Americans abroad analysis

Pepi makes Augsburg debut while Adams. Richards, McKennie impresses

It was essentially the first weekend of 2022 that had a significant number of American players in action in Europe. The top story was Ricardo Pepi's European debut with Augsburg but the best performances came from American mainstays such as Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 10, 2022
5:05 AM

THE WEEKEND FOR Americans abroad was mixed, as it often is. There were no truly standout performances but there were a few good ones, and there were some nice club debuts as well – with the biggest coming in Germany as two FC Dallas homegrowns met with Ricardo Pepi making his Augsburg debut.

The rest of the weekend for Americans abroad saw nice performances from Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie but mostly struggles elsewhere.

COVID continued to sideline a lot of games throughout Europe with the Americans in France hit hardest. Amir Richardson was out of Le Havre for such a reason. Other players saw their team’s game cancelled. Tim Weah (currently injured) and Eric Palmer-Brown were schedule to meet in France, but their game was postponed. The same went for Nicholas Gioacchini and Montpellier.

A lot of other leagues were still on winter break with Americans in Scotland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland all still playing in just friendlies.

But this weekend was still an active time and here is how it went.


Pepi vs. Richards


The weekend’s most interesting game from an American perspective came on Saturday when Hoffenheim hosted Augsburg and it pitted two U.S. national team players and two FC Dallas products against each other.

Pepi, 18, began the game on the bench and was looking to make his club, league, and European debut after a $20 million transfer from Dallas. Chris Richards started in central defense for Hoffenheim.


This game went mostly as expected. Augsburg scored first early but favored Hoffenhiem had a 2-1 lead by halftime.

Pepi made his club debut when he came on at the hour mark. But Hoffenheim struck again late in stoppage time for 3-1 win.

In this game the big takeaway is that both Americans did well.

Richards started off shaky with his passing but that improved in the second half. He only had 1-2 minor mistakes defensively over the 90 minutes.

As for Pepi, he had a debut that was mostly positive, despite not being part of a goal and the loss. He moved well and put himself in good positions several times. At one particular moment, he was in a wide open position for a relatively easy finish but his teammates were unable to get him the ball. There was nothing, however, that showed this level was beyond him and his minutes should only increase. Based on this, he will be starting before too long.

These teams are both in important races this season. Hoffenheim is surprisingly in third place and is pushing for a Champions League spot. Richards has been a big part of that. He is at the club on loan and might not be part of a European campaign next year should Bayern want him back. But either way, he is continuing to improve into a high level player with a club pushing for a top four finish in the Bundesliga.

Unfortunately for Pepi and Augsburg, they fell into the relegation playoff with the loss. Every game is important, and the club spent a lot on Pepi. He is going to have to be part of the solution and falling into the 2.Bundesliga would be unacceptable.


Adams strong in win


Tyler Adams got the start on Saturday for RB Leipzig against Mainz and this game turned in Leipzig’s favor in the 19th minute when Mainz was reduced to 10 players. From there, Leipzig was able to easily control the game, maintain possession, and pin Mainz deep.

Adams shifted more into a holding midfield role than a defensive midfielder. He was on the ball a lot and was frequently pushing the ball forward to keep up the pressure. It worked and Adams was part of the build-up to two of Leipzig’s goals.


Overall, 99 touches and 97 passing attempts just highlighted that he was looking to pass every time he got on the ball. Typically this isn’t possible in a 11v11 game but Adams showed off his versatility in this game to be useful in a possession-dominated game.

With the win, Leipzig moved into 9th place.


McKennie and Juve cruise


Weston McKennie was also one of the American players who had a good weekend when he started and went the distance for Juventus in a wild 4-3 away win over Roma in the Italian capital.

McKennie, 23, like in the previous game for Juventus was smooth on the ball and effective in his passing. He continues to improve after the distractions of being dismissed from the USMNT camp in September. He’s responded very well, and this was another step.


Busio & Venezia overwhelmed


Venezia hosted Milan on Sunday with Gianluca Busio getting the start and Tanner Tessmann suspended for the game. The former Sporting Kansas City midfielder played just 79 minutes in the loss and left with Venezia down 3-0, which would be the final score.

Busio, 19, had some positive moments and tried to help Venezia in possession but Milan was simply much better in all areas of the field. His passing is decent but dealing with the size and strength of most of the Milan midfielders was tough on him. Busio is getting tested in his first Serie A season and it will be a close call if they survive the season without relegation. Venezia sit in 17th place, the first safe spot, but have a four point cushion on 18th place Cagliari.


