Americans abroad analysis
Marsch wins, Reyna returns, Pefok scores in mixed weekend abroad
March 14, 2022
THE WEEKEND ABORAD continued with a lot of the same themes that have been common in recent weeks and months. There wasn’t much to report by way of the top players, although the return of Gio Reyna ahead of the March window was a top story for many American fans. The most positive stories is the emergence or the reemergence of other players in a number of different positions.
The top players who are all inside of the top end of “Big Five” leagues in and around the Champions League spots, there wasn’t that much to report. Sergino Dest did not play for Barcelona in its 4-0 win over Osauna. Weston McKennie remains out of action for the rest of the season for Juventus. Christian Pulisic played 12 minutes for Chelsea and was on the field for Timo Werner’s winner in a 1-0 win over Newcastle. Tim Weah also only played 12 minutes for Lille in a 0-0 draw with Saint-Etienne. Tyler Adams played the final 13 minutes for RB Leipzig in a 6-1 win over Greuther Furth. Gio Reyna’s return was for 27 minutes as Borussia Dortmund defeated Arminia Bielefeld 1-0.
On the flip side, the best news was the continued growth of other players. Jordan Pefok scored again and is the leading scorer in Switzerland, despite the disappointing season from BSC Young Boys. Erik Palmer-Brown continued to excel for Troyes. Ethan Horvath posted another clean sheet for Nottingham Forest since taking over after Brice Samaba’s suspension. Joe Scally had been struggling but had a his best outing in several months in a win for Borussia Monchengladbach.
In an important story for the U.S. national team, Zack Steffen returned to the bench on Monday for Manchester City for the first time since January. Steffen return could end the debate over who will start for the national team in Mexico.
Also, one of the best pieces of news this weekend was Jesse Marsch who picked up his first Premier League win as head coach of Leeds United in a 2-1 win over Josh Sargent and Norwich – who seem as good as relegated right now.
Here’s a look at the stop stories for Americans abroad
Marsch’s Leeds win dramatic finale
In what was a relegation “six pointer,” Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United team posted a huge 2-1 win over Josh Sargent and Norwich City. It was a wild game where Leeds United had the lead early in the 14th minute, but Teemu Puki equalized in stoppage time. Joe Gelhardt dramatically found a winner late in the game
If Marsch can keep Leeds United in the Premier League this season, it will be a huge accomplishment as the team was struggling badly when he took over for Bielsa. This win put Leeds United into 16th place at 26 points. It has played three more games than Everton, who has 22 points. The big question mark for Leeds is Burnley who has played two fewer games but is five points back.
As for Josh Sargent, he played 62 minutes for Norwich in the loss and his team is now four points deep in last place. The situation is bleak, and it appears as if relegation is a foregone conclusion. Sargent was largely ineffective in this game.
Reyna returns, Bello starts, Maloney cameos
There were three Americans in the game on Saturday when Borussia Dortmund defeated Arminia Bielefield 1-0.
George Bello made his first start for Arminia Bielefeld and was partially at fault for the one Dortmund goal when he was pulled out of position and left the left side open. Aside from that, it was a mixed outing for Bello who got away with a no-call that could have been a penalty. He was aggressive and his passing was pretty good, but he was reactive on defense. He also has to get more polished in the attack.
Gio Reyna returned and played the final 28 minutes. He was 16/17 in his passing and had two shots in as he looked to contribute in the attack. He was effective in his time on the field and it was a promising return for Reyna ahead of the March window. Will he be able to start for the USMNT in Azteca? Perhaps not as he has not played a lot this season and that is a physically demanding environment. But his this was clearly a promising moment in what has been a tough season.
Finally, Lennard Maloney made a rare cameo for Borussia Dortmund when he came on and played the final five minutes to preserve the win. The German-American central defender, who enjoyed two call-ups to the U.S. U-20 team in 2018, in primarily with Borussia Dortmund’s U-23 team but made his Bundesliga debut in 2021.
