Preseason notebook: Richards to Palace, Musah sharp, Adams & Aaronson impress,
July 19, 2022
IN SOME EUROPEAN LEAGUES, preseason is over or is winding down. In others, preseason is in full swing. Either way, there is a lot to breakdown and here are some notes on what is happening with Americans in Europe.
Richards nears Crystal Palace transfer
Crystal Palace has been interested in Chris Richards for some time. Now Sky Sports is reporting that he has come to agreement with the Premier League club on personal terms. On Tuesday night, the teams reached a transfer price of €10 million up front plus €3 million in bonuses.
This seems like an appropriate step up for Richards, who was a starter the last two seasons (when healthy) for Hoffenheim. A lower-half Premier League team seems like an ideal place for a young defender who starts for a top-half Bundesliga team but is not ready for a team like Bayern.
In terms of moves, it is also an ideal spot for him to keep challenging and pushing himself. He had a steady role at Hoffenheim but at Crystal Palace he will have to push himself for playing time. But unlike at Bayern, playing time is attainable. Richards would likely enter this season as a third-choice centerback, but that will still be enough for him to see minutes at Palace.
Palace is also well managed by Patrick Viera and the former French great knows American players well. He also was the one who was pushing for Palace to make the move. So, Richards will be coming into a club where he is rated and valued.
It seems like a great move for Richards on many fronts. Also, it is one to bring a smile to face of U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter who will not only see one of his top young players make a challenging move, but also it will link the player to his former club. As a player, Berhalter was the first Crystal Palace player to play in a World Cup. Now, it looks like the club will have another.
Another winner in this is FC Dallas. The MLS club owned a 40% sell-on fee for Richards when it sold him to Bayern. This will see the club earn €4 million plus a percentage of the add-ons.
Wright returns to Antalyaspor
This deal has been reported, but it is now official. U.S. national team forward Haji Wright will return to Antalyaspor on a permanent transfer after excelling at the club last year on loan from SonderjyskE – which was relegated out of the top tier in Denmark last season.
This is a good deal for all parties.
For Wright, he will not get to continue on with a club that knows him, knows what to expect from him, and is now fully vested in his development. Wright has struggled at so many places in his past, that a move after just one good season runs the risk of him falling back into a tough spot. Now he gets to build on success with those that know him.
Antalyaspor now has a chance of competing to qualify for Europe next year. That’s not easy as they are not one of the big Istanbul clubs. But they now are able to bring back their top goal scorer, who was red hot down the stretch.
For SonderjyskE, it is the biggest deal in their history. They money can be used to help the club climb out of the Danish second tier and back into the Superliga next year.
"It is a sale that we are very happy with. Haji Wright showed himself in the best way in his first season in Turkish football, and he has therefore been a coveted player in this transfer window, where several clubs have shown great interest in him. This is also reflected in a good transfer fee, which will be the largest in the club's history" sports director Esben Hansen told the media on Tuesday.
Hoppe likely on the move
Matthew Hoppe travelled with Mallorca for its preseason trip in Austria but likely will be on the move. He didn’t play in Tuesday’s friendly. According to reports in Spain, the striker wants to play after a tough year. In 2021/22, Hoppe played just 130 minutes for Mallorca and didn’t seem to fit in.
There is reportedly interest from clubs in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the United States, and Holland (where the high minimum salary for non-EU players is always a challenge).
Hoppe, 21, has faded from the U.S. national team picture but still has plenty of opportunity even if he doesn’t make this World Cup team. In addition to the 2026 World Cup cycle, he is also a strong candidate to make the United States U-23 Olympic team in 2024.
Americans impress in 2.Bundesliga
The opening of the 2.Bundesliga season was generally very positive for the growing number of American players in Germany’s second tier.
Terrence Boyd started and assisted in Kaiserlautern’s emotional return to the league after earning promotion. In the 11th minute, Boyd collected a bad backpass from Hannover and assisted to Mike Wunderlich. Kaiserslautern ended up winning 2-1.
Boyd has a good shot to do well this year as he is coming off 2.5 excellent years in the 3.liga where he scored 48 goals in 98 games.
