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Americans Abroad

Another Quality Stretch for Americans Playing Abroad

It was a weekend to remember for Americans abroad, whose previously dwindling ranks are now being replenished by an impressive corps of young players. Brian Sciaretta has the necessary details.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 03, 2016
11:55 PM

Pulisic makes Dortmund debut 

After he’d been scoring and assisting in Borussia Dortmund’s recent friendlies, all signs were pointing to midfield starlet Christian Pulisic making his Bundesliga debut soon. It came on Saturday—and now Pulisic, who just turned 17 in November, is officially playing for the second-place team in Germany.

Typically you'd expect a player of his age to make his first appearance either during a blowout or a meaningless cup game, but Pulisic came on in the 78th minute with the game scoreless and everything to play for, making him the eighth-youngest debutant in Bundesliga history. In the end Dortmund defeated Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt, 2-0, and Pulisic looked neither nervous nor out of place.

"We are thrilled he gets an opportunity to play with the first team at Borussia Dortmund,” Jurgen Klinsmann said later. “We are aware of that for quite a while because we are talking to the club always. So we saw that coming. This is big, there's no doubt about it. If you are proving a point at the age of [17] in such a big environment there, it shows that you have courage, you have confidence. If you don't have that confidence, you don't survive in training there.

“So this is really nice to see, and it makes us think, obviously, so how can we kind of fill the right slot for Christian over the next couple of months as well? If it's with the Olympic team going to Colombia—obviously he's supposed to go into Tab's group, the U-20s—or is he maybe already down the road ready for getting a taste with us, with the older guys? But it's definitely nice to see."

Brooks re-ups with Hertha

John Brooks had been in intense contract negotiations with Hertha Berlin the past few months, and at times the seemingly discouraged club made hints it might sell the central defender in the winter transfer window. All that came to a close on Saturday, however, when it was announced that the 2014 World Cup hero had signed a new deal with the Bundesliga club through 2019.

Ultimately, signing a new deal makes sense for the 22-year-old Brooks, who is a lock starter for third-place Hertha and may be in line to play in the Champions League next year. Unless another club—Schalke and Wolfsburg were said to be among those interested—was able to make him a stunning offer, there was little reason for Brooks to move on.

“That has been in the planning for a couple of months,” Klinsmann said of Brooks’ deal. “They went back and forth. John, I think he switched agents at a certain point in time. I was talking to their general manager. They were eager to sign him, and I think it's important that he commits to his next couple of years because he's still developing, and he's obviously age-eligible for the Olympic team. So this is important because now this is off the table, and now he can focus on a strong second half of the Bundesliga season there. It's nice that he finally got that done because he was carrying it within himself already for half a year.”

U.S. U-20 backline on upswing

Matt Miazga’s transfer to Chelsea was formally announced on Saturday and revealed to be a four-and-half year deal. But Miazga’s not the only member of the 2015 U-20 World Cup team who’s made big strides since last summer.

Centerback partner Cameron Carter-Vickers, who will also be eligible for the 2017 U-20 World Cup, appears on the verge of first-team action with Tottenham. Right back Desevio Payne, meanwhile, is now starting in the Eredivisie for FC Groningen and went a full 90 in a solid win on Saturday. And Kellyn Acosta appeared more comfortable starting at left back for the full national team on Sunday than he even had at the same spot last summer for the U-20s.

More good news may be on the way for this group, too: Sources are telling me that Erik Palmer-Brown (also eligible for the 2017 U-20 World Cup team) is closing in on a loan to FC Porto in Portugal.

Expect these players to be involved with U.S. Soccer for quite some time.

Williams scores impressive goal

Danny Williams has had another good season this year for an inconsistent Reading team, with six goals so far across all competitions.

On Saturday, Williams scored Reading’s third goal of a 4-0 rout of Walsall, and it was an impressive display of athleticism and skill.

The win propelled Reading into the fifth round of the FA Cup, although the club remains mired in 15th place in the Championship.

Gonzalez and Pachuca now in first

The early 2016 version of Omar Gonzalez is playing a lot like 2011 Omar Gonzalez, and that’s good news for the United States. The former Maryland Terrapin’s move to Mexico has worked out better than many expected, and with Pachuca’s 3-1 win over Monterrey on Saturday, the club is now in first place through four games.

Gonzalez was once again solid, furthering his claim that he should be one of the team’s starting central defenders as it builds toward the Copa American Centenario this summer.

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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