Americans abroad analysis

McKennie, Reyna, Adams shine in blockbuster weekend in Europe

It was a rare time when the hope of a big opportunity was realized. As many of the top leagues in Europe opened and several top American players had big opportunities, they all seemed to deliver. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down with a long column that tells you everything you need to know. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 20, 2020
5:05 PM

WE KNEW THAT this weekend was going to be historic for Americans abroad with the opportunities for players and coaches. But it was a rare time where huge opportunities were surpassed by even bigger efforts. The best players stepped into the spotlight and shined.

It wasn’t perfect, of course, but Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Gio Reyna were already among the best American players and each delivered. When you consider that Christian Pulisic is widely considered the best American player in the game and that he didn’t even play – to have this type of a weekend shows depth.

Before we get to action on the pitch, Sergino Dest remains the most interesting story off the field. He’s been linked with a transfer to either Bayern Munich or Barcelona with apparently personal terms agreed to. But the biggest hurdle is a transfer price between clubs and that is often the biggest hurdle – but with the clubs involved, there are pockets deep enough to get it done.

Whether or not Dest played for Ajax this weekend was going to be a telling sign if a deal was close (there was an opportunity due to the red card last week to Nicholas Tagliafico). Dest began the game on the bench and came in for the final 11 minutes of a 3-0 of RKC Waalwijk. So this saga will play into the week.

Now lets get to the action on the field.


McKennie shines in Juventus debut

When Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo submitted his starting lineup for its season opener, it included Weston McKennie and history was made as the Texan became the first ever U.S. international to play for the legendary Italian club that has now won eight straight Serie A titles.

I was optimistic for McKennie’s chances of success. For one, the modern game is so much more athletic than ever before and Mckennie is an elite athlete. Second, also has quite a bit of skill to hit impressive passes that can create big-chances. There were a lot of areas in his game he excelled in the Bundesliga. And third, I thought he was beyond impressive last season at Schalke. Yes, the German club was horrible but McKennie wasn’t. He was almost always his club’s best player and he never let the poor state of the team bring his play down. That’s impressive maturity – and experience. At the end of last season, he was a 21-year-old who had Champions League experience and who started for a club which finished second in the Bundesliga.

I’ve always been bullish on McKennie but I was really surprised at just how well he handled himself in his Juventus debut. Over 90 minutes, he was terrific against Sampdoria. You could see that he is a big piece of the puzzle in how Pirlo wants his team to play. He has a well-defined role in this team and it fits his style like a glove.

McKennie’s pressing forced turnovers and disrupted Sampdoria’s attack. Offensively, he was part of several chances.

  • 90 minutes
  • 94 touches
  • 3 shots (2 on target)
  • 1 key pass
  • 88.4% passing: 61/69
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 dribble
  • 4 tackles
  • 3 interceptions
  • 2 clearances
  • 2 fouls
  • 4/5 accurate long balls.



It is certainly a huge opportunity for McKennie and it is historic for American soccer. But it is only a first step and the next two opponents are Roma and Napoli. It is going to become interesting and fun really soon.



Stellar Reyna ignites BvB

Giovanni Reyna, 17, earned the start for Borussia Dortmund in its season opener against Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday afternoon. After a big preseason, Reyna showed that he was ready to transform his bench role last season into a starting role this season. The son of the former U.S. national team captain did not disappoint in the opener – in a high-profile matchup of two teams which qualified for the Champions League by virtue of top four performances last season.

In the 35th minute Reyna opened the scoring with his first Bundesliga goal when he pounded on a botched clearance, collected the ball in a scramble, and fired home a close, but tough-angle shot.


Then in the 54th minute, Reyna was fouled in the box to draw a penalty – which was converted by Erling Haaland. Later, Haaland would score a second to round out the scoring in a 3-0 Dortmund win.

Over the course of the game, Reyna’s numbers were excellent.

