2024 kickoff

Happy New Year: breaking down the latest with game reports, transfers, and news analysis

ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks at all the news and games that ended 2023 and started 2024. Here is his report. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 02, 2024
11:05 AM

LET’S START the first column of 2024 off by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. It’s going to be a busy time ahead with the Copa America, the Nations League, the Olympics, the 2024 MLS season, the CONCACAF Champions League, Americans abroad, busy transfer windows, CONCACAF U-20 World Cup qualifying, and lots of other surprises we don’t even know about yet. So, buckle up and let’s get this started.

Things were a bit light last week for the holidays, so let’s do a deep dive and talk about a lot of the news both on and off the field.

But before we start that, it was mostly a terrific holiday period for Yanks in England and Italy.


Sargent returns


Josh Sargent is back and the USMNT striker little waste of time in showcasing himself. He made his return for Norwich just after Christmas in a 1-0 loss to Millwall as a late substitute. Then on New Year's Day, Sargent came into game in the 66th minute with Norwich and Southampton scoreless.

After Southampton had taken a 1-1 lead in the 70th, Sargent equalized in the 78th with a delightful run and finish that was played to his strengths as a mobile and lethal finisher.

It's only a matter of time before Sargent gets his fitness back to where he can be a starter every game. That is welcome news for Norwich and the club’s manager, former USMNT forward David Wagner. Norwich is in 13th place but is only five points out of the playoff positions in a very, very crowded field.

We’ll talk about his USMNT return a bit later because it’s not just about him, it’s about him in relation to the other USMNT forwards. And there is plenty of news with them.


Wright keeps scoring for Coventry


Haji Wright is in a great run with Coventry right now. His latest strike came on New Year’s Day in a 3-1 away win over Middlesbrough that moved them into eighth place and just three points out of the promotional playoff line. His 58th minute strike put Coventry up 2-1 and the 2022 USMNT World Cup forward now has six goals in his last 12 Championship games, and he has eight in the season in about 1611 minutes played. That is impressive given the time he needed to adjust to the English game from Turkey. He also has two assists over the past 12 games as well.

Wright is not only playing striker, but he is also getting minutes on the wing while he is cutting centrally from wide positions.  

It’s easy to see Wright keeping up with his solid run. Coventry is on the rise, he is getting service, he is confident, and he is adjusting well into the league. He should be a big player to watch in the coming promotional race.


Vazquez on the move


It’s widely expected that Brandon Vazquez will be on the move in January after a second big year for FC Cincinnati. Vazquez, 25, emerged as one of the best center forwards in MLS and helped Cincinnati in winning the Supporters Shield and advancing to the Eastern Conference final before falling to Columbus in extra time (with Vazquez scoring in the loss).

The Telegraph linked Vazquez to a move to Bentford. ASN has heard this is correct and, for now, Brentford is the front runner. It’s a huge move for Vazquez to make a transfer to a Premier League team and it will take time for him to adjust. If he does well, it will only help encourage more scouting eyes on MLS games in the future.

Vazquez has handled himself well throughout this time. He had serious interest from Borussia Monchengladbach but Cincinnati didn’t want to lose both him and Brenner as they chased silverware. Vazquez continued to play well and play hard for the remainder of the season as opposed to becoming disgruntled.


USMNT strikers


For most of 2025, the top two USMNT center forwards have been Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi. They have rarely taken a third center forwards. They did at the World Cup when the roster was 26 players. But in a typical 23-player roster, Gregg Berhalter and his staff have only taken two.

It’s hard to argue with Balogun and Pepi. Those two should remain for the time being if they are healthy and playing well. But if they slip in form, or suffer an injury, there are others now pushing in Josh Sargent, Haji Wright, and possibly Brandon Vazquez if he hits the ground running on a transfer. Behind those three players are others like Jordan Pefok (currently injured), Daryl Dike (also injured), Jesus Ferreira (in the offseason), and Duncan McGuire (on the U.S. U-23 team).

It's a good, competitive list and it should keep everyone motivated as no one’s spot is really set in stone either.

Another thing to consider is that it seems very possible that U.S. U-23 head coach Marko Mitrovic could look to use one of his three overage Olympic spots on a striker because McGuire is the only set option at that position.

Sargent could be an excellent choice as an Olympic overager if it’s just Pepi and Balogun at the Copa America.


