Americans abroad analysis
Reyna returns, Bello debuts, EPB's rise, Pefok's brace lead Americans abroad
February 07, 2022
THE WEEKEND FOR Americans Abroad was a decidedly mixed period as several players on the most recent U.S. national team roster sat out the games this weekend and a few others struggled. The highlights, however, came from those who were off that roster and are trying to play there way back in.
We knew coming into the weekend that Chris Richards at Hoffenheim and Tyler Adams at Leipzig were injured. But Weston McKennie played just the final seven uneventful minutes for Juventus in its 2-0 win over Verona. Antonee Robinson did not make the matchday squad for Fulham in its loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup. Christian Pulisic did not suit up for Chelsea in the FA Cup. Mark McKenzie did not make Genk’s squad for its 2-0 win over Zlute Waregem. Reggie Cannon also missed out of Boavista’s draw with Vizela.
Ricardo Pepi did not play for Augsburg on Saturday in a 2-0 win over Union Berlin. It was a great result for Augsburg but perhaps not great for Pepi to miss out on such a win.
Instead, the weekend’s highlights came from players outside the roster. Gio Reyna was the big story and he played his first minutes for Borussia Dortmund since August. George Bello made his Bundesliga debut for Arminia Bielefeld. Jordan Pefok hit a brace for BSC Young Boys in a unfortunate draw with St. Gallen. Erik Palmer-Brown earned very positive headlines for his performance in an otherwise disappointing 0-0 draw with Metz. Duane Holmes continues his hot streak with Huddersfield and scored a winner in the FA Cup. John Brooks and Wolfsburg stopped their long winless skid dating back to November with a 4-1 romp over Julian Green and Greuther Furth. Christian Ramirez and Cameron Carter Vickers continued their surges in Scotland.
Here were the stories as I saw it from the weekend.
Reyna Returns for BVB
Giovanni Reyna, 19, has been out of action since suffering a hamstring injury in September while playing for the United States in a World Cup qualifier. He had been inching towards his return and that finally happened on Saturday – although not in the manner he hoped.
With Borussia Dortmund hosting Bayer Leverksuen, Reyna came into the game in the 60th minute with Dortmund trailing 4-1 at home. It did not get any better in the resulting 5-2 loss. There wasn’t too much pressure on Reyna given the game was a lost cause, and he looked rusty but still had his moments. His best came about 10 minutes after coming on and he shielded the ball from a defender to find a shot, which he hit right at goalkeeper Lennart Grill.
Borussia Dortmund has certainly missed him (having been bounced from the Champions League in the group stages) and Reyna’s minutes will increase – and that is welcome news for both Dortmund and the United States national team.
The rust was certainly expected and there is nothing wrong with it. The question will be how quickly he shakes it off.
Bello makes Bundesliga debut
George Bello, 20, completed his transfer from Atlanta United to Arminia Bielefeld last week and immediately made the matchday squad on Saturday when it hosted struggling Borussia Monchengladbach. The game was a reunion of the United States 2019 U-17 World Cup team because along with Bello, Joe Scally was on the bench for M’Gladbach.
With the game even at 1-1, Bello came into the game in the 71st minute. He wasn’t terribly active and had 10 touches over his 19 minutes. He completed 5/6 of his passes and his only mistake was an off back-pass that did not end up costing Arminia Bielefeld. The game finished 1-1.
Auf ArminiaClubTV könnt ihr euch jetzt die gestrige Pressekonferenz mit Samir Arabi, Markus Rejek, Frank Kramer und George Bello ansehen:https://t.co/nWo3dbe947#immerdabei #DSCBMG pic.twitter.com/f3IOcS9nQV— DSC Arminia Bielefeld (@arminia) February 4, 2022
While Bello didn’t have the opportunity to standout, it was a good stage to get a debut and the game was important to an Arminia Bielefeld team that is going to be flirting with relegation (the team is only out of the relegation playoff position on goal differential).
As I wrote last week, Bello needs to make a quick impression because if Arminia Bielefeld are relegated, a young, skillful left back will always be in demand and Bello could perhaps earn a transfer to remain in a top-flight. He should get that chance at Arminia Bielefeld, which is thin at left backs. But any talk of another transfer is premature as Bello will get the chance to help his team stay up.