  • 78 minutes
  • 1 shot
  • 1 goal
  • 1 drawn penalty
  • 1 key pass
  • 100% passing (30/30)
  • 1/2 accurate crosses
  • 1/1 accurate long balls
  • 0 dribbles
  • 3x fouled
  • 0 tackles/clearances/interceptions

Breaking this down, this was a huge performance and it was the type that builds his reputation. We’ve only really seen promising glimpses because Reyna has been essentially a substitute until this point. We’ve also read the promising statements from Dortmund manager Lucien Favre. Obviously it will take a lot more than one game, but his was a real start towards putting together hype and reality for Reyna.

Of course, there will be struggles ahead for Reyna and there will be times when it won’t be smooth. He will hit barriers which take time to break through. But the upside is indeed very, very high.

Adams strong in Leipzig midfield start

As great as last season ended for Adams with his Champions League quarterfinal heroics and him becoming just the second U.S. international to play in the semifinal of the tournament, he still wasn’t a starter. After coming back from a long-term injury last December, he was only rarely starting in the midfield. Instead he was mostly either coming of the bench or starting at right back.

Adams is in a much better position at the start of 2020/21. Last weekend he was the MOTM for Leipzig in a 3-0 win over Nurnberg to open its German Cup. In Sunday’s Bundesliga opener, Adams earned the start and proved, once again, he should be the starter in this position for a Champions League caliber club.


His passing was crisp and his stamina to cover the most ground in the game is also a huge attribute. His four tackles were essential to breaking up Mainz’s attack.

  • 90 minutes
  • 93 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 1 key pass
  • 95.2% pasing (80/84)
  • 0 aerials won
  • 4 tackles
  • 0 interceptions/clearances/blocked shots
  • 4/4 accurate long balls
  • 11 km distance covered - most on team

For the U.S. national team, it has its defensive midfielder and his perfect 4/4 long balls is what Gregg Berhalter wants in this position. There isn’t much depth behind Adams but the former New York Red Bull is playing at a very high level right now and is off to a great start this season.


Cannon makes Boavista debut

Reggie Cannon, 21, completed his sale to Boavista less than two weeks ago from FC Dallas, and on Saturday he made his debut in the club’s season opener against Nacional.

Overall, Cannon was competent but didn’t really standout in a high-scoring 3-3 draw against an opponent which was promoted into the top flight last season. He wasn’t part of Boavista’s goals and did well defensively, until the end when the cross which led to Nacional’s late equalizer came down his side of the field. His numbers were pretty good.

  • 90 minutes
  • 40 touches
  • 23/24 passing
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 4/8 duels won
  • 1 dribble
  • 2x fouled
  • 2 fouls
  • 1 tackle
  • 0 interceptions
  • 0 aerials
  • 1/2 accurate crosses

There is every reason to expect Cannon will only continue to improve as he has done it his entire career. This is a completely new country, league, team, and culture for Cannon and it was a good starting point.

Sargent and Werder fall

Josh Sargent and his Werder Bremen team had a good preseason and won its first German Cup game last weekend against a Regionalliga opponent. In that game Sargent scored and was the MOTM.

Despite the enthusiasm for the season opener against Hertha BSC, Werder Bremen came up way short with a terrible performance in a 4-1 loss. For Sargent it was a performance to forget but he was far from alone in the Werder squad.


Of course, not all of this is on Sargent. He is starved for service among his teammates, is sometimes played out of position out wide, and his team is generally on its heels for most of its game. There is simply not much chemistry on Werder Bremen right now and if it isn’t careful, it could find itself in another relegation battle.

For Sargent, he is going to have to work harder to create his own chances due to his surrounding cast. Last year, Weston Mckennie was really impressive in remaining professional and putting in solid performances despite being on a bad team. He did not play down to the level of his teammates. Now he is in a great spot. Sargent is going to have to have that mindset.

Richards appears for Bayern, Wagner in trouble

The first Bundesliga game of the season was a total laugher and an embarrassment for Schalke. Bayern Munich, the defending league champions and the winners of the Champions League, rolled passed a Schalke team that ended last season winless in 16 games by an 8-0 scoreline. It was actually a score that could have been worse for Schalke.

