Balogun, McKennie, Holmes, and Ream lead a big day for Yanks in Europe
September 18, 2023
THE WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS abroad was mostly a good one, with the big exception being AC Milan. There were many good performances from top players in big leagues – with Tim Ream, Sergino Dest, Flo Balogun, Weston McKennie, and Ricardo Pepi all playing well. There were even some standout performances from non-USMNT players like Duane Holmes and Lennard Maloney.
It’s never 100% positive and this weekend was no exception. Anyway, here are my thoughts on everything abroad including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Balogun scores 1st Monaco goal in draw
Folarin Balogun scored his first goal for Monaco in the 69th minute to give his team a 2-1 lead on Lorient in Ligue 1. The game ended up being disappointing for Monaco as they conceded deep into stoppage time and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Even better for Balogun, he was on the bench to begin this game as he just returned from national team duty in the United States. He came on in the 66th and made an impact less than three minutes later.
Balogun was very busy in this game and had four shots and he created an opportunity for a teammate. With the amount of money Monaco spent for him, he’s going to get plenty of chances.
Flo Balogun’s first goal for Monaco. This 69th minute goal gave Monaco a 2-1 lead on Lorient but Monaco surrendered a stoppage time equalizer in a 2-2 draw pic.twitter.com/SCnhFpf7pc— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 17, 2023
McKennie stands out for Juve
On Saturday, Juventus posted a big 3-1 win over Lazio in Turn with Weston McKennie having an impactful outing where he contributed to the buildup to two goals, including a beautiful long-ball assist. The USMNT midfielder got the start at his new right wingback position over his countryman Tim Weah and had his best outing since rejoining the team.
With the start, McKennie became the first American player to make 100 appearances for an Italian club. He ended up playing 72 minutes and only had 32 touches and 12 completed passes. But he was very feisty in defense, and he made his passes count. In the 26th minute, he was instrumental to the build-up to Federico Chiesa’s goal for a 2-0 lead.
Federico Chiesa doubles the Juve lead with a thunderbolt! ?? pic.twitter.com/55Fh1aDN5v— CBS Sports Golazo ?? (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 16, 2023
Then in the 67th minute, he helped restore a two-goal lead with a beautiful long-ball that found Dusan Vlahovic for his second goal of the game to make it 3-1.
McKennie is clearly in the zone right now with his long-range passing. This comes on the heels of an international window here he was the best USMNT player, including a MOTM effort against Oman where he was 15/17 with his long balls.
Will McKennie stay at right wingback? It’s probably not in his best interest, but it is where he is finding value right now for Juventus. Juventus has been attacking more down the left side, but when they go on the right through McKennie, it is productive.
As for Weah, he is not on the same page yet with what Max Allegri wants from that position. Perhaps when he is, that is when McKennie will get more time in midfield.
Meanwhile, Juve sits in second place with 10 points from four games.
Pulisic, Musan, & Milan blown out in Derby
There was a lot of anticipation among American fans for Saturday’s Milan Derby between AC Milan and Inter Milan. AC Milan had two USMNT internationals and both Milan teams were perfect to start the season with nine points from three games.
But this game was ugly for AC Milan early. Inter scored first in the 5th minute through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and never looked back en route to a 5-1 rout. Christian Pulisic started and came off in the 56th minute (one minute before Milan scored) when his team was trailing 2-0. Yunus Musah came into the game in the 85th minute with Milan down 4-1.
Overall, Pulisic had a rough game – like most of his teammates. He simply was unable to make anything happen or get himself into dangerous positions.
The good news is that the AC Milan media seen to be point fingers at the team’s midfield and not him. It’s far different than when he was at Chelsea. But the midfield’s struggles might give Musah an opening to play more. That’s the best thing to be said from an American perspective.
AC Milan is still a very good team, but the gap between them and Inter Milan is wide. That is a tough pill for AC Milan fans.
