Americans abroad analysis
Reyna’s season is over, Musah injured, Haji remains hot in another tough weekend for Americans abroad
It was another rough weekend for Americans abroad who suffered injuries, losses, and poor performance. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta covers it all and puts it into perspective as he does every Monday.
April 11, 2022
THE WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS abroad was, once again, pretty bad. Gio Reyna’s injury was the top story, by far, but once again limited minutes, poor performances, and losses continued to mount. There were some positives, like a Bundesliga debut for Kevin Paredes, but it was a pretty rough go the past few days.
The entire season hasn’t been great - if we’re being honest. Yes, participation in events such as the Champions League can tell another story. But the fair question to ask is who is playing better this season than last? And this obviously includes the players who have been in Europe for some time, not the newcomers who are still getting adjusted.
Some players are making strides. Brenden Aaronson, pre-injury Weston McKennie, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Luca de la Torre are the best examples of players who have been Europe for some time and have improved this season. Some players like Reggie Cannon and Chris Richards are playing at roughly the same level.
But for too many players, they aren’t at the same level as they were in 2020/2021. Some of it is due to injury (which is part of the game), some is due to struggles at a new club, sometimes it is just a drop in form. No matter what it is, the list is long.
Gio Reyna, Christian Pulisic, John Brooks, Tim Weah, Matt Miazga, Josh Sargent, Yunus Musah, Matthew Hoppe, Shaq Moore, Julian Green, Uly Llanez, Owen Otasowie – I think all of these players would probably consider points in the previous season to be a better period than where they are right now.
Among the people who have moved to Europe in 2021 and 2022, it is still too early to say. There is an adjustment period. But Brenden Aaronson and possibly Joe Scally (who both left for Europe in January 2021 after the 2022 MLS season) are the only ones who have made a true splash. Perhaps you can throw in Christian Ramirez – who has gone cold since Aberdeen’s midseason managerial change.
An optimistic way of looking at things is that part of development and part of success is overcoming obstacles. All of these players were going to have to deal with tough situations. But the fact that so many are dealing with tougher seasons at once is a bit surprising and something to keep an eye on.
With all that said, here is my take on the weekend.
Injured Reyna out for season
Gio Reyna was forced out of Friday’s game against Stuttgart after just 77 seconds with yet another injury. It was a tough situation to watch as he left the game in tears.
After picking up a hamstring injury in the September international window against Canada, Reyna had setbacks during his recovery and didn’t return until February.
In just his second game back against Borussia Monchengladbach, he was forced out in the first half with another injury that kept him out three weeks. He managed to make the March international window but was limited due to a stomach illness. Now, Reyna is out with yet another injury – one that will end his season.
Borussia Dortmund announce that Gio Reyna's season is over after what it lists as "a muscle and tendon injury" which he picked up 77 seconds into Saturday's match vs. Stuttgart. #USMNT— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 11, 2022
There is no other way to put it, Reyna has suffered a lost season. He will finish the 2021/22 season with just 441 minutes played over 10 appearances. Looking forward, he will need to return and make up for a lost year in his development. He will also need an adjustment period getting reacclimated to the game.
It came at the worst possible moment for Reyna too. This was the season where he started building his case to becoming a future elite player. It was also the season where he moved from the wing and began taking hold of the No. 10 position for Borussia Dortmund.
Then there is the national team. Reyna has time before the World Cup, of course. But he really needs to be ready come preseason in July. Otherwise, it will be tough for him to have the necessary minutes leading into the World Cup.
Dortmund is smart for shutting down Reyna for the season. He needs a breather and needs to avoid pushing himself to get back to some meaningless deadline. BVB is set in the table and don't need him at the moment. The U.S. team doesn't need him for June. His father, Claudio, battled injuries for too long in his career and that is probably looming in Gio's mind. He needs a breather to get back on the right track for club and country with an eye towards the preseason. Nothing between now and then is important.
Injury concerns for Musah
Yunus Musah started and played 74 minutes for Valencia in a 1-1 away draw with Rayo Vallecano. He had just 32 touches and was only 16/18 in passing but helped in the creation of Valencia’s goal.
