Americans abroad analysis
Pefok, Trusty, and Scally stand out in Busy Weekend for Yanks in Europe
August 08, 2022
IT WAS THE FIRST truly full weekend for European soccer as most leagues are now underway. A new season means a new opportunity for Americans to prove themselves and build cases for their international prospects – and their own careers in their own right.
It was a huge weekend and here are my thoughts on the top stories in the world of Americans abroad.
Dramatic Leeds win
There are three Americans involved with Leeds United (as well as Jack Harrison who went to high school and college in the United States before playing for NYCFC), so there is a lot of interest in the club stateside. Last year it was huge as Jesse Marsch helped the club avoid relegation, but this year is on another level.
Early returns were promising in the club’s 2-1 win over Wolves at Elland Road. Tyler Adams played 90 minutes in his Premier League debut and went 90 full minutes. For me, Tyler Adams is going to be a good fit in the Premier League. He has the motor, he can help keep the ball and he can quickly get the ball into the attack. When you combine it with a manager who believes in him, it makes for a good combination.
Brenden Aaronson also had a good game and initially he was credited with the winning goal in the 74th although it was later changed to an own goal. Still, that goal doesn’t happen without Aaronson’s effective run into the box and being at the right moment. This has always been a hallmark of his game.
Ok.. so it’s an own goal.. either way, it’s the winner. Huge result for Leeds pic.twitter.com/L9scrcLMEV— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 6, 2022
People should be very bullish on Aaronson. Every season of his career has been an improvement over the season before. He is still developing at an appropriate pace at age 21. Even when he moved from Philadelphia to Salzburg, he made the adjustment quickly and was already up to speed after a month. Then in his second season, he was impressing in the group stages of the Champions League.
His first returns in the Premier League were very good. It bodes well for him and for Jesse Marsch. If Aaronson hits as well as expected, Leeds should stay up and should continue to build into a steady team in the top tier.
Ream & Robinson help Fulham draw
Fulham had a very difficult opener in its return to the Premier League as the Cottagers hosted Liverpool on Saturday. Both Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson earned the start to make up Fulham’s left side of the backline.
Fulham ended up playing to a 2-2 draw behind two goals from Aleksander Mitrovic (so much for the hints he was really going to struggle in the Premier League after scoring 42 last season in the Championship).
Both Americans impressed. Antonee Robinson helped to contain Mo Salah for most of the game until Salah scored an 80th minute equalizer – which Robinson was not a fault. People make a lot about Robinson’s ability to get forward, but at times he can be a very good defender and his athleticism really helps.
Tim Ream really stood out and while some thought he was at fault for the second goal, that was more due to Ream having to cover for his partner Tosin Adarabioyo. While there have been concerns over Ream’s ability to hang in the Premiership, despite being a good Championship player, he can still deliver good outings in the top-flight. This was important. What hurt Ream in the Premier League two seasons ago was the team’s poor start in losing the first six games. But if Ream can get off to a hot start, he might remain in the lineup.
The question now is Issa Diop. Fulham are set to acquire the talented central defender from West Ham. Diop is coming to Craven Cottage to start but if Ream can have another good outing or two, Adarabioyo might be the one who sits.
Elsewhere in the Premier League
Alex Mighten made his Premier League debut on Saturday when he played the last seven minutes of Nottingham Forest’s 2-0 loss to Newcastle United. There wasn’t much to make of his time on the field. As for his international debut, his agent told ASN that he intends to play for the United States but needs to update his U.S. passport to complete his change of association paperwork. My take is that he won’t make Qatar but he could be a good option for the 2024 U-23 Olympic team.
On Monday, English media reported a potential loan to Belgium for Mighten.
Steve Cooper is a big admirer of Alex Mighten, but he may allow the 20-year-old to leave on loan this summer.— Ethan Lamb (@ethanlamb01) August 8, 2022
Standard Liege have held talks over a potential loan move for Mighten, but nothing has been agreed as of yet. #NFFC @Ekremkonur pic.twitter.com/vbM0jMgzZM
Christian Pulisic played the final 25 minutes off the bench for Chelsea in a 1-0 away win over a poor Everton team. Pulisic wasn’t involved much and was just 3/4 in passing. He worked hard to win a bunch of duels, however, and helped Chelsea keep the ball. He drew a dangerous free kick late in the game but overall mostly defended as Chelsea was playing a man short down the stretch due to an injury.