Yanks in Serie B
Venezia continued is strong start to the season with a 1-0 win over a struggling Spezia on Friday. Both Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio, both 21, got the start for Venezia with Tessmann having just returned from the United States where he played with the national team during the international window.
Not surprisingly, and likely due to fatigue, Tessmann was removed at the half with the score 0-0. Busio, meanwhile, had a strong outing over 90 minutes where he was useful on both sides of the ball. Tessman is still in great shape at Venezia, and he is an important player. The good news on the American front, is that Busio looks like he has finally found his footing again after a tough 2022/23 season.
With the win Venezia remained near the top of the Serie B table with 11 points from five games. It should be a strong contender for promotion this season but hanging onto Tessman will be tough.
Also on Saturday, Palermo defeated Ascoli 1-0 on the road. Kristoffer Lund returned from U.S. national team duty for the first time and played the final 25 minutes. He was on the field for Palermo's late winner via a corner kick.
Andrija Novakovic played the full game for Lecco in a 2-0 loss to Brescia. The Wisconsin native missed a penalty in the 16th minute. Lecco looks like it could be in store for a relegation battle and needs points now.
Ream’s big day
Fulham defeated Luton Town 1-0 on Saturday in London. Tim Ream got the start for the Cottagers after returning from U.S. national team duty while Antonee Robinson missed the game with a muscle injury (which kept him out of the U.S. team’s friendly win vs. Oman).
Fulham completely controlled this game despite the score being 1-0. Luton Town sat deep and were hoping for counterattacks which did not come.
But Ream’s performance was huge. He was always going to have a lot of touches as a skillful passing central defender against an opponent sitting deep, but 153 touches is a big, big number. He completed 138 passes and had 20 passes into the final third while also being strong defensively.
To kick it all off, he wore the team’s captain’s armband.
Tim Ream raw # for Fulham in 1-0 win over Luton Town— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) September 16, 2023
- NOT MAKING THESE UP
- 90 minutes
- 153 touches (!!)
- 138/145 passes (!!)
- 6/9 long balls
- 20 passes into final third (!!)
- 3/3 tackles
- 4/5 ground duels
- 2/5 aerials
- 0 fouls
- 1x fouled
- wore the armband#USMNT
Ream will soon turn 36 years old. There will still be questions about how he handles sitting deeply or if he’s in a situation where he must chase attackers. But there is no question he is aging extremely well and is one of the best Americans in the game.
Richards makes a Palace start
It was surprising to see Chris Richards in the starting lineup for Crystal Palace on Saturday against Aston Villa given that he was returning from international duty. But a short-term injury to Marc Guéhi opened the door for Richards and for 86 minutes it seemed like Richards would help Palace earn a big result as Palace was holding onto a 1-0 lead on the road.
But things went south very quickly for Palace and for Richards. Villa equalized the game in the 87th on a terrific goal from former Chicago Fire prodigy Jhon Duran. But then in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Richards was whistled for a penalty – which was upheld after four minutes of review. Douglass Luiz converted the penalty for a 2-1 Villa lead. Then two minutes later, Villa scored again for a 3-1 lead, just before the final whistle.
???? | And finally, the one you've all been waiting for...— The Palace Way (@ThePalaceWay) September 17, 2023
Richards wins the ball. Twice. And there's encroachment for the penalty, which the law states means a retake should take place.
Outrageously poor.#CPFC pic.twitter.com/0cG1TaA11F
Bottom line, Richards played fairly well. The penalty was extremely harsh and most of the commentators did not agree with the decision. Palace manager Patrick McCarthy also disagreed when interviewed after the game.
Richards won’t lose his spot as the backup central defender. This harsh penalty will not change that. But he did not make a strong case to push for a full-time starting job either. When Guehi returns, Richards likely is back on the bench.
Trusty’s sad EPL Debut
Towards the end of Saturday’s game between the Tottenham Hotspurs and Sheffield United, it looked Sheffield United was going to pull off an enormous upset in London. The odds were in their favor for at least a draw when they took the lead in the 73rd minute.