That was overshadowed when he asked for a substitution after grabbing his right thigh. No diagnosis has been made but concerns were alleviated on his postgame comments to the club's official site when he said he hopes to be able to play in the upcoming weekend.
Yunus Musah: "I hope to be able to return on Saturday."— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 12, 2022
- From his postgame comments, it doesn't sound like his injury yesterday is serious https://t.co/LLsMtK72Ft
News on the injury front
Aside from Reyna, the news on the injury front was far more positive for other top Americans.
Sergino Dest has been out since just before the March international window with a hamstring injury. According to Barcelona, he should be back soon.
“He is close to returning,” Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez. “Both, him and Memphis [Depay], are close to returning to the squad. They should be back by Thursday.”
Max Allegri, meawhile, provided a surprisingly good update on Weston McKennie with the hope that the U.S. national team midfielder could be back early May.
Seeing is believing with McKennie but that is an encouraging report after it was initially said his Juventus season was over.
United States U-20 winger Kevin Paredes was awarded his Bundesliga debut on Saturday when came on as an 86th minute sub for Wolfsburg in a comfortable 4-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld. Paredes joined Wolfsburg on an impressive $7 million deal from DC United in January but this marked his debut with Wolfsburg. The performance was pretty good as he had five touches, was 3/3 in passing, and attempted a dangerous cross. There wasn’t much risk in this game for Wolfsburg as Arminia Bielefeld was poor on the day and Wolfsburg had control of the match from the opening whistle.
It should be a few good months ahead for Paredes. Wolfsburg is approaching a point where they are neither threatened for relegation nor have any chance of qualifying for Europe. There is an opportunity to work with young players without much risk.
Then there is the big qualification tournament for the United States U-20 team this summer where Paredes is part of Mikey Varas’ plans. I am bullish on Paredes. I think his work rate, his ability to play defense, and his knack for scoring will eventually take root in the Bundesliga. Pushing for a spot on the 2022 World Cup team is too soon, but the 2023 U-20 team, the 2024 Olympics, and the Bundesliga, should give him a great platform for the following cycle.
Vines strong for Antwerp
Sam Vines made his return from injury and into the XI for Royal Antwerp in a 1-1 draw with Cercle Brugge. It wasn’t a good result for Antwerp but Vines was solid and his passing was very effective from the left side.
It is an open race to see who will get the backup left back job for the U.S. team. Vines shouldn’t be considered out of the mix even though Bello has gotten the nod most recently.
Sam Vines: raw # for Royal Antwerp in 1-1 draw vs Cercle Brugge— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 9, 2022
3 key passes
7/7 long balls
5/7 ground duels won
3/4 aerials won
- solid outing for Vines
Mixed on the coaching front
The two American coaches in the top leagues in Europe are currently in the midst of relegation battles and both had opposite results.
Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart lost, as expectedly, to Borussia Dortmund 2-0. It is going to be extremely tight down the stretch.
Stuttgart sits in the last survival place with 27 points. Arminia Bielefeld is in the relegation playoff zone with 26 points and is ahead of Hertha BSC on only goal differential (Hertha being in the automatic relegation spot). Stuttgart has a pretty favorable schedule but the road visit to Hertha on April 24 is going to be huge.
Stuttgart has had a tough season with injuries and the club has been very supportive of Matarazzo. If he survives, he will be in a great spot in his career. Earning promotion and keeping Stuttgart up for two seasons will always have him in the mix for future jobs.
As for Jesse Marsch, his Leeds United defeated Watford 3-0 with the final goal coming from former NYCFC winger Jack Harrison. He has finally found a team where his charisma and enthusiasm is spreading to the team and the fans. It is fun to watch.
Haji continues top run
Haji Wright continued his run of strong form, scoring two goals for Antalyaspor in a 4-1 win over Hatayspor. The goals now give right nine on the season in Turkey’s Super Lig.
The first goal he scored in this game was probably the best goal he has ever scored in his professional to date.
Haji Wright golazooooo ???? pic.twitter.com/CgeuXz6x84— QeeYou (@QeeYouBet) April 11, 2022
The second was also nice.