Both Julian Green and Timothy Tilllman scored for Greuther Furth in a 2-2 draw vs. Holstein Kiel on Saturday. Both players are coming off lackluster years in the Bundesliga as Furth was easily relegated. Whether or not Furth bounces back up right away will come down to both players. Chances of either player going to Qatar are slim to remote, however.
Heidenheim defeated Hansa Rostock 1-0 on the road and the game featured two lesser-known American defenders. Ryan Malone went 90 minutes in the loss but earned positive reviews from the attending media for his performance after winning almost all of his aerials. Malone, 29, has been a remarkable story after coming out of Division III Springfield College where he then bounced around the very low levels of Germany before climbing back to the 2.Bundesliga last year. Lennard Maloney entered into the game in the 32nd minute due to an injury for Heidenheim and contributed to an opening win.
Arminia Bielefeld fell to Sandhausen 2-1 on the road to open its season. It was a disappointing start for the club after getting relegated last season. Even worse is that George Bello only played the final 18 minutes off the bench. Bello has been on the U.S. national team bubble for over a year but if he is not starting for this 2.Bundesliga club, he could be in serious jeopardy of not securing the backup left back spot in Qatar.
Gioacchini to Orlando
Nicholas Gioacchini last played in the United States in August 2021 when he walked off the field in Las Vegas after being part of the United States national team’s 1-0 victory over Mexico in the Gold Cup final. But now the American forward/winger from Kansas City will be returning stateside to play his club soccer.
ASN can confirm a Foot Normand report that Gioacchini, 21, is set to sign for Orlando City SC. Currently under contract with SM Caen in France’s Ligue 2, Gioacchini is currently in Orlando and the deal is now final.
Gioacchini is coming off a mixed season on loan with Montpellier of Ligue 1. He didn’t play nearly as much as he wanted but he played relatively well when given the chance. In the end, Montpellier did not exercise its option to buy.
Oscar Pareja plays an attacking style of soccer and Gioacchini’s versatility should give him options. If he does well, he could move back to Europe in a few years (while also getting looks with the U.S. team next cycle) but for now, his main task is to help Orlando get into the playoffs and go far.
Soto in limbo
Sebastian Soto’s career is not in a good place. The former U.S. U-20 World Cup forward is back with Norwich after a failed trial at Barnsley of League One. Apparently during his trial, Soto was playing through an injury. Barnsley were never notified about the injury. Norwich is apparently eager to find Soto another club and he does not appear to be in their plans.
Soto, who turns 22 next week, has had a tough start to his career. He never scored for Hannover’s first or second team (but played well for their U-19 team). He never scored for Norwich or their reserve team. He did well on a short loan to Telstar in the Dutch second tier. He scored just once on a loan to Porto B. Last season he went on loan to Livingston and failed to stand out without having scored or assisted.
He seems to be running out of options in Europe and domestically, it’s hard to see him having many takers.
Musah impresses in friendly
In terms of Americans poised for a breakout, Musah seems like a good bet after playing 77 minutes for Valencia in a 3-1 preseason win over Borussia Dortmund. This seems to be the first season for Musah where he will be almost exclusively a central midfielder – which is his preferred position. New manager Gennaro Gattuso seems to have more trust in Musah than his predecessors and Musah will have a huge runway to make the position his.
A few mistakes aside, the New York-born Musah played well in the friendly win and his dribbling had Dortmund pinned back on a few occasions.
On a flip note, while Gio Reyna is back training with Dortmund, he was still not involved in this game.
Ledezma’s big question
PSV Eindhoven have a big question over what to do with Richard Ledezma. He’s been given minutes this preseason and has done well. On Tuesday, he assisted in a friendly against FC Eindhoven (second tier) in a game where PSV started mostly backups. Over the weekend, he was playing the No. 6 role for them.
He’s been doing well but prior to this preseason, he missed most of an 18-month stretch from December 2020 through May 2021 with an ACL tear. Now that he’s showing promise in his return, what is best for his development? To fight for minutes at PSV, where he will most likely be a backup, or go on loan. The good news is that his preseason has gone well enough where he’s show that he should be able to help several teams.
Ledezma has put himself into a position of strength right now where he will have options to further his career, should PSV be willing to loan him.