Two Americans went as expected unused substitutes when Arsenal defeated Crystal Palace on Friday. Matt Turner remained on the bench as the backup goalkeeper and Chris Richards did not make his Crystal Palace debut.
Trusty impresses again for BCFC
Auston Trusty has been one of the more surprising American players in the early parts of the season. Despite struggling the first half of the season with Colorado, Trusty has come into Birmingham City on loan from Arsenal and stood out.
On Friday, Birmingham City defeated Huddersfield 2-1 and Trusty was the best defender in the game. His long-range passing out of the back wasn’t good, but his defending was.
Austin Trusty goes 90 again for Birmingham City in a 2-1 win for Huddersfield— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 5, 2022
- 33/40 in passing but only 1/5 in long balls
- 4/5 in tackles was best in the game
- 6/9 in duels
- 3/4 in aerials
- 3 clearances, 1 interception
- nice start to his Championship season
Trusty is one of the few American youth players who has played in a U-17 and U-20 World Cup – so he has not come completely out of nowhere. But the start to his professional career has been very uneven with Philadelphia and Colorado. At time he’s been very solid, at times he’s been glued to the bench. In 2021, he helped Colorado win the Western Conference regular season. He is now playing at that level again. The question for him is staying there.
Also in this game, Duane Holmes played the final 14 minutes for Huddersfield but made no impact. Huddersfield has lost its first two games of the season.
Steffen’s costly error
Middlesbrough dropped a 3-2 decision to Queens Park Rangers in London and Steffen was at fault for QPR’s second goal. On the play, Steffen flailed at a corner and it was subsequently hammered home. Steffen did not look good on the play although he argued for a foul. Foul or no, he still has to make this play because the odds of officials calling a foul are small.
But this isn’t just a matter of rust. Steffen is a good shot stopper but controlling corners and set pieces into the box has never been his strength. This comes at a bad time for Steffen as there is so much open ended discussion about who will start for the United States at the World Cup. Steffen needs these next three months to go his way and this was the start he did not want. Yes, Matt Turner isn’t starting either, but Matt Turner has also been a starter for most of the past three seasons. Steffen hasn’t regularly started since 2019.
If Steffen is benched at Boro, he’s in real trouble – even beyond the national team. It has been too long since he’s played well regularly, and he needs to change the narrative of his career.
Elsewhere in the Championship
Lynden Gooch started again for Sunderland in a 3-2 away win over Bristol City. Unlike the season opener when he played at right back, Good returned to his preferred midfield role and played well as newly promoted Sunderland is off to a strong start to the season with four points from two games. Gooch has adapted nicely to the Championship after many years in League One.
U.S. U-20 eligible Vaugh Covil played the final 31 minutes for Hull City in its 0-0 draw with Preston North End on Saturday. It was his second straight appearance to start the season for the teenager.
Ethan Horvath did not have to make a save for Luton Town in its 1-1 draw at Burnley on Saturday. Luton Town has two points from two games to start the season.
Daryl Dike and West Bromwich Albion host Watford on Monday.
Pefok stands out in Union opener
In his first Bundesliga game, Jordan Pefok did not disappoint as he scored the opening goal for Union Berlin in the 32nd minute which set the pace for a comfortable 3-1 win over Hertha BSC. Last weekend, he scored in the German Cup first round against an Oberliga opponent.
Pefok, 26, scored via an outstanding header from a tough angle.
With Pefok up to two goals from two games, his confidence is at a high point. He is neck and neck with other forward options to make the U.S. World Cup roster and he is fighting an uphill climb after a tough camp in March. But things change very quickly and scoring in the Bundesliga is important.
Nice header from Pefok. Tough angle pic.twitter.com/G54fFzTpBb— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 6, 2022
The United States national team and Union Berlin are very different. Performing at the club level doesn’t always translate to the international level, even among a top league. But a strong upcoming month could at least get Pefok invited to the September camp for one last look.
On a personal level, Pefok is simply aiming to prove that he can succeed in a top league given that he struggled in Ligue 1 and succeeded in Switzerland and Ligue 2. It’s only been one game in the Bundesliga, but Pefok is playing well.
Scally impresses with Gladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach manager Daniel Farke admitted last week he did not know who would start at right back for the team’s opening game against Hoffenhiem on Saturday but he said he was pleased with his options. American Joe Scally ended up getting the start and he put in a very good shift in a 3-1 win. Scally, 19, was dangerous and he hit the woodwork once and forced a great save in another opportunity.