Turner, Forest win again


Nottingham Forest ended 2023 with two straight wins, first a 3-1 away win over Newcastle followed by a 2-1 home victory over Manchester United. Matt Turner started in goal for both games. In each game, he made big saves that were important to the wins.

Against Manchester United, however, his error with a bad pass out of the back led to a goal for Manchester United. His performances showed that he can be an excellent shot stopper but he struggles with the ball at his feet when he is being asked to initiate the first distribution in an attack.

The wins will help, but without the ability to confidently play of the back, he could be in trouble to Forest looking for another keeper who can play the way they want.


Robinson fantastic for Fulham


One of the big upsets in the Premier League over the holidays was Fulham’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on New Year's Day. It sent Arsenal to its second straight loss and into fourth place.

Antonee Robinson was one of the best players on the field for Fulham and the USMNT left back covered so much ground to be effective in both offense, defense, and in duels.


It was a mistake for US Soccer not to even nominate Robinson for its male Player of the Year for 2023. In my eyes, he was the best American player for club and country over the calendar year by a wide margin. He’s been especially stellar the last three months – definitely among the better Premier League left backs over that limited run.


Ream reups


Staying with Fulham, Tim Ream reupped with the Cottagers on another one-year deal through 2024/25. He might not be a regular Premier League starter come 2025 but he clearly wants to stay there as long as he can. Why not? He is loved at Fulham, it’s a great area of London to live, and he’s aged so well as a player.


Richards growing into D-mid role


Chris Richards continues to play as a defensive midfielder for Crystal Palace. At first, he was awkward in the role but gradually he has grown into it well enough to help his team win games. As you would expect, his defense was fine but it was asking a lot for him to get into the attack.

On December 30, Richards had his best game in midfield as Palace defeated Brentford 3-1. At times, he looked very comfortable going forwards.

The question now becomes how long this continues and what happens to Richards in January? As everyone knows, Palace manager Roy Hodgeson has admitted Richards is playing this position because there aren’t any other good options for Palace. But a Premier League team is not going to be a stage for players to learn roles for long. This is the biggest league in the world, and teams will spend money on upgrades when needed.

There is the likelihood that Richards has been playing as a defensive midfielder in a stopgap manner until the transfer window when they can get a real defensive midfielder. If that is the case, then what? Do they sell Richards or is he moved back to the bench? But since they don’t have many good options, they probably can’t move Richards until they acquire another defensive midfielder and give that player time to adjust.

It's great that Richards is playing but it doesn’t fix the concerns over his standing or future at Palace. This transfer window is going to be very telling.


Yanks strong in Serie A


It’s been a good holiday period for Americans in Serie A. First, Yunus Musah’s muscle injury for AC Milan is minor and the club says he could return for this weekend’s game at Empoli.

On December 30th, Milan defeated Sassuolo 1-0 with Christian Pulisic scoring the winning goal. Pulisic ended up going the full 90 and his second half was excellent while his first half was okay.

It continues to be a very good season for Pulisic as he has six goals in 1139 minutes in Serie A. He has two more goals combined in the Champions League and the Coppa Italia. He’s stayed mostly healthy, and he’s contributed a lot on the field.

Milan have won all eight of the games this season which Pulisic has scored.

Meanwhile, Tim Weah and Weston McKennie started together for Juventus for the first time since Weah returned from an injury as Juventus defeated Roma 1-0 on December 30. It was a big win and both Yanks played well. Weah played all 90 minutes while McKennie was subbed off in second half stoppage time after taking a tough knock.


McKennie was especially strong, and it remains to be seen if he will miss time with an injury. He nearly put the game away in the 84th minute but his shot went straight at the keeper. But McKennie has been one of the best surprises for Americans abroad this year. He’s just been so steady and consistent. Most importantly, he has the full trust of Max Allegri.

As for Weah, defensively he was not beaten at right back and paying with three central defenders in back of him has helped a lot.


Other Yanks


Sheffield United has lost both of its games since Christmas and has just one point from four games since its last win on December 9. The last loss was a 2-0 defeat at Manchester City on December 30. Auston Trusty has been fairly solid as he continues to start but things look grim for Sheffield United remaining in the Premier League. Trusty will likely go down with the team, but this season has been great for giving Trusty a taste of the demands of the world's top league. That will only help as Sheffield United will look to bounce back up.