Rest of Bundesliga


In the Bundesliga, American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo is probably disappointed his Stuttgart team couldn’t find all three points after a 0-0 draw with last-place Greuther Furth. With Augsburg’s loss, it was enough to move into the final automatic survival position, but it should have been more. Julian Green was a stoppage time sub for Greuther Furth, and his season continues to be disappointing as playing time has been scarce.

Timothy Chandler started for Eintracht Frankfurt in a 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund and was exposed on Dortmund’s final winning goal. Despite that, it was a pretty good game from Chandler who has played more this season than the previous two.

Also in this game, Gio Reyna failed to make the bench for Borussia Dortmund despite reports that he might return to the field for the first time since September.

John Brooks once again earned the start for a Wolfsburg team which saw its tailspin carry over into 2022 with a 1-0 loss to Bochum on Sunday. Brooks played relatively well on the left side of a three-man backline and wasn’t at fault for the one goal, but the loss was the sixth in a row for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga and eighth in all competitions. It’s a mess and Wolfsburg is now just two points clear of relegation.


La Liga


Matthew Hoppe returned to the field for Mallorca for the first time since October when he played the final 16 minutes in a very disappointing loss to last-place Levante. Hoppe, 20, only had four touches in the game but one of them was a key pass that created a dangerous chance when Mallorca was trailing 1-0. He also had a collision with the Levante keeper trying to go for the ball. Levante, however, scored late.

For Hoppe, it was positive for him to return to the field. While he didn’t do much, a loss to the league’s worst team will open the door for the manager to make changes.

On Sunday, Yunus Musah earned a rare start for Valencia and it was in an enormous stage as it was against Real Madrid at Estadio Bernabeu. Musah was given an open, free role where he could roam the field. He had a strong start and was impressive with his dribbling. But Real Madrid took control of the game and Musah faded over the course of the first half. Early in the second half, Real Madrid took a 3-0 lead off a turnover from Musah. Musah was subbed out at the hour mark and Madrid won 4-1.

In his return from COVID, Matt Miazga also returned to the starting lineup for Deportivo Alaves in a tough matchup at home against Athletic Bilbao. It was just his second appearance since October 23. The scored ended 0-0 and Miazga did well defensively. The New Jersey native won 7/9 duels and had four clearances. His passing was just 16/24 including 1/5 with his long balls, but defensively the clean sheet was important. The point moved Alaves within a point of safety.


The FA Cup


Several Americans were in action in the FA Cup.

Christian Pulisic earned the start for Chelsea in a 5-1 romp over fifth-tier Chesterfield. The Hershey native had an assist and was 11/11 in passing. Overall he was dangerous against the overmatched opponent and played well.

Josh Sargent got the start for Norwich against Charlton Athletic of third-tier League One. After playing out of position at right wing in recent games, Sargent got the start at the No. 9 position but still struggled in his 85 minutes. Norwich won 1-0 but failed to impress or give a convincing answer that it was capable of climbing out of the relegation hole in the Premier League.

Zack Steffen got the start for Manchester City in a 4-1 win over Swindon Town and could have done better on Swindon Town’s goal when he was beaten at the near post.

Duane Holmes came into Huddersfield Town’s 2-1 win over Burnley in the 59th minute. At the time, it was Huddersfield was trailing but Holmes helped in the build-up to the equalizing goal. It was a good outing for Holmes who has seen his career come back to life in recent months for Huddersfield.

Neither Tim Ream nor Antonee Robinson got off the bench for Fulham in a 1-0 away win over Bristol. The same could be said for Ethan Horvath who watched Nottingham Forest post a 1-0 win over Arsenal.


Elsewhere in Europe


In Portugal, Reggie Cannon struggled for Boavista in a 1-1 draw with Tondela and was partially out fault for the Tondela goal. Alex Mendez got the start and played well for Vizela but his team still dropped a 1-0 loss to Moreirense. U.S. U-20 eligible Alejandro Alvarado also played the final four minutes for Vizela.

In Turkey, it was a tough weekend for Americans. Tyler Boyd started and struggled for Rizespor in a 2-2 draw with his parent club Besiktas. The New Zealand-born American winger played 60 minutes and left with his team down 2-1. Rizespor still sits in 19th place and in the relegation zone. Haji Wright started and played the final 27 minutes for Antalyaspor in a 4-0 loss to Goztepe. Both teams sit just above the relegation line. Meanwhile, DeAndre Yedlin did not get off the bench for Galatasaray in a 1-0 loss to Giresunspor.

 Finally in Greece, former FC Cincinnati midfielder/defender Caleb Stanko made his debut for PAS Giannina in the Greek Super League when he played the entire second half in central midfield of a 1-1 draw with OFI Crete. Giannina nearly had a win but conceded a stoppage time equalizer.

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