Up 1-0 in the 87th minute, Auston Trusty was subbed into the game to kill time and boost the defense. It was the Premier League debut for the American defender from Pennsylvania. But the fourth official said there were going to be 12 minutes of stoppage time and Tottenham had a chance.
On comes Trusty. ???????? pic.twitter.com/tGXRJaZrrE— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) September 16, 2023
In the end, Tottenham scored in both the 8th and the 10th minutes of stoppage time to break Sheffield United’s hearts. Trusty was not at fault for either of the goals and he worked hard. But there was not stopping Tottenham on this day.
Perhaps Trusty will be working his way for regular minutes and perhaps a start soon. Sheffield United has just one point from five games but due to a goal differential of -4, they are not in the relegation zone just yet.
Holmes scores, PNE strong start continues
Many fans had not even made their way to their sets by the time Duane Holmes scored in the opening minute to give Preston North End an early lead over Plymouth Argyle. Playing as a central attacking midfielder, Holmes was very dangerous and he is having a very strong start to the season.
Just before the window on August 28th, he was named to the Championship team of the week. This week it could be the same. Even more importantly, Preston North End sits atop the Championship table with 16 points from six games (with five straight wins).
Right now, Holmes is likely to be a big part of promotional push.
Will Holmes make a return to the USMNT? He’s been away for a long time, and he will soon turn 29. If he were five years younger, there would be little doubt. But right now, it seems like Berhalter is looking at other options. Even with Gio Reyna soon returning, Berhalter has indicated he is interested in young options like Benja Cremaschi and Paxten Aaronson. Still, Holmes is making it tougher and tougher to not put his name higher on the depth chart.
Yanks: The rest of England
Haji Wright earned the start for Coventry on Friday in a 1-1 away draw at Hull City. The 2022 U.S. World Cup veteran played 75 minutes and left with his team up 1-0 and watched as Hull City equalized in the 87th. Overall, it was a quiet game for Wright who had just 24 touches and one shot, but who was 0/5 in ground duels, was 2/5 in winning aerials, and didn’t draw any fouls. In the 30th minute he missed a big chance from about 8 yards away.
It was the fourth straight draw for Coventry who has seven points from six games – with the last four games resulting in draws.
Wright, 25, is in a perilous spot with the national team. Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi have overtaken him and perhaps Brandon Vazquez has as well. When Josh Sargent and Daryl Dike return from injury, Wright could slide even furth down unless he finds consistent form for Coventry.
Forced to settle for a point at the MKM Stadium.#PUSB— Coventry City (@Coventry_City) September 15, 2023
As for Hull City, Vaugh Covil continues to be out of the picture since his ACL injury last year.
In the Championship, Lynden Gooch started for Stoke City and played 90 minutes at left back in a 1-0 loss to David Wagner’s Norwich City team. Josh Sargent remains out for Norwich.
In the third tier League One, young Tyler Bindon started and played 90 minutes for Reading in a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers. Bindon, 18, is a 2005-born central defender who is in line to be a part of the U.S. U-20 team next cycle. New Zealand, however, might push for him as his mother earned 77 caps for New Zealand’s women’s team and his father captained New Zealand’s volleyball team. Reading are struggling this year in the third tier with just five points from seven games.
Maloney impresses in win
FC Heidenheim won its first ever game in the Bundesliga on Sunday in a 4-2 win over Werder Bremen. American midfielder/defender Lennard Maloney went the full 90 minutes in the win playing the defensive midfield position.
Maloney, 23, is very good at playing to his strengths. He’s not fast and he tends not to be ambitious with his passing. He is a defensive-minded cog in Heidenheim’s system. With the ball or on offense, he has a limited role. But he shields the backline very well breaking up plays, winning duels, and then when he gets the ball, he typically plays a safe pass and doesn’t turn the ball over.
In this game, he has 10 ball recoveries, he won 3/5 of his aerials, 4/5 of his ground duels, and he was a perfect 3/3 in his tackles.