Scally is a player on the bubble for a ticket to Qatar. It will be tough for him to overtake players like Sergino Dest, Reggie Cannon, and DeAndre Yedlin. The fact he is playing on the right side doesn’t suggest he is a backup on the left side either.
But there is still plenty of time for him in the international game even if he doesn’t go to Qatar. On the club level, he should be pushing to help Gladbach land in Europe this season – which is very possible. From all things considered, he’s in a good spot for his age, 31 Bundesliga appearances and still a half season to go until he leaves his teens.
Elsewhere for Hoffenheim, Justin Che wasn’t in the matchday roster as he looks to be moving clubs as he is not in the club’s plans.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga
Ricardo Pepi, 19, wasn’t in the starting lineup for Augsburg against visiting Freiburg but he played the final 15 minute of an ugly 4-0 loss. He played decently enough but Freiburg scored its final goal a minute after he came on and took their foot off the gas pedal soon after. Pepi may drift in and out of the starting lineup but Augsburg is likely heading for a relegation battle.
As for Pepi’s national team chances – he’s in the mix but he is drifting behind others as Qatar approaches.
Gio Reyna was an unused substitute for Borussia Dortmund in its 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. Reyna is probably going to be eased into the mix over the next month after an injury plagued 2021/22 season.
Kevin Paredes was an unused sub for Wolfsburg in its 2-2 draw with Werder Bremen. At some point in the coming weeks or this winter, a loan option might be explored for the U.S. U-20 winger/left back.
Timothy Chandler was a big winner from the weekend as he did not have to play for Eintracht Frankfurt in its 6-1 home loss to Bayern Munich.
Head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and VfB Stuttgart fought hard in a 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig. The American manager will hope to avoid another relegation battle this season and a strong start will go a ways towards preventing that.
Boyd’s continues strong start
In the 2.Bundesliga, Kaiserslautern are off to a strong start after earning promotion last season with seven points from three games. A big reason for the success is Terrence Boyd who now has two goals and an assist on the season.
On Sunday, the club defeated St. Pauli 2-1 and the American forward scored in the 9th minute to open the scoring. Boyd ended up going 89 minutes. Boyd, 31, is coming off a run in the 3.Liga where he scored 48 goals in 98 games after an ill-fated move to Toronto FC. A return to the national team is unlikely but for one of the more likeable American players in the game, Boyd’s success is fun to root for and he very much looks like he can contribute in droves in the 2.Bundesliga.
Elsewhere in the 2.Bundesliga
One of the most fun stories for Americans in Germany is Ryan Malone who is putting together a career like Jay DeMerit. After playing college soccer in Division III and then bouncing around the lower levels in Germany, Malone is now emerging into a very good 2.Bundesliga central defender with Hansa Rostock. His numbers in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Arminia Bielefeld were great.
But the tougher news is on George Bello who played the final 18 minutes in the loss and continues to be in a rough spot at the club level. Arminia Bielefeld has also lost its first three games of the season.
Ryan Malone is Jay DeMerit Part 2. Division III college to the semipro levels in Germany for years and now into a 2.Bundesliga boss in his late 20's https://t.co/SeVMq5T1oJ— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 6, 2022
Julian Green and Timothy Tillman both started for Greuther Furth in a 1-1 draw with Karlsruher on Saturday. Green lasted until the 83rd minute and Tillman was subbed out in the 67th. Furth has two points from three games.
Lennard Maloney started and played 65 minutes for FC Heidenheim in its 1-0 loss to Hamburg SV on Saturday.
The wild Coppa Italia draw
There was heavy American involvement in Sunday’s Coppa Italia draw between Ascoli and Veneiza, which Ascoli won 3-2.
Venezia was missing 13 players due to Covid and while the players weren’t listed, Gianluca Busio, Jack DeVries, and Patrick Leal did not suit up for Venzia. Tanner Tessmann and Andrija Novakovich did.
Ascoli held a 2-0 lead but Venezia roared back with two goals from Hilmir Mikaelsson, both were assisted by Novakovich, who moved to the club this summer from Frosinone.
But the highlight came from American midfielder Anthony Fontana who came into the game in the 80th minute. He completed all five of his passes and then in stoppage time, hit a bicycle kick that was deflected and went in. Whether or not it was an own goal or Fontana’s goal remains to seen but it was a huge effort that delivered his team the win.
