Americans abroad analysis
Marsch survives, McKennie returns, Weah's big day, two Yanks debut, LDLT relegated & much more
May 22, 2022
IT WAS THE FINAL weekend for most of the Americans abroad season and while this season wasn’t as good as previous season, it ended on a high note – for the most part. Jesse Marsch, Tim Weah, Weston Mckennie’s return, as well as some rewarding debuts were made by some young American players.
The season was flawed by injuries, relegations, and runs of poor form. Many of the players took smaller roles within their teams. So, while metrics such as the overall number of American players in the high levels of Europe remained high, the quality of output wasn’t as strong.
But the end of the season was nice, and hopefully this will provide a boost as preseason for most of the top five European leagues is only about a month away.
Here were the weekend’s highlights.
When Jesse Marsch replaced Marco Bielsa on February 28, it was viewed skeptically by a lot of people. Ted Lasso jokes became popular, and people did not know what to expect. But Leeds United had a lot of problems leading up to Marsch’s hire. The team conceded 21 goals over the six games prior to Marsch’s first game and it had just one point from that run.
Marsch had to shore up the defense and get points. That wasn’t easy given that just before the end of the season, Leeds had its toughest stretch of the season in a three-game run against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.
But Marsch got it done. Yes, it was close but in a relegation battle the verdict is on a pass/fail basis. What proved to be the difference for Leeds was a five-game unbeaten run from March 14-April 24 where Leeds posted three wins and two draws. That allowed them to have a chance on the last day of the season.
What had to happen is that Leeds United needed a better result than Burnley. The two teams entered the final day even on points, but Burnley had a far superior goal differential. While it was close, in the end Leeds United got it after a 2-1 win over Barnsley combined with Burnley losing at home to Newcastle United.
The Leeds United winner came from Jack Harrison, the former New York City winger whom Marsch coached against when he was at the New York Red Bulls.
This was great news all around for American soccer. The only way to stop the jokes and the negative stereotypes is to win. That’s it. Winning silences critics and it opens doors for others also looking to get into the English game.
Now Marsch will have the ability to start building a Leeds United team with two things Bob Bradley never had in England – a transfer window and a preseason.
One more final note, it was a terrific month for the two American coaches in the top five leagues of Europe. Pellegrino Matarazzo led Stuttgart to survival on a dramatic final day of the Bundesliga. There are some similarities of their situations. Both Leeds United and Stuttgart are huge clubs that had fallen on tough times.
They’re both trailblazers but I think the one difference is Marsch carries the American label more. Matarazzo has been in Germany so long and his Italian name sometimes has him referred to as an Italian coach. That is partly true as he is an Italian citizen, but he was born and raised in New Jersey. He lived in the United States until he was 22 years old.
As for Marsch, he deals with the stereotypes head on and silenced them, for now, at least.
These two guys.. well done to the two American coaches of teams in Europe’s Big Five. Marsch & Matarazzo survive dramatic relegation battles when many predicted they wouldn’t. pic.twitter.com/gJx961DAql— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 22, 2022
Adams wins the German Cup
Adding to the list of Americans who won silverware, Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig won the German Cup on Saturday following a shootout win over Freiburg after a 1-1 draw.
Adams came into the game in the 99th minute with the score 1-1 and Leipzig having played down a man since the 54th minute (and then reduced again in the 118th minute). For Adams, his role was primarily defensive. One moment he received the ball and had the chance to make a dangerous play, but the referee stopped the game for a Freiburg foul. Adams protested as he wanted the advantage call.
Leipzig thought it had a penalty call late in the game, but it was not awarded. In the shootout, Leipzig converted all four of its kicks while Freiburg missed two.
Adams might be on the move this summer as his playing time diminished the past few months. If this was his last game for Leipzig, he will end lifting a trophy.
Weah’s big finale
Up until 10 days ago, Tim Weah’s season at Lille was rather lackluster. He had no goals and four assists in Ligue 1 and most had concluded that the production just wasn’t there this season.
Then last weekend, Weah had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Nice. The season finale on Saturday meant little for Lille but it meant a world for its opponent, Rennes, which was pushing for a Champions League spot.
Weah ended up putting on a MOTM performance in a 2-2 draw where he scored both goals.