Pefok’s brace leads Young Boys
Jordan Pefok earned the start for BSC Young Boys on Saturday against St. Gallen. Pefok, 25, was one of the surprising cuts from the last U.S. national team roster and that could have added to his motivation. The motivation combined with a St. Gallen team that is tied for conceding the most goals in the Swiss Super League, it set up the table nice for Pefok.
Pefok didn’t disappoint, although his team eventually did. The Washington, DC-born forward scored in the 44th minute and the 50th minute for 2-0 and 3-0 leads.
St. Gallen, however, rallied for goals in the 61st, 85th, and then the second minute of stoppage time to earn a 3-3 draw. For Young Boys, it was two points squandered and they now sit 10 points back of Zurich. The four-time reigning Swiss Champs appear to be on their way to finally being dethroned.
Pefok is a tricky player to rate. He is absolutely thriving in the Swiss League. He is second in the league with 13 goals (he trails Basel’s Arthur Cabral by just one goal). His 12 goals have come at over just 1263 minutes. He also has another five goals over 809 minutes in the Champions League and Champions League qualifiers. That gives him 17 goals over 2072 minutes.
At the same time, almost all of his goals are scored inside the of the opposing six yard box. He wins duels close into the goal. He has a terrific instinct to pounce on a loose ball or a broken play from the opponent. He gets on the end of crosses and is good with his head. On the flip side, he doesn’t pass particularly well and his hold up play is decent, but unspectacular. Is that type of player going to thrive everywhere?
He likely will get another look at the U.S. national team again this year – especially with Dike’s current injury thinning the pool. He might not be a starter but he could be an useful option off the bench.
One of the players who is off to the strongest starts in 2022 is Erik Palmer-Brown who has claimed a starting spot at Troyes in Ligue 1. This came on the heels of him singing a contract with the club through 2024 which technically ended his “loan army” run with Manchester City (although both teams are owned by City Football Group).
Over the past few weeks, Palmer-Brown has been given the opportunity start and he has made the most of it. On Sunday, he started for Troyes in its 0-0 draw with Metz. With both teams battling relegation, it was a disappointing result for Troyes at home and it currently is just a point clear of the relegation zone.
Erik Palmer-Brown is playing well for Troyes. But don’t take my word for it, take one of the biggest publications in France https://t.co/YenhjTrD6F— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 6, 2022
Troyes has problems but Palmer-Brown is not one of them and the former Sporting Kansas City homegrown earned a positive article from top French publication L’Equipe for his recent performances.
There is a path for Palmer-Brown to rejoin the national team. From the last round of call-ups, Mark McKenzie was the only central defender who didn’t play and Palmer-Brown might have a path past him. It become more complicated, however, if Brooks gets back into the fold.
Dest subs into big Barca win
The door is once again open for Sergino Dest at Barcelona and it is up for him to seize the opportunity. On Sunday, Barcelona hosted Atletico Madrid with a chance to climb inside the top four in La Liga. Dst was on the bench as the aging Dani Alves started at right back.
Alves was terrific at the start of this one and his assist followed by a goal put Barca up 4-1 by the 49th minute. With the score 4-2 in the 69th minute, Alves was shown a direct red card and it allowed Dest to help see out the final 20 minutes of a 4-2 win. Barca therefore moved into fourth place with a shot in returning to the Champions League next season.
Dest’s time on the field was uneventful and Alves is now suspended for the upcoming derby against Espanyol.
Holmes heating up
Duane Holmes, 27, recently became a father for the first time and it has had a positive impact on his on-field performances. The Georgia-born attacking midfielder is playing very well lately and on Saturday he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Barnsley in the fourth round of the FA Cup. He now has goals in consecutive games and four in his last eight games across all competitions.
Holmes’ return to top four has been a big reason why Huddersfield is having such a good season. Once pegged to be in a relegation battle, Huddersfield is currently in fifth place (promotional playoff) while also now advancing to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Holmes has an uphill climb to return to the national team but it is not impossible. Seasons like the one he is having only help his chances.
Books & Wolfsburg end skid
Coming into this weekend, John Brooks and Wolfsburg hadn’t won a game since November. That skid placed them into a relegation battle. On top of that, Brooks had lost his spot on the national team as Gregg Berhalter has gone with other central defenders.