Palmer-Brown strong again for Troyes
Erik Palmer-Brown, 24, maintained his starting job at Troyes and played on the right side of a three-man backline (last week he was in the middle) in a 1-0 win over Nantes on Sunday. Palmer-Brown is now getting consistent minutes and his return to the starting lineup has helped coincide with his team’s rise away from the relegation zone. With the win, Nantes has seven points from its last nine games.
Palmer-Brown had a “hockey assist” on the game’s only goal and also had four clearances.
Palmer-Brown, probably more than other central defenders such as Cameron Carter-Vickers, is looking like a player who could get a look with the national team this summer.
Pefok, Efford, and Wright: Goals!
Three Americans got on the scoresheet this weekend with goals.
Jordan Pefok scored his 17th goal of the season in the Swiss Super League to go along with this five goals from Champions League (and qualifying). At this point, it will be extremely hard to see him not getting called back into the national team for March. Even if it is as a late-game sub, he has a unique way of getting onto crosses and loose balls in the box.
Joe Efford scored his second goal for Motherwell in the Scottish Cup quarterfinal in a 2-1 loss to Hibernian. Fellow American Chris Mueller came on in the 8th minute for Hibs before being subbed out in the 76th minutes.
Another goal in claret and amber for Joe Efford ???????? pic.twitter.com/wfv7OMSXCY— Motherwell FC (@MotherwellFC) March 14, 2022
Haji Wright scored for Antalyaspor in a 1-0 away win ver Istanbul Basaksehir for his seventh goal of the Super Lig season.
Brooks lackluster in Wolfsburg loss
John Brooks didn’t have a strong outing on Saturday for Wolfsburg in a 3-2 loss to Freiburg. He struggled to contain multiple Freiburg attacks and was primarily at fault for Freiburg’s second goal.
There is always an issue about form for Brooks and while he has been trending in a better direction, he was off in this game. Whether he will return to the national team for the March window is a coin flip.
Horvath posts cleansheet
Ethan Horvath posted another cleansheet for Nottingham Forest in a 4-0 win over Reading and he made three nice saves in the process.
He’s done well since reclaiming the starting spot from Brice Samba after his red card last month. This was probably his best game of his five game run and Horvath has made a strong bid to return to the national team. The fact that Zack Steffen has returned to the bench for Manchester City might make the question moot as to who starts, but Horvath has done extremely well to help his case.
Aaronson active in Salzburg win
The second stage of the Austrian Bundesliga season began on Sunday where the top six teams have their points halved, and then play another round robin. So Salzburg lead in the table was reduced to a mere 11 points. Saturday’s 1-0 win over Sturm Graz saw the team keep its lead at 11.
Brenden Aaronson played 83 minutes and was active and lively. He got on the ball 60 times, which is a high number for him, and was 35/40 in passing. His pressing also managed to frustrate Sturm Graz from building anything meaningful.
It will be interesting to see with Weston McKennie out if Aaronson returns to the midfield for the U.S. team.
Scally impresses in Gladbach win
After a strong start to the season, Joe Scally has been in a lull for most of the past few months. On Saturday, he had one of his best games of the year in a 2-0 win over relegation battling Hertha BSC. The former NYCFC product played right wingback and was very effective getting forward.
Scally, 19, had 56 touches and was 24/26 in passing. Defensively, he won 3/4 of his tackles, had three clearances, won 5/8 of his ground duels, and won 3/4 of his aerials.
After a rough run, this was an important moment for Scally as he showed signs of getting back on track and continuing forward with real momentum. For young players, it is always about momentum in not just playing well, but how to get back on track after a falling off.
De la Torre strong in Heracles draw
Luca de la Torre had a strong outing for Heracles in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Vitesse. He played 89 minutes and his touch count at 35 was low. He also completed just 18 passes (18/23) but he was very effective on the dribble (4/4) and two of those dribbles opened up near assists. He also won 5/8 of his ground duels.
De la Torre is approaching an interesting part of his career with him approaching a key period where he can make a big move. He will soon turn 24 and his breakout is coming at a later age due to sticking around at Fulham. He’s put himself in a good position this year, but what will be his transfer value? What will the level he finds himself at next?
Sands enjoys first strong Rangers outing
James Sands got the start on Saturday for Rangers in a Scottish Cup quarterfinal game against Dundee FC. Playing time has been tough for Sands and in this game he got the start for Rangers in defensive midfield. The Rye native ended up going the full 90 in a 3-0 win.
