Americans Abroad

Sabbi on the rise, Dest terrific, Busio shines, and much more

After a slow start to the weekend on Saturday for Americans in Europe, things picked up on Saturday with big efforts from Sergino Dest, Emmanuel Sabbi, Gianluca Busio, and others. ASN's Brian Sciaretta walks you through the good and bad for Americans Abroad. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 15, 2024
9:50 AM

THE WEEKEND FOR AMERICANS abroad saw the return of the Bundesliga and the Eredivisie. With that, many American players in Europe returned to the field for the first time in 2024. Overall, the weekend was uneventful on Saturday while Sunday saw increased production with good outings from Christian Pulisic, Emmanuel Sabbi, Gianluca Busio, Sergino Dest, and others.

With that said, let’s start with the top stories before breaking off regionally.


Sabbi continues his rise


Emmanuel Sabbi has taken some important steps in recent weeks with Le Havre in Ligue 1. Initially, he was viewed as a winger who could help defensively but after his two goal outing last month against Nice, he is showing himself to be very capable in Ligue 1 on both sides of the ball.

On Sunday, Sabbi played 70 minutes for Le Havre in a 3-1 win over Lyon that now has Lyon in the relegation zone while newly promoted Le Havre sits comfortably in midtable in 11th place.

Sabbi, 26, scored his third goal of the season in the 50th minute to put Le Havre up 2-0. On the play he took advantage of a defender who fell down and then moved into the box, beat another man, and hit a low shot inside the post to double Le Havre’s lead.

Sabbi, meanwhile, is pushing towards another USMNT call-up. The starting wingers are obvious with Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah. But after that group, it is open and some of the younger wing options like Paxten Aaronson and Kevin Paredes could shift down to the U-23 team.

Sabbi may or may not have sticking power with the U.S. team, but his athleticism is unique and he’s playing well. He just needs to keep it up.


Pulisic strong in solid AC Milan win

On Sunday, AC Milan enjoyed a great 3-1 win at home over Roma to remain in third place in Serie A. Christian Pulisic started and played 79 minutes when he was replaced by his USMNT teammate, Yunus Musah.

Pulisic had a very good game, was 5/6 on his dribbles and constantly put pressure on Roma’s defense. He was also involved in the opening goal from Yacine Adli.

At this point, what else can you say about Pulisic’s season? If he keeps it up, he should be in contention to make Serie A’s team of the season. He’s been that good.

As for Musah, he was inches away from having the best goal of his career after he entered the game. This would have been insanely special.

Musah might not start all the time, but he’s growing as a player much faster than he was at Valencia. There seems to be a real plan for him with Milan.


Dest shines for perfect PSV


PSV remained perfect on the Eredivisie season with 51 points through 17 games following a 3-1 win over an overmatched Excelsior on Sunday. All three of the team’s Americans played. Sergino Dest played the entire game at left back while Malik Tillman started and played 76 minutes and Ricardo Pepi replaced Luuk De Jong in the 76th minute after De Jong completed a hat trick to score all three PSV goals.

As for Dest, he was brilliant, and it was his 17th minute cross which found de Jong to head home the second goal. But it wasn’t just the assist, Dest put on a clinic and is playing on an entirely different level than the rest of the Eredivisie right now.

Tillman also had a good game and had a great chance in the 62nd minute when his shot was saved. After a tough start to the season, Tillman has found his way nicely into PSV’s starting XI where he is a regular contributor. It makes sense that PSV will try to exercise its option to buy on the loan for Bayern but such a move could be expensive. Earnie Stewart has some tough financial decisions on the loans from Dest and Tillman regardless of how well the pair have played.

As for Pepi, he’s doing well and is in a good position. He’s just behind a great forward right now in Luuk de Jong. He’s a longer-term option and sitting on the bench was always to be expected. But the club is certainly happy with is progress and knows eventually he will be asked to do more of the lifting as de Jong gets older.


Busio scores in big Venezia win


After a recent skid, Venezia is back into the automatic promotion spaces of Serie B after a 5-3 win over Sampdoria on Saturday.

U.S. U-23 midfielders Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio both had very strong games with Busio scoring in the 74th minute to pull Venezia ahead 4-3. It’s not often Busio scores off a header, but he managed to do so in this important moment.

Venezia moved ahead of Como on goal difference to move into second place. Serie B is a tough league and there is a lot of parity. This means every game can be a tough grind to get results. Busio and Tessmann are both having strong seasons together and it will be exciting to see them lead the U.S. U-23 team into the Olympics.


Yanks in England


It wasn’t an eventful weekend for Americans in England.