Anthony Fontana breaking Venezia hearts in dramatic fashion. pic.twitter.com/UqbJYcR8vE— Daniel (@DanielSmith1022) August 7, 2022
Fontana is still looking for consistent minutes with Ascoli but when he was with Philadelphia, he had good production numbers despite never being a regular starter with the Union. This will only help his case ahead of the Serie B opener.
American trio in the Eredivisie opener
Three Americans were involved in the Eredivisie opening weekend to varying levels of success.
Richard Ledezma played the second half for PSV in its 4-1 win over Emmen. The game was under control at 3-0 for Ledezman when he came on.
Ledezman did well in his time on the field with 57 touches over 45 minutes while going 43/50 in passing. He helped to create one dangerous chances midway through the half and worked hard defensively. The outing will help his case for minutes although starting is still a tough task. He was given the minutes because Emmen was overmatched and PSV has a Champions League game on Tuesday. There was a need for squad rotation.
Still, Ledezma showed he can handle the job even if the responsibilities aren’t significant. It’s not a bad starting spot – whether PSV keeps him as a backup or seeks to loan him out. He’s playing at a high level for a very good club.
Cole Bassett is still looking to secure a secondary loan from Feyenoord to Fortuna Sittard despite only being at Feyenoord on loan from Colorado. With sub-loans not allowed, it will take a complicated agreement involving Colorado but all sides are reportedly still talking – which is good. Bassett played the final five minutes plus stoppage time for Feyenoord and he looks to be ready to play in the Eredivisie, even if for a smaller club. Bassett could be one for the U.S. U-23 Olympic team if he builds his career over the coming two seasons.
Things were not as rosy for Taylor Booth who earned a start for FC Utrecht in his debut for the club. The former Bayern Munich U-23 midfielder was pulled at halftime with Utrecht trailing RKC Waalwijk 2-0. Utrecht rallied for a 2-2 draw after Booth left. Booth might return to the bench after this but he will get opportunities in the future – and must take advantage of them.
Vines standing tall in Belgium
If you’re looking for a an American who will having a surprisingly good season in Belgium, Sam Vines is not a bad pick.
Vines started and played 90 minutes on Sunday for Royal Antwerp in a 4-2 win over OH Leuven. Antwerp is a fun team to watch and the team likes to attack in droves. As the team’s starting left back, Vines is always looking to get forward and join in the attack.
Vines is also part of a good team. Antwerp is atop the table in Belgium with a perfect nine points from three games. They have looked the best team in the league by far after three games.
Elsewhere in Belgium
Elsewhere in Belgium, it’s been tough for Americans.
Owen Otasowie made his first start for defending champions Club Brugge on Friday and he got the start in central defense. He played 68 minutes and his first half was very tough as he had three bad giveaways, two of which resulted in great chances for Zlue Waregem.
The good news for Otasowie is that everyone on Club Brugge has looked poor to start the season and the club has four points from three games despite having an edge in talent. Otasowie is very much an unpredictable work in progress. He has natural talent, but his commitment was called into question last year and now it is a matter of rust and focus.
Westerlo fell to Gent 2-1 and Bryan Reynolds did not get off the bench yet again for Westerlo. His American teammate Griffin Yow has seen his start with the club delayed because of visa issues. Reynolds is in a disappointing season has consistent playing time continues to be tough for him to come by after a lackluster loan to Kortrijk in the second half of last season.
Mark McKenzie has been glued to the bench for Genk and didn’t play in its 4-2 win over Eupen. His situation might improve as Genk centerback Jhon Lucomi is linked to a move to Bologna.
Finally in Belgium, former U.S. national team midfielder Mix Diskerud is linked with a possible move to Belgium. He currently plays for Omonia in Cyprus. He played at Gent in 2012 when he was looking to break into the U.S. national team.
Americans impress in Portugal
Three Americans played in Portugal’s top-flight for the opening weekend, and all three were encouraging.
Reggie Cannon started for Boavista and played 90 minutes has his club came away with a big 1-0 away win over Portimonense. Like he did last year, he was playing as a right-sided central defender in a 3-man backline. He rarely gets forward in this role but he uses his athleticism to defend. The role really suits him well.
Cannon needs to have a strong start to the season to make the World Cup team. For the backup right back role (behind Sergino Dest) he is competing with Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin has the experience edge over everyone, and Scally is an impressing youngster. But Cannon showed in this game that it is going to be tough for anyone to make up ground on him.
Vizela played to a 1-0 away win over Rio Ave on Saturday. Alex Mendez started for Vizela and did well to create chances. He had six completed passes into the final third and should have had an assist to U.S. U-20 midfielder Alejandro Alvarado but the teenager had his shot saved nicely.