American central defender Chris Richards played the final 20 minutes of this one and came into the game when it was 7-0. It is an honor for a young player to see minutes for perhaps the best club in the world. That is a genuine accomplishment.

As far as his performance, it was uneventful and Richards appeared nervous (understandably) with a few of his early passes. But it doesn’t change the issue of how to get Richards meaningful time. After this game, he went back with Bayern Munich II and started in its 3.Liga opener – which was a 2-2 draw with Tuerkuecue Munich.

It is hard to see Richards playing much for Bayern this season. The honest question how much does training with Bayern’s first team (without playing) and continuing to play with Bayern Munich II help him? He’s still in a good position because he’s talented and has options. But he’s at a point where some big decisions will have to be made.

Meanwhile, as of this writing David Wagner still has a job managing Schalke. The former United States national team forward has one of the worst rosters in the Bundesliga and morale has to be poor after this loss to Bayern along with the 16-game winless run at the end of last season. Wagner isn’t the main problem but he has to share some of this blame.

This was a terrible game for Schalke to have as an opener because it crushed confidence. This is a team that could find itself in a relegation battle. It’s hard to imagine that two years ago, it was the runners-up in Germany.


Brooks strong in Wolfsburg’s scoreless draw


There was some concern in the preseason that John Brooks had lost his starting spot at Wolfsburg but the veteran U.S. national team central defender (who could be the oldest starter these days on the U.S. team at 27) was in the starting lineup and he impressed against a very good Bayer Leverkusen team. The game, overall, was boring but that could mean the central defenders played well. His numbers were solid:

  • 90 minutes
  • 65 touches
  • 1 shot
  • 0 key passes
  • 75.9% passing (41/54)
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 tackle
  • 3 interceptions
  • 3 clearances
  • 1 foul
  • 7/13 accurate long balls

Unfortunately for Brooks, he had the defining moment of the game when he was open for a header six yards out but missed it over the bar. It was the best chance either team had. 

Brooks’ career has been pretty interesting. Every year or so he goes through spells when it looks like his career is in trouble and that he’s being benched. But it never seems to last long and he typically ends up back in the starting lineup before too long.


Matarazzo falls in Bundesliga debut


Pellegrino Matarazzo became the first-ever American born & raised manager to lead a team in the Bundesliga on Saturday when his VfB Stuttgart team hosted Freiburg. Matarazzo earned rave reviews when he took over Stuttgart at the winter break and led it to automatic promotion.

This game got off to an awful start for Matarazzo’s team which eventually fell behind. But late in the game, Stuttgart rallied and cut the deficit to 3-2. They pushed hard for an equalizer but it never came.

Despite the loss, there were some promising signs and some clear learning lessons for Stuttgart in this one. Matarazzo knows where his team must improve.

The telling line is that in this game Stuttgart outshot Freiburg 26-7, won the possession battle 64%-36%. It can’t make defensive mistakes giving away free kicks and being sloppy defending the counter. It also must find ways to finish more. But if it can have this edge in shots, it should be able to win enough games to stay in the top flight.

Gioacchini, Cardoso, de la Torre, & Siebatcheu

For three Americans in Europe hoping to make big inroads with the U.S. national teams, the weekend didn’t go as well as hoped.

Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, was first-rate last weekend for SM Caen where he scored a goal in a 3-0 win over Rodez. That win gave Caen seven points from three games to start the season.

As a versatile attacker who can play numerous positions (with center forward being his best) he earned a start at right wing for Caen on Saturday against Chambly. This game was lethargic from the get-go and ended 0-0. Gioacchini was subbed out at halftime as part of an effort to shake up the Caen team.

Johnny Cardoso, 18, has seen his minutes increase in recent weeks with an Internacional team that is leading Brazil’s Serie A. On Saturday he earned the start away against midtable Fortaleza and was taken out at halftime with the score 0-0. Fortaleza was able to score in the 66th minute to pick up a 1-0 upset win. As a result, Atletico MG moved past Internacional for first-place.

