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Americans Abroad

Preseason Update: Williams, Weah, Johannson & More

July is still in its first week and already we have seen key American players move to new clubs or earn professional contracts. Here is a quick round-up of some key news affecting Yanks abroad.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 05, 2017
6:00 PM

Danny Williams Joins Huddersfield Town 

Four years ago, when Danny Williams left his native Germany to sign with Reading in the English Championship, he made it clear that his lifelong dream was to play in the English Premier League. He will now get that chance after signing a two-year deal with Huddersfield Town—the team that defeated Reading in the promotional playoff final in May.

Williams, 28, is going to have his work cut out for him as many pundits expect Huddersfield to be in a relegation battle next season. Williams is sometimes thought of as a defensive midfielder; over the course of his 22 national team caps, Jurgen Klinsmann played him all over the midfield.

His best position is actually in an advanced midfield role in a 4-3-3 setup. Williams flourished in that role at Reading under manager Jaap Stam and that is where he will likely play at Huddersfield. But with Huddersfield likely to be under pressure, Williams is going to have to work hard on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he should get opportunities to score.

Williams said yesterday that knew Huddersfield manager David Wagner dating back to their days in Germany. The fact that they are both German-Americans who elected to play for the United States internationally is more coincidental. Regardless of international allegiance, Wagner is one of the best upcoming managers in England and he squeezed everything out of his players to reach this point.

Williams seems to be an ideal fit for Wagner’s system and that is going to be crucial if it wants to survive the season.

Internationally, this will only help Williams. U.S. boss Bruce Arena has elected to go with other midfield options so far in 2017—and to Arena's credit, his choices seem to be working. But if Williams does well in the Premier League, he will be impossible to ignore. If the U.S. qualifies for the World Cup in October, the November friendlies would seem like the perfect chance for Williams to get a shot. If he does, it will then be up to him to seize the moment.

Weah earns first professional contract

United States U-17 forward Tim Weah has a name well-known to soccer fans across the globe and this week he took a big step in his career when he signed his first professional contract with Paris St. Germain. The Brooklyn native has been with PSG's academy the past three seasons. 

It's hard to see Weah, 17, earning first-team minutes anytime soon but he is valued at the prestigious club where his father, George Weah, once starred.

The next chance for American fans to watch the younger Weah in action will come in November when he joins the United States U-17 team for the World Cup. 

Will Yanks Crack First Team with Schalke?

Schalke would not allow its American players to participate in the U-20 World Cup this summer but there is no denying that they rate these players highly—even handing Weston McKennie his Bundesliga debut in May’s season finale.

On Monday, Schalke held its first preseason practice and McKennie and Haji Wright both were involved with the first team. It will be hard to make the team at their age but it is within reach—especially for McKennie who frequently draws praise from the coaching staff.

Johannsson faces pivotal preseason

Perhaps no other American player has more on the line this preseason than Werder Bremen forward Aron Johannsson. After missing nearly all of the 2015-16 season, Johannsson struggled for minutes in 2016-17 and has endured a miserable two years on the field.

Werder Bremen manager Alexander Nouri was blunt this week about Johannsson when addressing the media: "He's part of the squad and preseason will determine what sort of a case he can put forward for next season."

Kitchen bolts Hearts for Denmark

Last year it seemed as if things were going great for Perry Kitchen as he was named the captain at Hearts and the club was pushing toward second place. After a managerial change, however, things deteriorated quickly as Kitchen was benched and Hearts faded down the stretch.

Now Kitchen, 25, will have a fresh start after completing a move to Randers in the Danish Superliga.

"We have chased a decisive No. 6 for a while to get a balance player on the team," Randers FC director Michael Gravgaard said. "In Perry Kitchen we get a player with a strong character and a good expression. He possesses many of the virtues we want that Randers FC is known for.... a disciplined player who worked stubbornly but also wisely. We have great expectations for him and expect him to make his impression quickly.”

Gaines and Boyd at Darmstadt

Last season Darmstadt was relegated and Terrence Boyd spent another big chunk of the season injured—as has been the case since 2014. Now 27, Boyd reported to preseason healthy and ready to try to get Darmstadt back to the Bundesliga.

This year he won’t be the only American on the team eas Darmstadt acquired McKinze Gaines, 19, from Wolfsburg—with Wolfsburg owning buy-back rights

It's still early in the preseason but from the look of things, Gaines and Boyd should both be playing a lot in 2016-17and Gaines should make his professional debut early in the season.

The two have even been connecting in early preseason games.


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