In the Championship, Lynden Gooch has missed Stoke City's last two games (both draws) with a calf injury. Prior to that, he was in top form so it will be interesting if this injury affects that momentum.

Duane Holmes continues to have a season that is filled with highs and lows for Preston North End. On New Years Day, he was an unused substitute in a 2-0 loss to Sunderland. PNE fell to 14th place but are only five points out of the playoffs. PNE has one win and four losses in their last five Championship games.

Queens Park Rangers briefly looked on the verge of a climb but have just one point from their last five games following a 2-1 loss at home to Cardiff City on New Year's Day. Reggie Cannon has been playing decently for QPR but the club is four points deep in the relegation hole. Cannon should be playing desperately as he does not want to drop to the third tier or put himself into a position where he needs to force another transfer. I am not sure how well Cannon has to play to attract buyers or convince QPR to sell him if he goes down. But at his age, League One would be a killer. American forward Charlie Kelman went unused for QPR and seems like a good fit for League One.


While his last injury appeared to be precautionary (it forced him out of Celtic's win over Dundee on Boxing Day), Cameron Carter-Vickers has missed the last two games for Celtic - including the Old Firm win on December 30 and a win over St. Mirren on Tuesday. Celtic is now back in command of the Premiership after a tough patch pulled Rangers into a good position.

Levingston remains deep in the basement of the Premierhsip and has lost its last two, first a 3-1 loss to Motherwell on Saturday and on Tuesday it was a 2-1 loss to Hearts at home. Scott Pittman started both games and scored the team's lone goal in the Motherwell loss. But the team's prospects of staying up are grim.

Aberdeen lost at home to St. Mirren 3-0 on December 30 but rebounded with a 3-0 away win over Ross County on January 2. Dante Polvara played the final 30 minutes against St. Mirren and came in with the score 1-0. He then played all 90 minutes and was effective in the win over Ross County.


USMNT January roster this week


Gregg Berhalter is expected to announce his roster for January camp on Friday. Camp will conclude with a friendly against Slovenia on January 20 in San Antonio. Of particular importance will be the contingent of Olympic players who are called up because that is the one tournament this team camp can serve as important preparation. Most of the U-23 pool is domestically based and it will be important to give those players important repetitions.


Other American transfers to watch


Transfer rumors are starting to fly and we’ve already talked about Vazquez and Richards. But who else?

Gio Reyna will be the most watched American player followed by Miles Robinson who is out of contract.

As far as other USMNT players, Ethan Horvath should be a guaranteed player to leave as he’s not even registered with Nottingham Forest and the club has said he is free to leave. He built up a favorable reputation in the Championship and that seems like a good landing spot. As for Zach Steffen, a move home within MLS seems like the best bet.

There have also been grumblings that Brenden Aaronson could return to Leeds United – who are in a promotional race.

The U.S. U-23 pool includes several players who are being watched. RBNY left back John Tolkin is a prime target and Salzburg wouldn’t seem like a stretch given the link between the clubs along with former RBNY manager Gerhard Struber now leading Salzburg. Struber and Tolkin worked well together. Duncan McGuire had a great first season with Orlando scoring 13 goals across all competitions. Orlando might want to sell McGuire given his high value. Aidan Morris is itching to make the jump after winning his second MLS Cup with the Crew. But what is the asking price and is the demand there?

Venezia will have tough decisions over Tanner Tessmann as his value is high right now. Do they sell or do they keep him for a promotional hunt?

Djordje Mihailovic will likely be on the move in January as he is not even on the roster for AZ Alkmaar’s winter camp trip to Spain. Several MLS teams are rumored to be interested but there should be interested down the pecking order in Europe. But will the lower European teams have the money to swing a move?

As reported by Kicker, Terrence Boyd could be out at Kaiserslautern with other lower-league teams in Germany interested. Kaiserslautern has had a brutal last two months in the 2.Bundesliga and has fallen into a relegation battle.

There have been more reports linking Leon Flach with Werder Bremen. This is not the first time of these rumors since there were multiple reports last summer. Flach, 22, completed his third season with the Philadelphia Union in 2023 but his minutes dipped due to a sports hernia. He was born in the USA but was raised in Germany. The plan was for him always to go back to Germany, which is his home. He came to MLS looking for playing time, and he got loads of it with a good Union team. It might make sense for all parties if this were to happen and it would clear the way for Jack McGlynn to start every game.

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