In Switzerland, Jordan Siebatcheu was on the bench for Swiss champs Young Boys after he joined the club earlier in the week for a season-long loan from Rennes. Midweek, he made his debut off the bench in a 3-0 loss to Midtjylland in a Champions League qualifier. On Saturday, he made his league debut for Young Boys when he entered as an 89th minute sub in a 2-1 win over FC Zurich.

Luca de la Torre made his first start in the Eredivisie after completing an offseason move from Fulham to Heracles. Last weekend he played the final 20 minutes in his club debut during a 2-0 win over ADO den Haag. His first start on Sunday didn’t go as well as hoped as he was pulled in the 56th minute with Heracles trailing Willem II 3-0. The game ended 4-0. Over his 56 minutes he had 0 shots, 0 key passes, 12/15 passing, 25 touches, 1 aerial won, 1 time fouled, 2 tackles, 1 clearances


Sabbi, Wingo and Efford: under the radar

Two American players having some success in Europe right now while flying under the radar in terms of media attention are Molde’s Henry Wingo and Waasland Beveren’s Joe Efford.

Henry Wingo was in no shape to start Saturday’s game for Molde after going 120 minutes midweek in a shootout win over Qarabag in a Champions League qualifier. Still, he came off the bench and scored a very nice goal from distance in a 2-1 loss. Molde’s attention right now is squarely on its Champions League playoff against Hungary’s Ferencvaros which opens this week. If Molde can pull off that upset, it will head to the Champions League group stages.

After a few years in Seattle where he earned only minimal playing time, Wingo is Molde’s starting right back and could play in the Champions League this season. If not, he will play in the Europa League.

Joe Efford has a very interesting story. Years ago, he was slated to go to UNC Greensboro for college and play on the soccer team. He bailed on college during freshman orientation and went to Europe to trial. He signed with a Romanian team but had his contract terminated after a month. Then he signed for a team in the lower divisions of Spain, but essentially lost the season due to visa problems. He eventually signed for Ergotelis in Greece’s second tier and he put up very solid numbers over three seasons. Once his contract was over, he signed with Waasland Beveren, which was thought to have been relegated out of Belgium’s top flight last season but stayed up due to a lawsuit.

So far with Waasland Beveren this season, the winger from Georgia is putting up good numbers – even if his team looks like it could get relegated again. On Saturday he assisted in a 4-2 loss to Anderlecht. His club has just three points from six games and has lost five games in a row. Efford has one goal and three assists in five games.

Emmanuel Sabbi is also flying under the radar – although his situation is a bit difference since he has represented the United States before at a U-20 World Cup and is eligible for the current U.S. U-23 Olympic team. The winger left Hobro last season and signed a free transfer to Odense (OB) – which is a bit higher up the chain in the Danish Superliga. Sabbi didn’t score or assist in the opening day 3-2 win over FC Copenhagen but he earned rave reviews for his performances. This past Sunday, Sabbi got the start against Nordsjaelland and scored the equalizing goal in the 58th minute of a 1-1 draw.

For Sabbi, his athleticism in the Danish Superliga is simply off the charts and he is a very difficult player to defend. On the goal, he was able to out maneuver and out leap defenders to head home a corner kick. In this game, he was simply dominant physically. He won 12 duels and lost give. He was fouled four times. He attempted three tackles and succeeded on all three. He won four out of five aerials.


Gooch and Vassilev win in League One

There was some significant activity in England’s third-tier League one for a pair of American players.

Santa Cruz native Lynden Gooch came off he bench for Sunderland in the 79th minute and scored the second goal of a 2-0 win over Oxford United. Gooch has come off the bench in each of Sunderland’s first two games this season, despite scoring double digits last season.

This goal was a beauty and if you can listen to this clip below, the commentary from the family filming the video was the best.


Meanwhile, Indiana Vassilev was sent to Burton Albion on loan from Aston Villa. He only joined the club midweek but was on the bench for its opener – at home against Accrington Stanley. He came into the game in the 62nd minute with the score 0-0. Burton Albion ended up winning 2-1 and while Vassilev didn’t factor into the scoring, he was his club’s only substitute this entire game.