Sands takes time to get used to. He’s far from flashy but he is steady. His versatility in central defense and defensive midfield gives coaches options and perhaps Rangers hasn’t settled into a position for him. But an outing like this only helps boost his case to be part of the team’s future. This season might be tough but in this off-season Rangers could be seeing a healthy degree of roster turnover. Considering his season to be an audition for next year, outings like this are important.
Tough run this weekend
There were unfortunately many Americans who did not have good weekends even outside the previously mentioned top players who only saw limited time.
In France, Nicholas Gioacchini did not get off the bench for Montpellier in a 0-0 draw with Nice. Konrad de la Fuente, who has had media reports questioning his dedication, remained as an unused sub for Marseille in a 4-1 win over Brest. As mentioned, Tim Weah only went 12 minutes for Lille in a 0-0 draw with Saint Etienne.
Americans were hit hard this weekend in Belgium. Bryan Reynolds only lasted 45 minutes for Kortrijk in a 2-0 loss to Cercle Brugge on Saturday. The same could be said for Sam Vines who also only played the opening half for Royal Antwerp in a 2-1 loss to Anderlecht. Mark McKenzie was ill and did not dress for Genk's 1-0 loss to Sint Truiden. Chris Durkin was an unused sub for Sint Truiden. Finally, Kyle Duncan played 72 minutes for Oostende in a 3-1 loss at home to Club Brugge.
In Spain, in addition to Dest going as an unused sub for Barcelona, Matt Miazga did not play for Depotivo Alaves in a 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad. Matthew Hoppe was not in uniform for Mallorca in a 3-0 home loss to Real Madrid
In Italy, Gianluca Busio played well Venezia in a 1-0 away loss to Lazio. Venezia was overmatched in the end, but Busio was one of his team’s best players helping to muster whatever offense he could. He also won 4/5 of his ground duels to help his team win possession. The problem remains, however, as Venezia is still three points deep in the relegation zone of Serie A.
Newcomers Cole Bassett at Feyenoord and Kevin Paredes at Wolfsburg did not see the field this weekend and Paredes is still awaiting his debut.
In Germany, Julian Green started for Greuther Furth but was pulled at the half with his team down 4-1 to RB Leipzig. The final score was 6-1 with Tyler Adams coming on for the final 13 minutes. Ricardo Pepi and Augsburg had their game against Mainz postponed due to COVID-19.
In Denmark, Christian Cappis was an unused substitute in a 1-1 draw with AGF Aarhus.
In Turkey, Tyler Boyd started and played 90 minutes for Rizespor in a 3-1 loss to Kasimpasa. Rizespor are 12 points deep in the relegation zone.
In the Greek Super League playoff, Caleb Stanko played 90 minutes for PAS Giannina in a 1-0 loss to PAOK.
Elsewhere across Europe
In Spain’s Segunda, Jonathan Gomez started for Real Sociedad B in a 0- draw with Burgos. Since Gomez joined the team, they have three clean sheets in four games and 10 points from their past five games. It’s been a huge improvement.
Also in the Segunda, Shaq Moore started and had an assist for Tenerife in a 2-1 away win over Gijon. Moore has struggled for playing time as Tenerife has remained in the promotional playoff race in fourth place.
In the Bundesliga, head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and VfB Stuttgart played Union Berlin to a 1-1 draw and are now only two points from safety.
In Germany’s 2.Bundesliga, Ryan Malone started and played 60 minutes for Hansa Rostock in a 3-2 win over Holstein Kiel.
In Portugal’s top flight, Reggie Cannon started and played 90 minutes for Boavista in a disappointing 0-0 draw with last-place Belenenses. Alex Mendez played the final three minutes for Vizela in a 1-1 draw with a Benfica team that was reduced to 10 players from the eighth minutes.
In Italy’s Serie B, Andrija Novakovich was a 27th minute sub for Frosinone in a 3-0 win over Alessandria.
In Denmark, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 90 minutes for OB Odense in a 2-2 draw with Aalborg BK.