Wright is in a good spot right now and it is coming at the right time – most notable at the club level. He is only at Antalyaspor on loan from Sonderjyske in Denmark. The problem is that he left Sonderjyske amid negative feelings between him and the club. The club expected him to report for preseason and he initially joined Antalyaspor without permission. There was a fight between the clubs. Wright agreed to an extension with Sonderjyske on the condition of going on the loan. But the takeaway is that Sonderjyske has all the cards right now and Wright returning to that club would have been messy.
The good news for Wright is that Sonderjyske looks heading for relegation. That club will have to accept a decent offer for Wright and Wright has put himself in a position to get a decent offer.
For the national team, it is a bit trickier. Yes, Wright is scoring. Yes, the national team isn’t settled at the No. 9 position. The thing is that there are American forwards scoring. Among those in the national team pool, Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Pefok are currently scoring. When he’s been healthy, Daryl Dike has pretty much always been scoring. Then there are others not in the national team pool who are scoring. Wright is just one. There is also Brandon Vazquez, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Christian Ramirez. There are also forwards in the pool who scored in the past but who are struggling now: Josh Sargent, Gyasi Zardes, Ricardo Pepi.
The question then becomes how many more forwards is Gregg Berhalter going to call up to hope something sticks? Or is he going to roll with one of the existing forwards and hope they grow into the team or get hot again? There are games in June and games in September to prepare for the World Cup and that’s it. It’s not an easy situation.
Who else had good weekends?
There were a few other Americans who had good weekends.
Erik Palmer-Brown: the former Sporting Kansas City defender was excellent for Troyes despite their 2-1 loss on the road to Monaco. He was solid in just about all areas of the game and continues his fine 2022 where he has likely played his way onto the U.S. national team.
Joe Scally: had one of his best games in recent months when he got the start at left back for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 2-0 win over Julian Green and last-place Greuther Furth. Furth didn’t put up much of a fight, but Scally was steady on his side of the field on both sides of the ball.
Jordan Pefok: The Washington, DC-born Pefok scored his 18th goal of the season (and 23rd in all competitions) for BSC Young Boys in a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to last-palce Lausanne Sport. The goal came from the spot and Pefok remains atop the Swiss Super League in scoring.
Pefok’s goal from the spot for Young Boys pic.twitter.com/ZduSWsfryZ— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) April 9, 2022
Christian Pulisic: The Hershey native wasn’t a major part of Chelsea’s 6-0 away win over Southampton but he played the entire second half. The game was over at 4-0 when Pulisic was subbed on. But it was positive for him to play a role in a convincing win even if it wasn’t exactly a memorable outing.
Lots of DNPs
As has been a problem for stretches of this season, the list of Americans who didn’t play this weekend is long. Some were injured, some didn’t get off the bench, some were suspended. But it is not a good thing.
Injured: Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, Ian Harkes, Konrad de la Fuente, Brendan Aaronson, Sam Rogers, Daryl Dike, Ryan Malone
Not in 18: Tim Weah, Andrija Novakovich, Alex Mendez
Unused sub: Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, Tanner Tessmann, Anthony Fontana, Richard Ledezma, Cole Bassett, Matt Miazga, Matthew Hoppe, Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto, Thomas Roberts
That’s a ton of players not playing.
In England, Tim Ream made his 250th appearance for Fulham and wore the armband. Antonee Robinson also go the start. Unfortunately for the Cottagers, they were upset at home by Coventry. Promotion is very likely, but this was a squandered opportunity to set up a clincher next weekend against Derby.
On Monday, Huddersfield defeated Luton Town 2-0 on Monday and sits in third place. The Terriers look certain to return to the promotional playoffs with the result. Duane Holmes played the final 13 minutes.
In Spain's Segunda, two Americans met up as Shaq Moore and Tenerife defeated Jonathan Gomez and Real Sociedad B 2-1. Moore started and played 74 minutes while Gomez played 56 minutes in the loss. Sociedad's reserve team looks set to be relegated while Tenerife is into fourth place with the win and is looking likely to head to the promotional playoffs.
