Morning update

Morning kickoff: Cowell leaves USMNT camp to join Chivas, cup games, transfers, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta writes about the news of the day in American Soccer, starting with transfers and cup games. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 11, 2024
8:45 AM

LET'S KICK Thursday off with some talk about transfers, games in Europe, MLS preseason news, and a big update from the USMNT camp.

We’ll start in Florida.


Cowell departs USMNT camp


Cade Cowell departed the USMNT camp in Orlando on Thursday and there has been no decision made yet on a replacement. For now, the roster stands at 24 players.

The reason for this departure, of course, is that Cowell is finalizing a transfer to Chivas in Liga MX.

I haven’t yet offered up my thoughts on this move yet, but I have some concerns for Cowell. For one, it is going to be a huge culture shift moving from his home to Guadalajara. Cowell has Mexican heritage through a grandparent but doesn’t have ties that are as strong as many of the other Mexican-Americans in recent years. Paul Arriola didn’t either, but he also lived at home across the border in California while he played for Tijuana.

There is going to be a lot of pressure on Cowell to produce, but Cowell hasn’t really improved all that much in recent years at San Jose – which should be a huge concern. But San Jose hasn’t been an easy place to develop, and Luchi Gonzalez is still trying to right the ship from a tumultuous tenure of Matias Almeyda.

I understand many fans were hoping Cowell and/or Brandon Vazquez would move to Europe, but moves to the big Liga MX teams are serious business and they typically compete well for the best talent in the western hemisphere. But the two moves are different. Vazquez makes the move with a huge price tag and on the heels of two great seasons. He should arrive full of confidence, a thorough understanding of the culture, and with the momentum of just being in good form. That accounts for a lot.

I am not sure Cowell has any of those things going for him. What Cowell does have is some unique skills like his size, strength, and athleticism. He’s a different type of player, and that should help him if he can play to his strengths. But can he do it?


Tough day for Yanks in Cup Games


There were three cup games in Europe that involved six American players. Overall, the news was lackluster as none played a role in a successful result.

First, AC Milan dropped a 2-1 decision to Atalanta at home in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal. Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah each went 90 minutes in the loss with Musah playing right wingback for most of the game. Sometimes players get pushed into a second position, but Musah is not showing much promise in this role. He wasn’t bad, but he is a central midfielder first, winger second, and wingback third. There is an enormous gap between each of these positions.

As for Pulisic, he played well despite the loss and was dangerous. Milan was the better team for most of the game but were let down by poor moments in defending. Pulisic won duels and put pressure on Atalanta with his dribbling and movement but, in the end, had nothing to show for it.

In the EFL Cup semifinal, Fulham were eliminated by Liverpool in a 2-1 loss away at Anfield. Fulham had a 1-0 lead at halftime but conceded two second half goals. Antonee Robinson worked hard over 90 minutes for Fulham but did not create anything dangerous. Tim Ream returned from his injury to make the matchday squad, but went as an unused substitute.

In the fifth round of Portuguese Cup, Vizela defeated Arouca 1-0 with a 76th minute own goal from an Arouca defender providing the only scoring. Alex Mendez started and played 80 minutes for Vizela while Benji Michel started and played 70 minutes for Arouca. Neither American is a regular starter for their respective clubs during league play this season.

What is most interesting about this game is that Mendez wore the armband for Vizela, despite being rarely used in league play. 

Both clubs are in a relegation battle, but Vizela is in the relegation zone and if Vizela ends up dropping to the second tier, it could force a move for Mendez. As for Michel, he is still only about a month into his return from an ACL injury. We will see if he can break into the starting lineup later in the season.


Lesesne takes DC United


DC United appeared to be heading in the direction of making a splash in the head coaching search, but instead went with a less expensive hire in Troy Lesesne, who was previously with the New York Red Bulls. Lesesne was inexperienced when he took over for Gerhard Struber at RBNY in May. He did a nice job, but RBNY opted to bring in Sandro Schwarz.

This is a great opportunity for Lesesne and DC United is hoping he’s the next Bradley Carnell – who left RBNY after a brief tenure as the head coach and led St. Louis to a first-place finish in the West in 2023. If it doesn’t work out, it’s going to draw the ire of the DC United fanbase who are trying to find something that works but have been coming up short. If Lesesne doesn’t work out, the fans will argue (with merit) that the club lacks ambition.


Other news


Kevin Paredes has been missing practice with Wolfsburg due to a thigh problem ahead of the Bundesliga returning to action this weekend (Wolfsburg visit Mainz on Saturday). A more thorough update on Paredes is expected on Friday.

Terrence Boyd has been transferred from Kaiserslautern to Waldhoff Mannheim. Kaiserslautern has had a brutal run the past two months and has fallen into a relegation battle in the 2.Bundesliga. In the first two weeks of January, the club has brought in younger strikers and that has made Boyd expendable. Boyd had a great run with Kaiserslautern in helping the club earn promotion from the 3.Liga and then scoring 13 goals last year to help the club remain in the second tier. But Waldhof Mannheim is in a relegation battle in the third tier (just two points clear) and have scored just 22 goals in 20 games. They are now counting on Boyd to produce in the league.

Alex Mighten had his loan to Kortrijk terminated and is back at Nottingham Forest. The Hartford-born winger struggled for playing time with Kortrijk (currently last in Belgium’s First Division) and now returns to his parent club in the Premier League. It seems like another loan is most likely.

The Colorado Rapids have signed goalkeeper Adam Beaudry to a homegrown deal. This is a good move for the Rapids as Beaudry recently impressed at the U-17 World Cup where he started after Diego Kochen was unable to play due to injury. The Rapids recently signed Zach Steffen as the team’s new No. 1, but Beaudry is a longer-term project who won’t be ready for a few years.

There has been a wave of homegrown signings lately, especially among the recent U.S. U-17 team. Austin signed Micah Burton and Inter Miami signed Tyler Hall. Both players will now look to transition to the U.S. U-20 team in 2024.

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