If Heidenheim continues to push for survival, American fans will likely be loud for a Maloney callup. Perhaps he’ll get one. But he’s a different player than those currently with the team. Gregg Berhalter will likely want more mobility and a bigger range of passing. Playing him when the team is used to Tyler Adams would be a big, big difference. But maybe he’ll at least get a chance to show what he can do.
Hoffenheim impresses under Brooks & Matarazzo
Earlier this year, Hoffenheim was sinking towards relegation. But hiring American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo has been enormous. The club avoided relegation and is off to a strong start in 2023/24. On Saturday, the defeated FC Koln 3-1 away and now has nine points from four games.
"Die Jungs wollen etwas erreichen – genau wie der gesamte Verein."— TSG Hoffenheim (@tsghoffenheim) September 18, 2023
John Brooks went 90 minutes in the win. It was a mixed outing for him as he was just 1/5 in ground duels, 1/2 in aerials, and he wasn’t super important passing out of the back. But it was his nine clearances on the day which really helped Hoffenheim post a big away win.
Matarazzo, meanwhile, continues to have a great year has he has turned Hoffenheim from underachievers in a relegation battle an into European contenders.
Pefok scores first Gladbach goal
The idea behind Jordan Pefok moving to Borussia Monchengladbach was to reunite him with Gerardo Seoane, who was his manager at BSC Young Boys in Switzerland, where Pefok thrived. Pefok started 2022/23 strong but cooled off and entered this weekend with just one goal over the past year.
The good news is that Pefok started on Saturday as M’Gladbach visited Darmstadt and he scored in the 56th minute to ignite a M’Gladbach comeback where they trailed 3-0 and finished with a 3-3 draw. All the goals were scored after Darmstadt were reduced to 10 men in the 49th minute.
The goal was a very easy tap-in, but sometimes that is what it takes to get a forward going. As far as the national team goes, he’s still likely not close to getting a call-up. Too many players are in his way and the return of Josh Sargent and Daryl Dike will only make things harder.
The bad news for American fans is that Joe Scally started in the game and struggled. He was pulled at the half with M’Gladbach down 3-0.
As for M’Gladbach, they’re still searching for their first win of the season – with just two points from four games.
Yanks in the rest of Germany
Gio Reyna was still not in the matchday roster for Borussia Dortmund for Borussia Dortmund’s 4-2 away win over Freiburg. The club has posted pictures of him training, and he should be close to making the squad, but he obviously is still not there. a
Paxten Aaronson played the last 10 minutes of Eintracht’s 1-1 away draw against Bochum (while Timothy Chandler did not suit up for Eintracht). Aaronson was busy in his time on the field, but the clock ran out before he could make a difference.
Wolfsburg posted a big 2-1 win over Union Berlin on Saturday. Kevin Paredes did not get off the bench for Wolfsburg but Brenden Aaronson played the last 17 minutes for Union Berlin. Aaronson nearly connected with Sheraldo Becker for an equalizer but the shot was missed.
Both Julian Green and Maximilian Dietz got the start for Greuther Furth on Friday in a 1-1 away draw against local rivals FC Nurnberg. Green played 74 minutes in central midfield while Dietz, 21, went the distance on the right side of a three-man backline.
Green, 28, assisted on Damian Michalski's 8th minute goal to open the scoring. On the play, Green took a corner that was headed home by the Polish defender. Even with the assist, it was a tough outing for Green who didn’t create much for Furth. Dietz was steady for Furth as he rebounded from a red card suspension in a lopsided 5-0 loss to Hertha BSC before the international window. Dietz might be an option with the U.S. U-23 team that is thin in central defense (among age-eligible option). Dietz has played for U.S. youth national teams before so he is likely on the radar for U.S. Olympic coach Marko Mitrovic. It continues to be a tough start for Furth with just five points from six games.
