volley from the edge of the box which he struck with authority.
Paredes has the ability to have a breakthrough in 2023. He is a player I rate because he does a lot of things well. He works tenaciously on defense and in duel winning. On offense he can score and assist – primarily with his dominant left foot. He is very quick and can handle the speed of the Bundesliga.
Paredes is in a good chance to see his minutes regularly increase down the stretch of this season. In the preseason, he should compete for a regular starting job for next year (while starting occasionally this season).
Internationally, it will be interesting. He should see his first cap in 2023. Ideally, he would play in the U-20 World Cup and then focus on the Olympic team (while getting occasional USMNT caps) in the process. The problem then becomes whether Wolfsburg will release him for the U-20 World Cup or the Olympics next year?
For Paredes and the U.S team, it comes down to timing and Wolfsburg’s willingness to release him. Paredes will have a role, but it’s hard to say what path it will be just yet.
Scally vs. Brooks in the Bundesliga
Last Thursday, John Brooks signed for Hoffenheim after an unsuccessful move to Benfica. The move made sense for all parties. Benfica wanted to unload him, Brooks needed to play, and Hoffenheim’s defense was bleeding goals and they needed another option.
On Saturday, Brooks got the start for Hoffenheim at home against Borussia Monchengladbach – who started Joe Scally at right back.
Brooks, on his 30th birthday, was rusty as Hoffenheim dropped a 4-1 decision at home. He was exposed for speed and timing on the first two goals. He should be given a pass because he has barely played since May and is on a new team where he has no chemistry with his teammates. The fact that they are starting him shows how desperate Hoffenheim is.
Hoffenheim is three points from the relegation zone but should take some comfort in that the bottom portion of the league is also very bad this year. Only a modest improvement should keep them safe. Brooks should improve in the weeks ahead but he can’t get put into positions where he needs speed. If that is the case, he will look bad.
Scally, 20, played well before coming out in second half stoppage time. It was a steady performance and, while he didn’t stand out, didn’t make any real mistakes in the win. Overall, it’s easy to forget that Scally just turned 20 and already has 47 Bundesliga appearances. That is impressive.
Boyd’s big goal
Terrence Boyd, 31, is one of the best Kaiserslautern players in a long time. He joined the club last year when it was in the 3.Liga and scored nine goals in 13 games to help it earn promotion.
Now in the 2.Bundesliga, he is continuing to put the team on his back. On Sunday, he scored in the 66th minute to break a 1-1 deadlock away at Hannover. The goal propelled Kaiserslautern to a 3-1 to keep it in fourth place. He now has nine goals on the season, which has him the fourth leading scorer in the 2.Bundesliga.
This goal was an impressive volley into the top of the goal.
Kaiserslautern is a one of the bigger clubs in Germany which has fallen on tough times over the past decade. Near bankruptcy, it fell to the third tier. Now Boyd is a major contributor to an effort for back-to-back promotions. It would be a remarkable achievement if he can pull it off.
De la Torre’s big assist
Luca de la Torre, 24, earned his second consecutive start for Celta Vigo against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and assisted on the game’s only goal. Celta Vigo needed a result, or else it would end the weekend firmly in the relegation zone.
In the 71st minute, de la Torre sent a crafty short chip pass over the defense to send Iago Aspas past the backline and into a position where he could score the decisive goal. The San Diego native and U.S. international was fairly quiet up to that point, but did his part to create the winning goal which moved Celta one point clear of the relegation zone.
De la Torre is likely to continue to start for Celta Vigo, which is a huge step up for him from Heracles. But this year, he has a chance to participate heavily in another relegation fight and, this time, help carry his team to safety.
Reynolds, Fossy, & McKenzie impress in Belgium
Three American players stood out in Belgium’s first division this weekend in wins: Mark McKenzie at Genk, Marlon Fossey at Standard Liege, and Bryan Reynolds at Westerlo.
