ASN: 2022/23 Championship season preview: Dike, Steffen lead 10 Yanks in England's 2nd tier
July 29, 2022
THE 2022/23 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON opens this weekend and Americans are now increasing in numbers at all levels within England. The second-tier Championship, however, is booming with Americans. There are right now 10 confirmed Americans and more could very well be on the way before the transfer window closes.
What is interesting about the list that only Zack Steffen, on loan for the season at Middlesbrough from Manchester City, is a lock to make the U.S. World Cup team in Qatar. The rest are either on the bubble and battling or are long shots.
But national team implications are just one dynamic of the story. These players are at various stages of their careers – some more critical junctures than others. Some are fighting for promotion, and some are going to be fighting against relegation. Some are going to be important players for their teams, while others are going to be fighting for playing time.
Here is a look at the American players in the Championship and what are the expecations for each this season compared with the stage of their career.
The potential starting goalkeeper for the U.S. national team is now with Middlesbrough on loan from Manchester City where he spent the last two seasons as a seldomly used backup. Before that, he was injured the second half of the season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf, when it was relegated out of the Bundesliga.
Steffen, 27, hasn’t been a starter at any level since 2019. Now is the time to re-prove his quality and this is absolutely necessary if he wants to start in Qatar. While the other potential USMNT No. 1, Matt Turner, is a backup at Arsenal, he has at least been starting regularly the past three seasons.
There is a lot of pressure on Steffen on many levels. He needs to play and play well at Middlesbrough to prove he is capable of being a top goalkeeper who can start at the World Cup. At Middlesbrough, he also has a team that wants to return to the Premeir League. The last two seasons, Boro finished seventh and 10th.
Middlesbrough won four of five preseason games, including one over a strong Marseille team. This has Boro supporters optimisitc to start the season.
The realistic goal for Middlesbrough this season is to finish in the playoff positions – after that, anything is possible. To do that, Steffen will need to be big.
West Bromwich Albion: Forward
This month marks two years when Daryl Dike made his professional debut during the MLS Is Back tournament after the COVID layoff. For the first 17 months of his career, he scored 28 goals in 4,277 minutes between Orlando City and his loan to Barnsley in the Championship. By any measure, it’s been a strong start to a career.
But Dike, now 22, suffered an injury that sidelined him almost immediately after securing a transfer to West Bromwich Albion in January. It was the only setback of his career, and it actually gave him rest that he never had since turning professional.
Expecations should be high for Dike this season. He has shown he can score in the Championship, and he is on a more talented team than Barnsley. He’s also had a strong preseason despite indications of a sore groin last week.
West Brom is a team that should contend for promotion and Dike will have a big say as to whether the team succeeds. West Brom won four of six preseason games with the last coming over Hertha BSC by a 2-1 margin.
From a national team perspective, Dike could be a darkhorse candidate to be on the plane to Qatar. While he is a well-known player, he was not part of any World Cup qualifying roster and attempted to play through a shoulder injury at last summer's Gold Cup. His involvement with the U.S. team has been minimal, but he’s in a very good position to succeed to make a late push.
Of all the American players in the Championship, Dike has the most potential to succeed in 2022/23.
Luton Town: Goalkeeper
After four seasons as mostly a backup with Club Brugge and Nottingham Forest, Ethan Horvath is now with Luton Town on loan from Forest for the season. This summer, there was a need for a goalkeeper at Luton Town when James Shea suffered a serious injury towards the end of last season. Shea is not expected to return until possibly the end of this season.
Horvath needs to play again. At 27, he’s in his prime for a goalkeeper and he needs to play for the sake of playing. Showing glimpses of a high level, like he did when he subbed into the Nations League final and played well, is not enough. Goalkeeping can only be evaluated with consistent play.
The good news for Horvath is that he should start at Luton Town – which is coming off a season where they made it to the playoffs and exceeded all expectations. The core of that team is returning, and Horvath should be part of a team aiming to make the playoffs again.
Horvath is firmly on the bubble to make the U.S. World Cup roster. He struggled in his one game in June in El Salvador while Sean Johnson performed well agianst Uruguay. If the World Cup were now, Johnson would likely be the third goalkeeper. The only way Horvath can change that is with a strong start to the season.
Huddersfield: Attacking Midfielder
After nearly earning promotion to the Premier League before suffering a heartbreak in the playoff final to Nottingham Forest, expectations have declined for Huddersfield prior to the start of this season after the loss of top players and replaced with unknowns.
Duane Holmes, 27, is one of the returning players and the Columbus, Georgia native scored five goals in the 2021/22 season where he made 28 starts over 40 appearances. In January 2021, he returned to Huddersfield, his childhood team where he broke into the professional ranks, and has successfully rebooted his career.