Also in this game, German-American defender Nathaniel Brown, 20, played the first half for Nurnberg before being removed at the break. Brown was born in Germany to an American father and a German mother but has been playing for Germany. Earlier last week, he played 90 minutes at right back for Germany’s U-21 team in a 3-0 win over Kosovo in a UEFA U-21 qualifier. Therefore, if he should ever want to play for the United States, he would need to file a one-time switch. But he looks to have carved out a spot in Germany’s U-21 team and seems unlikely to be looking elsewhere right now.
In the 2.Bundeslga, St. Paul posted a very impressive 5-1 win over Holstein Kiel in a matchup between two teams with promotional hopes. Houston-born Fabian Hurzeler continues to do a good job running St. Pauli.
Terrence Boyd played the final nine minutes for Kaiserlautern in Friday’s 1-1 draw away at Karlsruher. Both goals were scored in the first half.
De la Torre starts in Celta loss
Luca de la Torre started and played 77 minutes for Celta Vigo in a 1-0 loss at home to Mallorca. The goal was scored after de la Torre was subbed out. De la Torre was playing this game after breaking his nose in the U.S. national team’s friendly win over Uzbekistan.
The nose break likely limited de la Torre’s ability to fight defensively, and he lost all three of his aerials and won just two of eight ground duels. He only had 36 touches over his 77 minutes. On the flip side, he created a few dangerous chances, which he needs keep up.
Yanks in Belgium
In Belgium’s top tier, Standard Liege defeated Eupen 3-1 away. Gaga Slonina started in goal for Eupen and probably could have done better on the first goal – as he was beaten at a tight angle. But aside from that, the other two shots were very difficult. He also made two diving saves as well. Right now, internationally, it seems like Slonina is one for the U.S. U-23 Olympic team before he jumps to the USMNT.
After a tough start to the season, Marlon Fossey had his best outing in the early parts of the 2023/24 campaign for Standard at right wingback.
Westerlo continued its disastrous start to the First Division season following a 3-0 loss at home to reigning champions Royal Antwerp on Friday. For Westerlo, Bryan Reynolds started and played 80 minutes while Griffin Yow is still out from a knee injury (although he is close and has even played recently for Westerlo’s reserve team). Yow had a terrific preseason and should be a huge boost to the club when he returns.
With the loss, Westerlo has just one point from seven games on the season with a -9 goal differential. For Reynolds, it was a mediocre outing. He did well in the first half with an outstanding last-man tackle but was caught a bit in no-man’s land on the second goal and a through-ball went past him. The final goal was after he left.
Reynolds, 21, is finding things a little harder to start the season than in 2022/23 when he was very good almost the entire year. But part of the struggles is that the entire team is struggling and he is finding it tougher to make a positive impact. In this game, he left in the 80th minute with what looked like a cramp in his calf.
Sam Vines was not in the lineup for Antwerp as he is still a few weeks from returning from a hamstring injury. The former Colorado Rapid left back had a difficult week when Antwerp left him off their Champions League roster due to an administrative error. Vines had a very good performance over two legs in the Champions League playoff win over AEK Athens to qualify for group stages.
Kortrijk was massively busy in the transfer window and brought on a huge number of new players after a terrible start to the season. One player was American winger Alex Mighten on loan from Nottingham Forest. Mighten made his debut on Sunday against Anderlecht as a stoppage time substitute to help kill time and preserve the win. Unfortunately for Mighten and Kortrijk, Anderlecht found a late equalizer. Kortrijk still is looking for its first win with two draws from seven games.
Genk posted a huge 2-0 win over Union SG on Saturday. The bad news for American fans, however, is that Mark McKenzie did not play as he was returning from international duty. He watched his teammates pull off a very impressive win. Will this hurt his chances to start in the weeks ahead? That remains TBD but managers typically don’t want to chance something that works.
Pepi scores in PSV win
Ricardo Pepi, 20, is probably not going to play a lot for PSV if Luuk de Jong is healthy. But in his limited minutes, he needs to show he is there in case de Jong is suspended, injured, or tired. He also needs to show he is one for the future.