This was a big win for Vizela, one of the smaller teams in Portugal’s top tier. With Mendez’s contributing over 89 minutes, he could be one for a very good season after showing some promise last year. As for Alvarado, it’s good that he is now playing and consistent minutes off the bench is not a bad situation as he looks ahead to the U-20 World Cup after the season.
Americans in France
It was the Ligue 1 opening weekend and only one American took part.
Erik Palmer-Brown started for Troyes in a tough outing where Troyes were outplayed by Montpellier in a 3-2 loss. Palmer-Brown started in the middle of a five-man backline.
Tim Weah was serving a suspension dating back to last season and did not play for Lille in its 4-1 win over Auxerre.
Konrad de la Fuente did not play for Marseille in a 4-1 win over Reims as he is rumored to be out (either on a loan, a transfer, or a loan with an obligation to purchase). At first it was with Real Valladolid but now other teams are also in the mix. The lone goal in that game for Reims was scored by American Folarin Balogun who is at the club on loan from Arsenal. He came off the bench in the 64th minute and scored in the 84th minute with Reims down 3-0.
Cappis scores in Copenhagen Derby
The Copenhagen Derby is always fun and intense as it pits FC Copenhagen and Brondby, the two biggest Danish clubs, against each other
While Copenhagen won the game easily at home by a 4-1 margin, the lone Brondby goal came from Christian Cappis in the 23rd minute. Cappis was the best player on the field for Brondby in this game and he did what he could to keep his team in it. Brondby is looking to get past a disappointing end to the season last year and Cappis is part of the team’s plans. This week Brondby will host Basel in the Conference League as Cappis continues to get quality experience.
Americans in Scotland
The number of Americans in Scotland his once again high, and this is even more relevant as three players in the national team pool are at Old Firm clubs.
Rangers defeated Kilmarnock 2-0 at Ibrox on Saturday. Both James Sands and Malik Tillman started for Rangers as they overmatched their opponent. Rangers had 73% possession but struggled to breakdown their opponents. Tillman was 4/4 with his dribbles and won 7/11 of his duels to keep Kilmarnock on its backfoot. James Sands in the backline was rarely tested but completed 106/116 passes as Rangers moved higher and higher up the field to raise the line.
Both players did their job although making much from Celtic or Rangers games against the rest of the league is tough as the talent gap is so wide.
Similarly, Celtic defeated Ross County 3-1 with all the goals coming in the second half. Cameron Carter-Vickers started for Celtic, which didn’t pull ahead for good until the 84th minute. Defensively, the American was rarely tested (he was in the area but probably not at fault when Ross County scored its lone goal from a header off a corner).
Aberdeen defeated St. Mirren 4-1 on Saturday. Dante Polvara did not get off the bench for Aberdeen although Christian Ramirez did in the 72nd and assisted on the team’s final goal.
Joe Efford played the second half for Motherwell in a 2-1 loss at home to St. Johnstone.
Scott Pittman played the full 90 minutes for Livingston in a 1-0 away win over Dundee United. Ian Harkes was suspended for Dundee.
Wright starts for Antalyaspor
Haji Wright is the top American player in Turkey after returning to Antalyaspor after breaking out towards the end of last season. The California native started and went the distance in a 1-0 loss at home to Galatasaray. Wright had a tough game in this one as his dribbling and passing were both off.
In the USMNT stock watch for the forward position, Pefok raised his game as did Brandon Vazquez on the domestic front. Haji Wright did not, nor did Josh Sargent or Ricardo Pepi. Expect it to change every week.
Tyler Boyd did not get off the bench for Besiktas in its 1-0 win over Kayserispor on Sunday. In troubling news for Boyd, Besiktas only made two substitutions and is reportedly in the market for additional wingers.
Former U.S. U-23 winger Gbolyi Ariyibi was a 68th minute substitute for Ankaragucu in its 0-0 draw with Konyaspor on Saturday.
Sam Rogers continues to have a breakout season for Rosenborg and the American central defender played the entire game in Saturday’s 2-1 win over HamKam. Kobe Hernandez-Foster played the final 10 minutes for Hamkam.
In Sweden’s top-flight, Joe Corona and Forest Lasso both started for GIF Sundsvall in a 3-0 loss to Hammarby. Lasso scored an own goal in the loss
In Iceland on Monday, Aron Johannsson scored Valur’s opening goal of a 2-0 win over IA Akranes.