This season will be a challenge for Holmes. Huddersfield does not have the supporting cast around Holmes and Holmes will need to raise his game from supporting cast to impact player to help the Terriers remain in contention for the playoffs. But things are never easy to predict for Huddersfield as they tend to fluctuate between contenting for promotion and relegation.
As for Holmes and the national team, it seems unlikely at this point. If Holmes wasn’t in the picture earlier in 2022, it seems like a bigger hill now with the addition of more central defenders to the pool.
Sunderland: Attacking midfielder/Winger
There is a lot to admire about Lynden Gooch and his relationship with Sunderland. Dating back to childhood summer camps, he has been affiliated with Sunderland since he was 10 years old. Since making his debut for the first team when it was in the Premier League in 2015, Gooch has stood by the club when it suffered two successive relegations and then as it fought for promotion out of League One.
Now 26, Gooch signed a new deal with Sunderland after last season when it finally earned promotion back to the Championship. Last season was tough for Gooch. He started regularly with 36 starts over 3,216 minutes.
Gooch should be expected to start regularly early in the season but he needs to show improved performances from last season to keep his starting job. Sunderland has a good chance of avoiding relegation since they have the resources to be competitive in the Championship. Our bet is that Gooch finds a way to be useful this season.
Norwich City: Forward/Winger
Josh Sargent, 22, is coming into a critical season. After a lackluster run at Werder Bremen which resulted in the club relegated from the Bundesliga, Sargent moved to the Premier League with Norwich last season but, outside of one game against Watford, didn’t produce. Now in the Championship, Sargent is eventually going to have to show he can produce somewhere.
This is the season for him to do it. It will be tough for Norwich to bounce back up again. Their “yo-yo” nature of the last few years was built on Teemu Pukki’s impressive goalscoring the last two Championship seasons. But he will turn 33 this season and maintaining that output is going to be tough. Sargent needs to pick up the slack. We will learn a lot about Sargent this year.
Sargent has also faded from the national team over the past year. He hasn’t been with the team since the first round of World Cup qualifiers in September. The forward position remains unsettled although there is a long list of candidates. If Sargent wants to keep his slim chances of making the roster for Qatar, he needs a strong start to the season.
Norwich City: Central Defender
In terms of young Americans who have an opportunity to both make their professional debut and impress, Jonathan Tomkinson is a good bet. The 20-year-old central defender has risen up the ranks within Norwich City’s system and last season he made the bench for the first team on several occasions but never appeared. Still, he was the captain of the U-23 team and is rated within the organization.
Coming into this season, Tomkinson will be the third or fourth central defender on the team. With the Championship having a 46 game season, he will get his chances and if he performs well, he will remain in the lineup as Norwich.
Internationally, Tomkinson is a strong contender for the 2024 U.S. U-23 team for the Paris Olympics.
Birmingham City: Central defender
Auston Trusty, who will turn 24 in 10 days, is set to embark on the European leg of his career. Last January he signed for Arsenal but was expected to go the “loan army” route. That started with a re-loan to Colorado and now a loan to Birmingham City.
Trusty has been inconsistent in his career. He played well in Philadelphia initially but then fell out of favor. In Colorado, he eventually returned to top form, including last season. But the first half of this season he struggled for the Rapids.
The good news for Trusty is that he should play at Birmingham City. He immediately was thrust into the starting lineup in preseason but the expectations for the club are low again this season. Last year Birmingham City struggled defensively and narrowly avoided relegation.
Birmingham City hopes Trusty will be able to help stabilize the defense and avoid another relegation battle. If he struggles it could be a long season for him and the club.
Preston North End: right back
Matthew Olosunde, 24, has occasionally shown glimpses of being a good player in the Championship with Rotherham United, injuries and inconsistent playing time have hurt his prospects. Last season he played just 136 minutes in the Championship.
Olosunde simply needs to play and get his career back on track. If this season doesn’t pan out, he might have to look elsewhere. It’s tough to expect much from Olosunde but he has the talent and athleticism to succeed in the Championship.
Who else could join?
There are rumors the number of Americans in the Championship could expand.
Matthew Hoppe is rumored to be joining Middlesbrough from Mallorca after a lost season in La Liga where he rarely played. At 21, he needs to find a place where he can play and has looked promising in the past – although it has been a over a year.
Middlesbrough wants to contend for promotion and they have four forwards, although none that are noticeable above average. Hoppe is unknown, but Middlesborugh needs more options.
Marlon Fossey has been linked to Championship teams after a successful loan from Fulham to Bolton in League One last season. He has done well when given the chance but he has struggled to stay healthy. At 23, he needs a full season to distance himself from his injured past.