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Americans Abroad

John Brooks Moving North, David Wagner Moving Up

John Brooks is leaving Hertha Berlin to join Wolfsburg—and it could be a great deal for the U.S. international. Meanwhile, David Wagner's Huddersfield Town squad is preparing for life in the Premier League.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 31, 2017
1:00 PM
THE EUROPEAN SEASON is now over for most leagues and the transfer season is upon us. As always, this time of year brings anonymous rumors and wild speculation but John Brooks is indeed on his way out of Hertha Berlin in a deal that was the biggest transfer ever for an American player.
On Wednesday Brooks, 24, finalized his transfer to Wolfsburg. Yesterday, Hertha sporting director Michael Preetz said Brooks told the club about his desire to leave.
Prior to this the top two American transfers in terms of value involved Jozy Altidore—first, for his move from the New York Red Bulls to Villarreal and then his move from AZ Alkmaar to Sunderland. Brooks surpassed that after Wolfsburg paid €20 million for the U.S. national team central defender.
This move ends a long relationship Brooks has built with Hertha. Brooks grew up in Berlin and joined its academy early in his develoment. He made his first-team debut when the club was in the 2.Bundesliga and was a key part of its eventual promotion. Over his years in the Bundesliga Brooks has helped establish the club as a top-third Bundesliga team and a European contender.
At Wolfsburg Brooks will join a very big club that has been underperforming of late. Last year Wolfsburg was in the Champions League quarterfinals but this year it barely escaped relegation.
On paper this does not look like a move up for Brooks but it certainly could turn out well. Wolfsburg has the resources to return to Europe quickly and the fact that it is willing to spend serious money on Brooks reveals how highly the club rates the U.S. international. That said, there are reports that Wolfsburg might have to slash its budget due to a scandal that has plagued its owner, Volkswagen. 

Wagner plots EPL survival strategy

Huddersfield Town authored one of the best stories in Europe this season—a small club owned by a local fan defied expectations, clawed its way into the the English Championship playoffs won the final on penalty kicks, and was promoted to the biggest soccer league in the world. 

Huddersfield did so with a negative goal differential, which shows that it found ways to win many close games. In its three games in the playoffs, the club scored just one goal in 330 minutes and that came via an own-goal. The team didn’t always play the best soccer in the Championship but it was scrappy and made the most out of its limited means.

The man in charge of Huddersfield’s rise is former United States national team forward David Wagner. The German-born American has now cemented himself as a club legend and a rising young manager in European soccer.

Wagner’s next step, however, will be nearly as difficult in that he will have to try to keep the club in the Premier League. That is no small task given that his team’s roster features many players on loan who are set to return to their parent clubs.

After a wild party in Huddersfield yesterday at the parade, Wagner began planning for next season with club owner Dean Hoyle. 

"How we're going to survive in the Premier League,” Hoyle said yesterday. “Our list will contain everything. But what we've got to remember is how we've got here. Other clubs will look at us and think, 'Wow! Look what they've achieved.' So how we got here will remain for how we go forward." 

"We never thought it would happen," Hoyle continued. "Since we bought the club in 2008 it's got harder and harder each year. We've had a bit of luck and we've had an exceptional coach. He created an identity and we stuck to it and we're going forward. We've reached the dreamland, the promised land and little Huddersfield, the little dog, is now a big dog and we're there. Happy days!"

Payne moves within Eredivisie

American right back Desevio Payne continues to face frustration in his young career. He has shown that he is very talented but injuries have cost him a lot of time. After four years at FC Groningen, Payne is moving within the Eredivisie to Rotterdam-based SBV Excelsior FC.

If Payne, 21, can remain healthy over the lengith of this two-year contract,  he has the talent to rise quickly within the depth charts of American soccer.

O’Neill helps NAC Breda to promotion

American central defender Shane O’Neil, 23, enjoyed some success this week helping NAC Breda earn promotion to the Eredivisie. The Irish-born O’Neil is currently with the Dutch club while on loan from Apollon Limassol of Cyprus.

O’Neil left the Colorado Rapids in 2015 to sign with Limassol and his two loans to Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz and Cambridge United were not productive. Now in the Netherlands, O’Neil is playing well again and reminding people why he was a top U.S. youth international.

The best thing right now would be for him to find a deal that keeps him with NAC Breda and playing in the Eredivisie 

Johnsen, Sietbatcheu accept call-ups

Two American-born forwards have recently accepted call-ups to other nations.

Bjorn Johnsen, 25, had a mixed season in the Netherlands. The tall target forward started off strong for Hearts and was the Scottish Premier League Player of the Month in December. But Johnsen, along with everyone else on the team, struggled down the stretch and he found himself mostly coming off the bench. Born in New York and raised in North Carolina, Johnsen accepted a call-up to the Norwegian national team on Tuesday. Since Norway will be playing in World Cup qualifiers, Johnsen will be cap-tied if he plays.

Meanwhile in France, Jordan Siebatcheu is also coming off an impressive season. Born in Washington, D.C., Sietbacheu joined third-tier Châteauroux on loan from Ligue 2 side Stade de Reims. Siebtacheu scored 10 goals in 15 games for Châteauroux and helped the club to promotion. He will now rejoin Reims which also earned a promotion to Ligue 1.

Siebatcheu, 21, is eligible for France, the United States, and Cameroon but was recently named to France’s U-21 team for an upcoming series of games. Last year Siebatcheu was called up by the U.S. U-23 team for a camp but Reims refused to release him. Earning a French call-up is very impressive because French youth teams are very strong at the moment. There is a good chance he doesn’t last within France’s program but for now, he is playing for France—which probably makes the most sense since he developed there after leaving the United States as a young child.

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