Green enjoys strong game in Furth draw


Julian Green, 25, was MOTM last weekend for Furth in a surprisingly difficult win over an Oberliga team. Green’s goal and assist helped give Furth a 6-1 win in extra time and ensured it was not the victim of a tough upset.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Green earned the start vs. VfL Osnabruck and had a big outing in a 1-1 draw. He did not have a goal or an assist but he was a consistent threat over 90 minutes.

  • 3 shots (1 on target)
  • 5 key passes – Game high
  • 88.2% passing (30/34)
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 dribble
  • 1x fouled
  • 2 tackles
  • 2 interceptions
  • 1 clearance
  • 1 blocked shot
  • 2 fouls
  • 5/8 accurate crosses
  • 7/8 accurate long balls

His passing numbers particularly standout as he had big numbers and a lot of his passing was in dangerous positions tool. If Furth wants to compete for promotion, Green is clearly going to be a big part of that. If the Tampa-born attacking midfielder can play like this on a regular basis, it will be a valuable weapon to have.


Boyd starts in Besiktas draw

United States national team winger Tyler Boyd earned the start for Besiktas at home against Antalyaspor on Saturday. The New Zealand-born Boyd scored last weekend in the opening 3-0 win over Trabzonspor (last season’s runner’s up).

On Saturday vs. Antalyaspor, Boyd was pretty good and lively out on the wing but did not factor into Besiktas’ goal which was scored by former Orlando City forward Cyle Larin.

  • 90 minutes
  • 53 touches
  • 1 shot
  • 2 key passes
  • 81.5% passes 22/27
  • 4 dribbles
  • 2x fouled
  • 2 tackles
  • 0 clearances/interceptions
  • 6 fouls
  • 1/4 accurate crosses

Overall, Boyd is off to a strong start in his second season with Besiktas after an up and down season in 2019/20. Becoming a solid contributor to Besiktas is within reach and would put him in a great spot in his career.

Americans Abroad notes

Tim Weah
came off the bench for Lille in the 79th minute in a 1-1 draw with Marseille. This has been his third appearance of the season – all as a late sub, as he recovers from a lost season in 2019/20 where he suffered an hamstring tear followed by a subsequent reinjury.

In Scotland’s Premiership, Dundee United ended its three-game losing skid. American central midfielder Ian Harkes went the distance for Dundee United in a 2-1 win over St. Mirren while fellow American midfielder Dillon Powers did not get off the bench for Dundee.

After a tough loss in the season opener to Arsenal, Tim Ream was benched for Fulham in a 4-3 loss to Leeds United. The Cottagers’ new left back signing Antonee Robinson did not make the bench again for Fulham but the American could be in luck as starting left back, Joe Bryan, conceded a penalty in this one.

Timothy Chandler was an 88th minute sub for Eintracht Frankfurt in its Bundesliga opener vs. Arminia Bielefeld.

Despite serving his suspension for his red card in the season opener, U.S. U-20 eligible midfielder Patrick Koffi was not on the matchday roster for Paris FC, in a 2-0 loss to Nancy in France’s Ligue 2 on Saturday.

American manager Jesse Marsch and Red Bull Salzburg have six points from two games to start the Austrian Bundesliga season after a 4-1 win over Altach on Saturday.

Fellow American manager Joe Enoch and FSV Zwickau won their 3.Liga opener with a 2 – 1 victory over Unterhaching on Saturday.

Aron Johannsson earned the start for Hammarby in a 3-0 loss to AIK. The loss was tough but Johannsson played a full 90. For a player who has struggled so much with injuries, it was his fourth game in 10 days so his body is holding up very nicely these days. Coming into this game, he had six goals in his last seven Allsvenskan games.

Erik Palmer-Brown earned his first start of the season for Austria Vienna. The U.S. U-23 central defender went the distance in a 2-1 win over Ried. 

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