On Sunday, Brooks and Wolfsburg took advantage of an opportunity to finally end that skid when they easily downed last-place Greuther Furth 4-1. Furth is having a very poor season and is coasting towards relegation. This made it easy pickings for Wolfsburg, which did not disappoint.
Brooks had a good game against an overmatched Furth team. He won 5/9 duels, had six clearances, and was good with his distribution out of the back (4/7 long balls). He was subbed out in the 85th minute at the very moment his 2014 World Cup teammate Julian Green came on for Furth.
This was an important win for Wolfsburg because the Augsburg win and Arminia Bielefeld draw kept up the pressure.
This win won’t specifically put Brooks back on the U.S. team but it does give him momentum in what has been a tough few months. The best case scenario is that it lights a spark for Brooks (who is also in the final year of his contract).
Paredes and Bassett: unused subs
In what was a positive note for the weekend, Cole Bassett at Feyenoord and Kevin Paredes at Wolfsburg made the bench for their clubs over the weekend for the first time (both clubs enjoyed lopsided victories). In the final week of the international window, Bassett moved from Colorado to Feyenoord on loan and Paredes made a full transfer from DC United to Wolfsburg.
There is nothing too much to add other than this is a promising development for both players – who are both good prospects. A debut should be coming sooner than later for each player.
Tough games for Musah & LDLT & Weah
Three Americans who played for the United States this past window are Yunus Musah, Luca de la Torre, and Tim Weah – and all three earned starts for their respective clubs this weekend and struggled.
Tim Weah started for Lille at home against Paris Saint Germain and he, along with his entire team, struggled in a 5-1 loss at home. Weah played 70 minutes in the loss and didn’t really get anything going.
Luca de la Torre started for Heracles against Ajax. He was pulled to start the second half with the score 1-0. Ajax ended up winning 3-0. Over his 45 minutes, he very rarely saw the ball as Ajax simply overwhelmed Heracles.
Tough outing for Luca de la Torre.. not an easy assignment against Ajax coming back from the international break. He only played the first half and had 12 touches (2/5 passing). Ajax won 3-0, had 71% possession, outshot Heracles 25-5 https://t.co/ehqrnoYNPR— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 6, 2022
Yunus Musah, meanwhile, played 80 minutes for Valencia in a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad. He also struggled to see the ball and was only 7/12 in passing.
For de la Torre and Musah, the goal in the coming months is to add more goal, assists, and key passes. They both have the skill, but adding final bite to their attacking play is needed
Finally, it was great to see Jonthan Amon, 22, play in friendly for FC Nordsjaelland over the weekend. The oft-injured winger once showed a ton of promise in the Danish Superliga before a series of injuries has essentially halted his career.
Jonathan Amon (remember him?) makes an appearance for Nordsjaelland today in a friendly https://t.co/k6z55n5J3G— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 6, 2022
He may or may not run out of time with Nordsjaelland but hopefully this is the first step of making up for lost time and salvaging his career.
Elsewhere in Scotland
Scotland is a busy place for Americans – most of whom are outside the national team picture.
Cameron Carter-Vickers was his steady typical self for Celtic in a 4-0 win over Motherwell and the English-born American has had a nice season in Scotland. Last week, Celtic moved into first with a convincing 3-0 win over Rangers. Now, they are in the push for a title. Meanwhile, American winger Joe Efford played the second half for Motherwell in the loss.
Christian Ramirez scored his ninth goal of the Scottish Premiership season for Aberdeen in a 2-1 loss to Livingston. It was a disappointing result for Aberdeen but Ramirez has been excellent. American Scott Pittman played the second half for Livingston in the win. Sebastian Soto was still not in the squad for Livingston.
Chris Mueller wasn’t able to help Hibernian produce much by way of offense in a 1-0 home loss to St. Mirren. Mueller had five shots and three key passes, but none resulted in a goal for his team.
Ian Harkes went the distance for Dundee United in a 0-0 draw with St. Johnstone. It was a disappointing result for Dundee United who were up a man from the 53rd minute onward while playing at home.
James Sands hasn’t been able to get off the bench recently for Rangers and he was an unused sub in a 5-0 win over Hearts.