His first goal was fortunate. In the 11th minute, Rennes goalkeeper Alfred Gomis spilled an easy shot and Weah was there to put in the rebound. With the score 1-1 in the 88th minute, Weah headed home a Mehmet Celik cross for a 2-1 lead. Rennes equalized at the end of the game and ended up finishing fourth and a spot in the Europa League, short of their Champions League goal.
As for Weah, ending the season on a high note was huge. Lille must get better offensively next season and it will be harder given that Jonathan David is probably going to get sold for a fortune. Lille will have money to spend but it remains to be seen if they will spend it wisely.
Weah will now rejoin the United States national team will a lot of momentum. Given that the team needs more goal-scoring options with the No. 9 position so unsettled and Christian Pulisic not finishing well, he is in a position to be a go-to guy.
Leal & Koleosho debut in the “Big Five”
The final round of the season is often a good time to give young players debuts for clubs that have nothing on the line. With that said, two American teenagers were given very brief debuts in the big five leagues of Europe.
Patrick Leal, 19, had been progressing nicely with Venezia’s primavera team and was on the first team traveling squad towards the end of the season. A debut seemed to have been looming and it came on Sunday when he entered a 0-0 draw with Cagliari in the 89th minute. Leal is now on the shortlist of Americans to have played in Serie A: Alexi Lalas, Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio, and now Patrick Leal (Josh Perez made one appearance for Fiorentina but now represents El Salvador internationally).
You don’t want to read to much into this outing as Venezia sealed its relegation fate a few weeks ago. The best-case scenario is that this means Leal is in the plans for the club’s Serie B campaign next season. There surely will be a lot of player turnover so there should be openings and Leal can stake his claim.
Patrick Leal getting his Serie A debut ???? pic.twitter.com/SgEaLpWvdE— Lisa Ganley-Leal (@LisaGPhD) May 22, 2022
Then in La Liga, Luca Koleosho, 17, was a 90th minute substitute for Espanyol in a 0-0 draw with Grenada. The draw saw Espanyol finish in 14th place while Grenada was relegated. Koleosho is a young winger born in 2004 and is a native of Connecticut. He recently participated in the United States U-19 camp last month in California.
Like Leal’s debut, Koleosho did not have to do much on the field as he was brought in to kill the game off. But Koleosho had been progressing well with Espanyol’s youth teams and this is a nice reward heading into preseason.
Earlier this season, Koleosho interviewed with ASN and spoke about his journey so far.
“It's pretty good,” Koleosho said of the first team trainings. “When I first got there and I was able to train with the professionals for the first time, I had to get used to the speed of play, which is much different. And all those guys there are really experienced. You have to just get used to how they play. Also, you have to stay confident in what you do because the reason you got there is because of how you performed, and you just have to keep doing it. Most of the guys in there, they are all good people, and they all help me out. They'll talk to me, tell me what I have to do, what I can improve on, and how to do everything the right way.”
“It just depends on what the staff want to do with me,” he added. “Honestly, I can play with them, but it just depends. Right now, I just have to prove myself at my age and keep progressing. And then it all just depends on if they think it's the right time for me to make the jump.”
For Leal and Koleosho, they are both going to be coming into important preseasons with a chance to build on their debuts. The most logical step for them internationally is the U.S. U-20 team although next month’s qualifying tournament seems unlikely with it also bumping into preseason. Should the team qualify, both players could be in a good spot to compete for a ticket to go to the World Cup the following year.
De la Torre & Heracles relegated
After dropping the first leg of the promotion/relegation playoff to Excelsior 3-0 on the road, Heracles was in a terrible spot returning home for the second leg. Heracles offered a bit of hope in the first leg when it scored first in the 27th minute. But Excelsior equalized at the start of the second half to restore a three-goal aggregate advantage. De la Torre exited the game in the 62nd minute and Excelsior scored two more times for a 3-1 win in the second leg and a 6-1 win on the aggregate over both legs.
It was a terrible end of the season for Heracles which ended the Eredivisie season with three losses to opponents who finished in the bottom third. Then it lost both legs of the playoffs against a second division team. They completely deserved to go down.