After adjusting last year into first team soccer, Christian Cappis should have higher expectations heading into his second season at Brondby. Last year Cappis was mostly on the bench but broke into the starting lineup towards the end of the season – as the team was struggling.
But Brondby is typically a contender in Denmark and is one of the country’s biggest clubs. Cappis should be a starter from the onset and Brondby should be improved.
True to form, Cappis started in the Brondby season’ opening 1-0 win over AGF at home. He played a full 90 in the win. He is in a good position at Brondby and if he can keep his starting job there, his value should rise pretty quickly.
Otasowie starts in Super Cup
Owen Otasowie continues to start for Club Brugge this preseason and over the weekend, he was in the XI for the Belgian Super Cup and went 60 minutes in a 1-0 win over Gent.
As I said last week, he’s just impossible to discuss because there are so many off-field factors with him leaving the club for personal reasons multiple times last season – an never playing in a first team game. He’s certainly talented and Club Brugge are pressing forward with him, but it is going to take awhile for anyone to be comfortable predicting his future.
Americans in Leeds Down Under
Leeds United played two preseason games in Australia and it gave a glimpse of Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson for the first time since joining the Premier League team to play under Jesse Marsch. Manager.
Leeds United defeated the A League’s Brisbane Roar 2-1 and lost to Aston Villa 1-0. Overall, it was a good trip for both of the U.S. national team players. Aaronson had a goal called back at the start of the game against Brisbane for offside. He played the first half while Adams played the second.
In the second game against Villa, Adams played very well aside from when he was called for a penalty off a questionable handball. The keeper ended up saving the attempt. Both Americans played about an hour against Aston Villa and left with the game scoreless.
“It's good for him, to be in this match today and to see the level of physicality, to see the speed of play and to adjust,” Marsch said of Aaronson. “I'll say this: when he first came to Salzburg, the first training session, I thought ‘he's in over his head here, he's going to have to adjust to all of the level of what's happening.’”
“Within two weeks, he was almost our best player,” Marsch continued. “That's the quality he has because of intelligence, because of his desire, because of his hard work, he's able to apply his talents rather quickly and adapt and grow. We'll need that again. He's going to be an important player for us this year and for the first match against Premier League talent, he had a good performance.”
One player to keep an eye on is Jonathan Tompkinson. The American central defender has been playing for Norwich this preseason and should make his first team debut in the Championship. Tompkinson started yesterday for Norwich in a 3-1 win over Cambridge United and has progressed steadily through Norwich's development path. Last season he was the club's U-23 captain. Tompkinson is eligible for the United States U-23 team and could be an option for them. On another note, Josh Sargent came off the bench and played the second half. He is still searching for his first preseason goal.
Fulham are in Portugal for preseason and are preparing for their Premier League season after earning promotion. Results have been mixed as the defeated Nice 2-0 but lost to Benfica 5-1. Both Americans Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream saw action.
James Sands was sharp for Rangers when he played the second half of a 3-1 win over West Ham. The game was scoreless at the half. Malik Tillman was not in action yet for Rangers. Sands is in an uphill climb to earn a starting job at Rangers but performances like this help. It’s a battle he must win in order to keep his slim World Cup hopes alive.
Lynden Gooch didn’t just start for Sunderland in its preseason friendly loss to Bradford City, but he wore the captain’s armband as well.
It’s been known for a long time, but today it was announced that Zack Steffen joined Middlesbrough in the Championship on a season-long loan from Manchester City. Steffen hasn’t played regularly since the first half of his loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019.
Osaze De Rosario, 20, continues to have a strong season in the Canadian Premier League and on Tuesday night scored his sixth goal of the season for York United. The son Dwayne De Rosario, Osaze is putting himself into the mix for a transfer after this year. The American-born De Rosario could soon attract the interest of MLS teams as he now is second in the league for scoring.
Christian Ramirez scored again for Aberdeen in the Scottish League Cup in a 5-0 win over Sterling Albion. The American forward now has two goals in two games in the League Cup. Meanwhile, Dante Polvara came off the bench in this game as he looks to earn a starting spot ahead of the Premeirship season.