Elsewhere in Italy
Weston McKennie was a late sub for Juventus to see out a 2-0 win over Verona.
Gianluca Busio played the final 20 minutes for Venezia in a 2-0 loss at home to Napoli and Tanner Tessmann did not get off the bench. Venezia are winless in 10 games and are now in the relegation zone. Busio was pushed out wide in this one and had few nice touches, although nothing too dangerous.
Andrija Novakovich started and played 69 minutes for Frosinone in a 2-0 win over Vicenza Virtus. Novakovich was very strong in this game in his hold up play. He also had three shots, forcing good saves twice. Frosinone is now in fifth in Serie B.
Elsewhere in Belgium
Bryan Reynolds made his first start for Kortrijk in a 3-1 loss at home to St. Truiden (Chris Durkin did not play for St. Truiden in this game). Reynolds was very aggressive in this game and was typically deep in the attacking half. He completed 61/69 of his passes and most were in the attacking half. He also won 8/10 of his duels, was 5/9 in long balls, had five clearances and drew four fouls. The loss was tough but Reynolds had a positive first start.
Kyle Duncan started for Oostende in a 3-1 home loss at home to OH Leuven. He was one of his team’s best players in helping the team attack and defend in wide areas, but he was unable to help his team earn a result. Duncan has been settling into a right wingback position and it is suiting his strengths, although Oostende is having a tough time in 15th place of the 18-team league.
Sam Vines got the start in the biggest game in Belgium as his second-place Royal Antwerp team hosted surprising leaders Union SG, who were promoted last year. Vines had some nice moments but Union SG was the deserved winners.
Mark McKenzie did not play for Genk on Sunday in 2-0 win over Zlute Waregem.
Elsewhere in Germany
American manager Pelegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart are now four points deep in the relegation hole after a 3-2 loss at home to Eintracht Frankfurt team – who started Timothy Chandler.
In the 2.Bundesliga, Ryan Malone turned in a good outing for Hansa Rostock in a 4-1 win over Dynamo Dresden. Both goals were scored by American-born winger Nils Froling, who plays internationally for Sweden's U-21 team.
Ryan Malone: raw # for Hansa Rostock in 4-1 away win over Dynamo Dresden— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) February 6, 2022
7/12 duels won
- good game from the American centerback
? American born, Swedish YNT winger Nils Fröling was the MOTM with 2 goals for Rostock
Elsewhere in Austria
Brenden Aaronson and Red Bull Salzburg are into the Austrian Cup semifinals after a 3-1 win over LASK. Aaronson played the full 90 and did well – even having a goal called back for offside.
Thomas Roberts and Austria Klagenfurt were eliminated following a 2-0 loss to Ried. Roberts played the final five minutes.
Elsewhere in Spain
Matt Miazga did not get off the bench for Deportivo Alaves in a 3-1 loss to Elche.
Matthew Hoppe was an unused substitute for Mallorca in a 2-1 win over Cadiz.
Elsewhere in France
Nicholas Gioacchini earned a start for Montpellier against St. Etienne. He played 68 minutes and left with his team up 1-0. St. Etienne would storm back late with three goals for a 3-1 win.
Konrad de la Fuente was still out injured and missed Marseille’s 5-2 win over Angers.
Elsewhere in Portugal
Boavista and Vizela played to a 2-2 draw on Sunday. Reggie Cannon was not in action for Boavista. Alex Mendez started and played 56 minutes for Vizela.
Elsewhere in England
Zack Steffen got the start for Manchester City against Tim Ream and Fulham in the FA Cup. Man City coasted to a 4-1 win. Antonee Robinson sat this one out for Fulham.
Also in the FA Cup, Christian Pulisic did not dress for Chelsea in its 2-1 extratime win over Plymouth Argyle. Josh Sargent did not play for Norwich in its 1-0 away win over Wolves. Ethan Horvath watched from the bench as Nottingham Forest surprised Leicester City with a 4-1 win.
In League 1, Marlon Fossey has become a big player for Bolton lately and the right back oversaw a 1-1 draw with Morecambe. Lynden Gooch played the full 90 in a 2-1 home loss to Doncaster Rovers. Charlie Kelman played the final 22 minutes for Gillingham in a 1-0 loss to Ipswich Town.