Now what happens to de la Torre? The San Diego native is in a tricky spot. He isn’t considered a young player anymore and he turns 24 on Monday. He had some metrics that reflected a nice season but he also was a player who scored just one goal and added one assist for a team that was relegated out of the Eredivisie. He is better than the second tier and Heracles will probably have to sell him. But the odds are that his value has fallen quite a bit.
What helps de la Torre is his national team involvement. The fact he is with the U.S. team currently this summer is one of the biggest boosts in his resume and he could really use strong performances in the upcoming games.
The best bet is that he is bought for a modest sum by a mid-tier Eredivisie team. This kind of keeps him at the same level he has been at. His goal/assists numbers for a bad team weren’t great, but Eredivisie teams are more likely to know his positive qualities simply by being in the same league.
Aaronson lifts title, rumors fly
Brenden Aaronson likely played his final game for Red Bull Salzburg. The New Jersey native played 79 minutes for Salzburg in a 1-1 draw with Austria Klagenfurt (he left with Salzburg down 1-0). It was a relatively strong performance from him although the game wasn’t that intense as nothing was on the line.
After the game, Salzburg was awarded the Austrian Bundesliga title which it clinched with ease weeks ago.
The title had been clinched for weeks, Brenden Aaronson got to lift the Austrian trophy today after he started and played 79 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Austria Klagenfurt. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t his final game for them pic.twitter.com/aBDf9FoG51— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 21, 2022
This was Aaronson’s last game for the club and he will leave Austria with two Bundesliga titles, two Austrian Cups, and playing a key role advancing the club out of the knockouts in the Champions League. All this came on the heels of leading the Philadelphia Union to the Supporters Shield trophy.
Where will he go? All bets are on Leeds United which tried to get him in January for over $20 million. Now, as Tom Bogert of MLS Soccer reports, Leeds is going to come into the mix for $30 million after securing its survival.
That is a massive deal and it puts quite a bit of pressure on both Aaronson and Jesse Marsch. Simply going there and being a good player does not meet the expectations of $30 million. That is a level where teams will expect a leader and a star.
McKennie makes return
In very positive news for American fans over the weekend, Weston McKennie made his first appearance in exactly three months when he played the final 14 minutes for Juventus in a 2-0 loss to Fiorentina. Juventus had already wrapped up fourth place in Serie A and will be returning to the Champions League.
McKennie was recovering from a broken metatarsal and had resumed training in the beginning of May. His time on the field was relatively uneventful with seven touches and was 4/6 in passing. But his best moment came on a clean tackle to help with possession.
McKennie’s return is good news for the United States national team this month as he was missed in March. Gregg Berhalter was clear that McKennie shouldn’t be expected to start in the upcoming friendlies, but they hope he will be able to start come the Nations League.
Vines & McKenzie in Belgium
The Belgian season nears its conclusion. For Americans, it has been mixed. Chris Durkin returned home after an uneventful couple of seasons with St. Truiden. Owen Otasowie’s move to Club Brugge was an unmitigated disaster. Kyle Duncan and Bryan Reynolds had decent but unspectacular first seasons in the league.
Mark McKenzie and Sam Vines had seasons that could only really be described as pretty good or up & down. Both were in action over the weekend.
McKenzie returned to the starting lineup for Genk and went the distance in a 0-0 draw with Mechelen. Neither team had anything on the line and the game had little intensity. For McKenzie, he finished the season with 22 appearances and 19 starts for Genk in a midtable finish.
Sam Vines had a nice game over the weekend in a 1-0 away win over Union SG, which finished second in Belgium. Vines has gradually adjusted into Belgium after a slow start that was hampered by a broken collarbone. He’s reclaimed the starting left back spot and is approaching a 2000-minute season. After getting past his broken collarbone, he now has 1877 minutes. Next weekend, Antwerp will face Gent in a one-game playoff for a spot in the Conference League playoffs.
Neither player made the national team roster for the June games, but both are still in the mix. Vines has a better shot as the back-up left back spot is up for grabs. If George Bello or Joe Scally do not perform well, Vines has a shot to get back into the equation. He was ahead of both players as recently as last August.
McKenzie has a tougher path. In addition to the four central defenders currently in camp, McKenzie has to compete with players such as Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, and even John Brooks.
In recent weeks, Jonathan Gomez has lost his starting spot with Real Sociedad B in Spain Segunda. On Saturday, he played the final 24 minutes for Sociedad B in a 3-2 loss to Huesca. With that loss, Sociedad B was relegated out of the Segunda.
