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Americans Abroad

John Brooks Plays Well, Bobby Wood With a Beauty

New calendar, new outlook—after a mostly disappointing 2015, a number of American soccer players have made great progress so far this year. Brian Sciaretta has the latest in his weekly update.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 08, 2016
5:20 PM

THE GOOD TIMES for American soccer players abroad continue. John Brooks is beginning to look like a star, DeAndre Yedlin looks poised to earn more minutes at Sunderland, Omar Gonzalez has rediscovered his 2011 form, and Bobby Wood is proving that his flair for the dramatic with the U.S. national team was no anomaly.

Here’s what happened over the weekend.

Brooks with a standout performance

Much of the attention in the suddenly growing world of Americans abroad is on Borussia Dortmund’s teenager Christian Pulisic—and rightfully so—but on Saturday it was another American who stole the spotlight.

Fresh off signing an extension with Hertha Berlin, John Brooks was terrific in a scoreless draw with Dortmund, showing once more that he is evolving into an elite central defender. With performances like these, in spite of his new deal at Hertha, you can expect Brooks to be the subject of persistent European transfer rumors. (Pulisic came on as sub and played 19 minutes.)

Wood with a beautiful equalizer

With Union Berlin trailing Kaiserslautern 2-1 in the 87th minute on Friday, Bobby Wood provided the heroics with a sensational series of moves and a finish that gave his team the equalizer.

The goal was admittedly helped by terrible goalkeeping—the near post was left criminally unguarded—but there’s no denying that it was an outstanding sequence from Wood to tally his eighth goal on the season, which has him tied for fourth in the 2.Bundesliga

Bedoya continues impressive form

Alejandro Bedoya had a dynamite performance for Nantes in midweek, scoring a stellar goal and notching an even more impressive assist in a 3-1 win over Gazélec Ajaccio.

On Saturday, Bedoya and Nantes took on relegation-battlers Toulouse and played to a disappointing scoreless draw. But Bedoya, for his part, was still probably the best player on the field, unlucky not to get on the board. Deployed as a creative midfielder, he played centrally behind the forwards in the first half before spending the second drifting out wide to the right.

Sitting in seventh place, Nantes still needs points if it is going to make a run at a Europa League spot. In France, where the top four qualify for Europe, Nantes is three points out.

Yedlin and Sunderland claw back

DeAndre Yedlin entered Saturday’s game against Liverpool in the 75th minute with his team down 2-0. Over the next 15 minutes, Sunderland would rally for a stunning 2-2 draw at Anfield, and while Yedlin was not a part of either goal, he still played well and made a case to start.

Yedlin came in at right back for Billy Jones, who had a terrible game, and the sharp contrast between the two could lead to more minutes for the former Seattle Sounder. With Sunderland in the relegation zone and in desperate need of points, Sam Allardyce will be inclined to use whatever lineup works best in the here and now.

Next up is a big home game against Manchester United.

Gonzalez keeps up strong play

Omar Gonzalez had already been a key part of Pachuca’s strong start to the Liga MX season, but on Sunday he became even more so, providing a late equalizer that helped his team remain unbeaten through its first five games. With Pachuca trailing Pumas in 86th minute, Gonzalez headed home a cross to level the game at its final scoreline of 1-1.

It was the first goal in Liga MX for the former Los Angeles Galaxy defender, who he is building a strong case to be part of the U.S. national team in 2016.

Corona, Alvarado struggle for minutes

All told, American players started for the first-, second-, fifth-, and sixth-place teams in Mexico over the weekend, while another made the bench for the third-place team.

But it’s not all rosy south of the border. Joe Corona, for instance, is now only seeing occasional minutes for a Dorados team that’s in last place and on a five-game losing streak. With other midfielders like Darlington Nagbe, Ethan Finlay, and Lee Nguyen impressing at January camp, Corona appears very much at risk of falling completely out of the national team picture.

Similarly, Ventura Alvarado had a poor game for Club America two weeks ago, and things haven’t gotten better since: A week ago he was not in the 18 with the first team, and over the weekend he started for the club’s U-20 team as an overage player. Klinsmann might like Alvarado, but with Matt Besler, Matt Miazga, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, and Steve Birnbaum all playing well in central defense, how could an inclusion of Alvarado be justified?

Desevio Payne injury update

Young American fullback Desevio Payne is well worth following. Normally a right back, the U-20 World Cup starter has been playing out of position at left back since Eredivisie resumed from its winter break, and he’s done well in that spot, too.

In Groningen’s 2-0 win over Cambuur on Sunday, though, Payne was forced out of the game in the 76th minute with a hamstring injury; it’s unclear how much time, if any, he will miss. If he can go, look for him to be a part of the U-23 team next month against Colombia.

Schoenfeld scores in Tel Aviv derby

Forward Aaron Schoenfeld recently left MLS to sign in Israel, and after a two game stint at Maccabi Netanya, he is now with Hapoel Tel Aviv. On Sunday, the Knoxville native got a chance to start in the always intense Tel Aviv Derby against Maccabi Tel Aviv, and he made the most of it, scoring in the second minute of an eventual 1-1 draw.

The Tel Aviv derby is certainly overshadowed by the London, Madrid and Manchester editions, but it’s nonetheless a very heated contest that divides Israel’s largest city. Schoenfeld’s first impression with Hapoel could not have been any better.

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

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