Pepi got the chance in the 83rd minute when he subbed into PSV’s game against NEC Nijmegen with his team up 3-0 (with de Jong scoring two of those goals). In the 87th minute, he scored via a penalty and a minute after that, he had another dangerous chance. He finished with three shots in about 10 minutes.
Sergino Dest played 63 minutes in the win and played well on the right side. He was effective both in getting forward and was strong defensively (winning 5/6 of his ground duels and was 2/2 in his tackles). His move back to PSV has been just what he has needed to reset his career.
Malik Tillman was unused in the win.
Yanks in Holland
Zach Booth did not get off the bench for Volendam in a 3-1 loss away to Fortuna Sittard. Volendam sit last without a point. The elder Booth brother, Taylor Booth, was still injured and missed Utrecht's 3-1 away win over Heracles. Former Philadelphia Union homegrown Anthony Fontana did not get off the bench for PEC Zwolle's 1-1 draw with Go Ahead Eagles.
????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????— FC Den Bosch (@mijnfcdenbosch) September 15, 2023
Vrijdagavond nam FC Den Bosch het op tegen MVV Maastricht. In een wedstrijd die drie keer werd stilgelegd kwamen de Bosschenaren na een comeback het sterkst uit de strijd.https://t.co/zkyysOOCeH
AZ Alkmaar defeated Sparta Rotterdam on Sunday. Djordje Mihailovic did not get off the bench for AZ. American winger Agustin Anello played the final five minutes for Sparta.
In the second tier Eerste Divisie, Gedion Zelalem played 90 minutes for FC Den Bosch in a 3-2 win over VV Maastricht on Friday. The win elevated the club into 17th place and out of the relegation zone. Meanwhile, 2023 U.S. U-20 defender Justin Che played 90 minutes at right back for ADO Den Haag in a big 1-0 away win over FC Groningen. ADO now has 10 points from five games this season and looks like it can push for promotion.
In France’s Ligue 1, Emmanuel Sabbi played the final 16 minutes of Le Havre’s 0-0 draw away at Lyon. Sabbi was playing a defensive role after coming on as Lyon was pressing for a goal. Overall, Sabbi played well to help his newly promoted team earn a point.
In Spain’s second tier, Jonathan Gomez played the final 22 minutes for Mirandes in a 2-0 loss away to SD Amorebieta. Both goals came inside of the first 10 minutes. Also in the Segunda, Konrad de la Fuente remained injured for Eibar and missed their 2-0 win over Racing de Ferrol.
In Portugal, Alex Mendez was an unused substitute for Vizela in a 2-1 loss at home to Benfica.
In Scotland’s Premiership, no Americans played this weekend. Cameron Carter-Vickers is still injured for Celtic and missed their 3-0 win over Dundee FC. Dante Polvara was an unused substitute for Aberdeen in a 2-0 loss away to Hearts. Joe Efford did not suit up for Motherwell in their 1-0 loss at home to St. Mirren. Finally, Scott Pittman was an unused substitute for Livingston in a 1-1 away draw to Ross County.
In the Greek Super League, Caleb Stanko played 74 minutes in defensive midfield in a 2-2 draw at home with OFI Crete. Erik Palmer-Brown was an unused substitute for Panathinaikos in a 5-0 away win over Panaitolikos. Palmer-Brown is still catching up to his fitness after a preseason injury.
In Austria’s Bundesliga, George Bello got a rare start for LASK in a 3-1 away win over Austria Klagenfurt (with Sebastian Soto injured). Bello got the start largely because LASK is getting ready to take on Liverpool on Thursday in the Europa League.
In Norway's Eliteserien, Sam Rogers went 90 minutes for Lillestrom in a 3-1 loss to Sarpsborg. Christian Cappis was an unused substitute for Molde in a 4-1 win over Odd Ballklubb. Kobe Hernandez-Foster was unused for HamKam in a 2-1 away loss to Tromso.