Also in the Segunda, Shaq Moore played the entire game for Tenerife in a 2-0 loss to Eibar. Tenerife has lost its last two games and, while it will qualify for the promotional playoffs, is slumping.
In La Liga, Yunus Musah played 13 uneventful minutes for Valencia in a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo. Valencia finished in ninth place and Musah made 29 appearances on the season with 13 coming as starts. He played 1256 minutes scoring one goal and adding no assists. Most of his offensive contributions came in the Copa del Rey where he had two goals and an assist in seven appearances.
La Liga wrapped up with no Americans in action other than Koleosho and Musah. Sergino Dest is still out injured for Barcelona and missed its 2-0 loss to Villarreal. Matt Miazga was not in Alaves' lineup for a 1-0 loss at home to Cadiz. Matthew Hoppe was an unused substitute for Mallorca in a 2-0 win over Osasuna. That win ensured Mallorca's survival in La Liga. EPL wrap up.
In Ligue 1, two more Americans were in action after Tim Weah. Erik Palmer-Brown played in the middle of a five-man backline and did well in a 1-1 draw with Lorient. After being on the bench for most of the first-half of the year, he assumed a starting role and January and helped the team survive its relegation battle. On Saturday, he had a solid performance.
Nicholas Gioacchini had a bad miss in his final game for Montpellier – a 2-0 loss to Angers. It has already been reported that Montpellier will not exercise its option to buy on its loan from Caen. With Caen still in financial difficulty, Gioacchini is likely to be sold.
pic.twitter.com/BwtBivOZnY— Paic (@paicmhscc) May 21, 2022
regardez sa course pour préparer sa frappe je refuse de croire que ce mec a été formé au sport "football"
Christian Cappis has only made 10 starts for Brondby this season in the Superliga but eight of those starts came since April 14. Cappis began starting towards the tail end of a seven-game winless streak. He also oversaw a four-game unbeaten run following this weekend (two draws followed by two wins). Cappis and Co. defeated Sikleborg 2-1 on Saturday to finish in fourth place. Next weekend Brondby will face Viborg in a playoff for a spot in the Conference League next season.
Cappis has been one of the more underreported stories in Americans abroad and he has done well.
Also in the Superliga, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 65 minutes for OB Odense in a 2-1 loss to Vejle. Jose Gallegos and SonderjyskE lost 2-0 to Viborg in its season finale. Gallegos went 90 as SonderjyskE has been relegated and will play next season in the second tier.
In Norway, Sam Rogers scored his first goal for Rosenborg in a 1-1 draw with his former club, HamKam. Rogers took a shot from distance that took a slight deflection but found the back of the net. Rogers is viewed as a starter after he was bought from HamKam for a $1 million pricetag. Also in this game, Kobe Hernandez-Foster played 27 minutes for HamKam in central midfield.
The goal from Sam Rogers today for Rosenborg pic.twitter.com/fb9jxjtV4k— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 22, 2022
In Switzerland, Jordan Pefok is still out injured for Young Boys and missed out on their 3-0 win over Grasshopper. But with the season over, Pefok was named the league’s Golden Boot winner with 22 goals.
Nach Guillaume Hoarau (2019) und Jean-Pierre Nsame (2020 & 2021) darf sich dieses Jahr Jordy Siebatcheu die Torjägerkrone aufsetzen. Herzliche Gratulation ????????— BSC YOUNG BOYS (@BSC_YB) May 22, 2022
-#bscyb #ybforever pic.twitter.com/mhFbVL6Rlk
In Turkey, Haji Wright saw his goalscoring run end for Antalyaspor in its 1-1 draw with Galatasaray. Wright went 90 minutes in the effort and will now join the United States national team looking for his first camp. Tyler Boyd did not partake in the season finale for Rizespor in a 2-0 loss to Gaziantep. Rizespor had its relegation sealed weeks ago.
Both Wright and Boyd were in Turkey on loan. Wright will likely be sold to the highest bidder as SonderjyskE was relegated from the Danish Superliga and Wright and SonderjyskE are not on the friendliest of terms. As for Boyd, it is hard to see Besiktas as being interested. If they can get an offer, they will probably consider it.