First, McKenzie continues to be an anchor for a Genk team that is running away with the lead in Belgium. On Saturday, Genk pounded last-place RFC Seraing 4-0. The result was predictable given the talent gap between the two teams, but McKenzie played a big role in that. In his 90 minutes, he had 102 touches, 6/9 in long balls, seven passes into the attacking third, four clearances, 2/2 in tackles, 4/5 in duels won, and nine recoveries.
McKenzie is looking at a year where he will win the Belgian title, play in the Champions League, and return to the national team.
Bryan Reynolds, 21, meanwhile is quietly impressing at an overachieving Westerlo team. In Saturday’s 2-0 win over Mechelen, the former FC Dallas homegrown had 89 touches, 61/65 passing, five passes into the final third, 3/3 tackles, 3/4 in long balls, 11 recoveries, and 6/11 in ground duels. Westerlo is only newly promoted into Belgium’s top flight but is overachieving in seventh place.
Reynolds is putting himself into a position to find a nice club. He is unlikely going to be kept by Roma, but, based on what he is doing this season, he should have enough suitors to meet an asking price from Roma. Internationally, Reynolds looks like a great pick to start at right back for the U.S. Olympic team if he is released.
Meanwhile, Marlon Fossey continues to start at right back for Standard Liege. On Saturday, he went 80 minutes in a 3-1 win over Eupen. The English-American is effective getting into the attack as he is playing a wing-back role in a three-man backline. It’s been a good season for Fossey, 24, who is showing himself well for the first team as a top-division starter. The national team remains a ways off, but he remains someone to watch.
Pepi scores in Groningen loss
The good news for Ricardo Pepi, 20, is that he scored his seventh goal of the Eredivisie season on loan from Augsburg. That’s an impressive thing given that Groningen is poor, and it is not a place that it is easy to succeed.
On Sunday, Pepi scored a 73rd minute goal which briefly equalized its game with Volendam.
Pepi’s 7th of the season pic.twitter.com/S1kptvkYSp— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) January 29, 2023
The result, unfortunately, did not hold and Volendam, who was also battling relegation, came away with a 3-2 win to send Groningen into last place.
Pepi isn’t going to be playing in the second tier in Holland next year. He also probably won’t be back with Augsburg. He’s shown himself to be a good Eredivisie forward for a 20-year-old. But dealing with a club in a tough situation is only going to help him mentally. It’s not an easy thing to do and he’s done well as one of the few bright spots at Groningen.
Turner impresses in loss
Matt Turner earned the start for Arsenal in a tough 1-0 loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup. While there wasn’t much he could do with the Nathan Ake goal in the 64th minute, he made one save against Erling Haaland where he stood out.
Turner isn’t a starter at Arsenal but he is living up to expectations. He seems like he would be a great loan target for a club in the future that needed a goalkeeper.
Yanks around the Globe
In the English Championship, Zack Steffen earned a cleansheet for Middlesbrough in a 2-0 win over Watford while Matthew Hoppe was away with the U.S. team. Boro is in third place and right in the middle of the promotional race. Meanwhile, Duane Holmes played 62 minutes for Huddersfield in a 2-0 loss to Coventry. Huddersfield remains three points deep in the relegation hole.
In the FA Cup, neither Tim Ream nor Antonee Robinson played for Fulham in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland (who were without Lynden Gooch). Ethan Horvath started in goal for Luton Town in a 2-2 draw with League Two's Grimsby Town. Auston Trusty played the full 90 for Birmingham City, which needed a stoppage time equalizer to force a 2-2 draw with Blackburn. Daryl Dike had a rough day at the office, going 52 minutes for West Brom in a 3-0 loss to Bristol City. U.S. U-23 hopeful Jonathan Tomkinson played the second half in central defense for Stevenage in a 3-1 loss to Stoke City. It was the club debut for Tomkinson, who arrived earlier this month on loan from Norwich.
In Spain, Yunus Musah, 20, played 90 minutes for Valencia in a 1-0 loss to Real Vallodolid. Valencia has just one point from its last three games and the relegation zone is getting closer. Valencia is just one point clear.