In Italy, Venezia is in huge trouble after a 2-1 loss away to Udinese on Saturday. Gianluca Busio started but was subbed out at the halftime. Venezia was down 1-0 when he was taken off. His club rallied for an equalizer but conceded a stoppage time winner. It marked yet another late-game collapse from Venezia which is three points deep in the relegation zone. It was their sixth loss in a row. There is a pathway to survival, because Cagliari has also lost five in a row but Venezia needs to find a way to win (those two teams will face each other in the last game of the season). As for Busio, he’s been struggling and it has been tough for him as the team has been losing.
In the Bundesliga, Chris Richards started for Hoffenheim the first time since January. Unfortunately for him, he was rusty (partially at fault for the third Leipzig goal) and Hoffenheim dropped a 3-0 loss to RB Leipzig. Julian Green played well for Greuther Furth despite the 2-0 loss to Gladbach, but Furth is going to be relegated and Green will soon be focusing on the 2.Bundesliga.
In Holland, Luca de la Torre started for Heracles but didn’t have a strong outing in a 4-1 home loss to Feyenoord.
In Belgium, Mark McKenzie started for Genk but wasn’t tested much in a 2-0 win on the road against relegation-battling 17th-place RFC Seraing. Seraing was reduced to 10-men from the 35th minute and Genk enjoyed 68% possession. Genk did not have much to do defensively but McKenzie was on the ball a lot. He was 89/105 in passing. The win put Genk into the playoff for the Conference League spot.
Also in Belgium, Kyle Duncan was sent off for two yellow cards in just the 28th minute but his Oostende team managed to defeat Eupen 2-0 despite playing a man-down. Finally in Belgium, Kortrijk lost 3-2 to Anderlecht but Bryan Reynolds scored his first goal for Kortrijk. Despite that positive moment, Kortrijk finished the regular season with just one win over its last 14 games.
In Turkey, Rizespor defeated Konyaspor 2-1 with Tyler Boyd getting the start and notching an assist on Rizespor’s only goal. Rizespor remains 10 points deep in the relegation zone in the Super Lig.
In Scotland’s Premiership, Cameron Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes for Celtic in a 7-0 win over an overmatched St. Johnstone team that rarely threatened CCV or Celtic’s defense. Also in the Old Firm, Rangers defeated St. Mirren 4-0 with James Sands played the second half after replacing Aaron Ramsey.
Chris Mueller started and played 90 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Hearts. It was a tough outing for the former Orlando City winger. Two Americans started against each other as Livingston played Motherwell to a 2-2 draw. Joe Efford had a shaky outing as he started and played 67 minutes for Motherwell. Scott Pittman was strong for Livingston as he played 89 minutes. Christian Ramirez started and played 90 minutes for Aberdeen in a 1-0 loss to Ross County. The former Dynamo forward has had a tough run since the club’s managerial change.
In Portugal’s top-flight, Reggie Cannon had a strong outing on the right side of a three-man backline as he helped Boavista to a 1-0 win over Arouca. That position has fit Cannon very well this season and has allowed him to focus more on his defense and less on getting forward (very few of his touches were in the final third, most were in the defensive half).
Also in Portugal, Vizela played the entire second half against Braga up a man but was unable to avoid a 1-0 loss. U.S. U-20 eligible midfielder Alejandro Alvarado made his first professional start for Vizela but was ineffective in his 53 minutes. He had just 19 touches and nine completed passes.
In Greece’s Super League, Caleb Stanko played the entire 90 minutes for PAS Giannina in a 0-0 draw with Panathinaikos.
In Austria’s second tier, Uly Llanez played 90 minutes for St. Poelten in a 1-1 draw with SV Lafnitz.
In the Danish Superliga, Sonderjyske played OB Odense to a 2-2 draw. Emmanuel Sabbi played the final 25 minutes for OB and assisted on the 80th minute equalizing goal. Jose Gallegos played the final two minutes for Sonderjyske. Silkeborg defeated Brondby 3-0 and Christian Cappis played the final 26 minutes for a Brondby team that was down to 10 players from the 35tth minute.
In Sweden’s Allsvenskan, GIF Sundsvall dropped a 5-1 loss at home to Hammarby. Forrest Lasso started and played the first half for Sundsvall. He was replaced by Joe Corona for the second half. It was the debut for both players in a European league. Joe Gyau started at left wingback for Degerfors in a 2-1 home loss to Hacken.