In Italy, Sergino Dest is the lone American in Serie A but he thankfully missed out on AC Milan’s embarrassing 5-2 loss at home to Sassuolo. Dest did not dress in this game because of “muscle fatigue” and it looks more and more likely AC Milan will not exercise its option to buy from its loan from Barcelona.
In Serie B, Venezia played Cittadella to a 1-1 draw at home. Tanner Tessmann played the full 90 in the draw. Gianluca Busio played the final 26 minutes (Venezia was down to 10 players starting in the 81st) while Andrija Novakovich played the final six minutes. Venezia is two points deep in the relegation zone just one season after falling from Serie A.
In France’s Ligue 1, Tim Weah played 90 minutes for Lille in a 1-0 loss to Nice. After a run at both right and left back, Weah returned to his right-wing position and had four shots as Lille fell to seventh with the loss. Erik Palmer-Brown played 90 minutes for Troyes in a 1-1 draw with Lens. Troyes still sits four points clear of the relegation zone but has just one point from its last three games.
In Germany, Gio Reyna did not get off the bench for Borussia Dortmund in a 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. In a telling sign, Dortmund continues to heavily manage Reyna’s minutes this season as to avoid risking a reinjury after a lost season in 2021/22.
Jordan Pefok played the final 20 minutes for Union Berlin in a 2-0 away win over Hertha BSC. Pefok has clearly lost his starting job after not scoring since September 18. Timothy Chandler was an unused substitute for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich.
In the 2.Bundesliga, American-born Fabian Hurzeler won his coaching debut as his St. Pauli won 1-0 away over Nurnberg to move away from the relegation zone. George Bello played the final 19 minutes for Arminia Bielefeld in a 2-1 loss at home to Sandhausen. Arminia sits two points deep in the relegation battle. Julian Green played the final 13 minutes for Greuther Furth in a 2-1 loss to Holstein Kiel. Former U.S. U-17 midfielder Max Dietz made the bench for Furth but did not make his debut. Lennard Maloney played 60 minutes for Heidenheim in a 2-0 win over Hansa Rostock. Ryan Malone was an unused sub for Hansa Rostock.
In the Eredivisie, Richie Ledezma was an unused sub for PSV Eindhoven in a 2-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles. Ledezma remains a player to watch this week for a possible loan.
In Portugal's Liga NoS, Alex Mendez played the final 13 minutes for Vizela in a 3-1 win over Rio Ave. Reggie Cannon played the final 24 minutes for Boavista in a 4-2 win over Portimonense. It’s been a tough season for Cannon who hasn’t taken major strides. It makes it harder for him to make a move up after this season.
In Scotland, Celtic defeated Dundee United 2-0 away in Dundee. Cameron Carter-Vickers went 90 in the win while Ian Harkes played 60 minutes in the loss. Celtic remained nine points atop the table.
Dante Polvara was an unused sub for Aberdeen in an embarassing 6-0 loss to Hibs.
Meanwhile, Rangers defeated St. Johnstone 2-0 at the Ibrox. Malik Tillman went 72 minutes in the win while James Sands was unused for Rangers.
Meanwhile, we will end this piece with an impressive quote from Rangers manager Michael Beale on U.S. national team attacking mid Malik Tillman. It is obvious that Beale hopes that the loan from Bayern Munich can be made permanent.
“He’s brilliant. He’s a very shy young man and keeps himself to himself. He’s learning about the hustle and bustle of British football and he’s a really calm and composed young man. It helps him in the final third. I think he’s a goalscorer from midfield.
“He has played as a No 9 and as a 10 coming through at Bayern Munich. I’m delighted with Malik. I’m trying to help Malik develop a couple of areas of his games which will enable him to go and play at the really highest level in the future. We’ve got to remind ourselves he’s 20 and as young as some of the academy boys we’ve got around the team. Everyone is happy with it. He’s on the same page, we’re on the same page. For me he’s a player I want to work with longer than six months so you can take from that answer what you will.”