Antonee Robinson was the only American to feature in a limited slate of Premier League games. The USMNT left back went the distance for Fulham in a 1-0 loss on the road against Chelsea. Overall, he had some good moments and some tough moments with passing but wasn’t at fault for the penalty on the game’s only goal. Fulham remained in 13th place with the loss.

The Championship saw far more Americans involved in a full slate of games. Josh Sargent continued his comeback and started for Norwich in a 2-1 away win over Hull City. The 2022 USMNT World Cup forward played 60 minutes but didn’t have much of an impact with only 10 goals and 3/5 passing. He had one shot from outside the box.

Duane Holmes started for Preston North End in a 2-0 win over Bristol City. Unfortunately for the Georgia native, he was pulled at halftime (as part of a triple change) when the score was 0-0. William Keane came on in the second half and scored both of PNE’s goals.

West Brom defeated Blackburn 4-1 on Saturday with Daryl Dike playing the last 13 minutes plus stoppage time for West Brom. All the scoring had been completed by the time the Oklahoman came into the game, but Dike was dangerous again and a nightmare for Blackburn to handle. Thus far, he looks sharp in his comeback.

Reggie Cannon played the entire game for Queens Park Rangers in a 2-1 loss at home to Watford. The loss was undeserved as QPR controlled the game and created most of the opportunities. But QPR was wasteful and made some key mistakes to allow Watford to prevail. QPR now sits second from the bottom in the Championship. Despite this, Cannon played fairly well.

Haji Wright's injured adductor could continue to keep him on the sidelines for a few more weeks and he missed Coventry's 3-1 win over leaders Leicester City on Saturday.

Lynden Gooch is injured and missed Stoke City's 1-0 win over Rotherham United. Stoke City rose to 17th place with the win.


Yanks in the Bundesliga


On Sunday, Borussia Monchengladbach defeated Stuttgart 3-1 to move into 10th place. Joe Scally went the distance for M'Gladbach while Jordan Pefok came off the bench in the 66th minute and scored the final goal of the game in stoppage time to seal the victory.

Overall, it was a decent game from Scally who played right back as opposed to right centerback, which he had been playing. He didn't have many highlights in this game but also didn't make many mistakes.

As for Pefok, the goal was very fortunate as it came off a rebound off a shot which hit the post. Pefok wasn't expecting the ball to fall to him, but it did, and he reacted in time to find the goal. It reversed what was a rather pedestrian game from Pefok where he didn't have any other shot and was just 1/6 in winning his aerials.


Lennard Maloney went the distance for FC Heidenheim in a 1-1 away draw with Koln on Saturday (with Damion Downs not in the squad for Koln). Maloney was his usual self in covering a ton of ground (he led all players in distance covered) in the defensive midfield position in breaking up plays and helping limited what Koln could do in that area of the field.

Heidenheim sits remarkably in ninth place in the Bundesliga at the middle point of the season. Most people pegged them for an easy relegation but Frank Schmidtt (who has been the club's manager since 2007) continues to get the most out of his squad and pick off impressive results here and there.

Giovanni Reyna played the last two minutes plus stoppage time for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-0 away win over Darmstadt. The biggest question is whether this is the last time we see Reyna for BVB? It seems possible as rumors continue to swirl after his change of agents last week.

On Friday, Bayern Munich defeated Pellegrino Matarazzo's Hoffenheim 3-0 in Munich. John Brooks did not get off the bench for Hoffenheim - which fell to eighth in the league and has just one point from their last three games.

Paxten Aaronson did not get off the bench and Timmy Chandler was hurt for Eintracht Frankfurt in an impressive 1-0 away win over Leipzig. Eintracht climbed to sixth place with the win.

Kevin Paredes was injured and did not play for 11th-place Wolfsburg on Saturday in a 1-1 away draw with Mainz. 


Yanks in Spain


Celta Vigo continued to move away from the relegation zone and is now two points into safety following a 1-1 away draw with Mallorca on Friday. Luca de la Torre has seen a decrease in his minutes, which is not good for him, and the San Diego native came off the bench and played just the last 10 minutes in the game. During his brief run, he had just four touches and was 3/3 in his passing. It's a situation that could be tough for him given the team's subpar seasons since he arrived. That is certainly not his fault, but it will lead to more experimenting - and that puts every player into jeopardy with regards to playing time.

Fresh off arriving from Internacional in Brazil, Johnny Cardoso was given the No. 4 jersey and was in the squad for Real Betis on Saturday in a 1-0 win over relegation battling Granada. It was a great sign to see the USMNT defensive midfielder on the bench fresh off joining.

The good news for Cardoso, 21, is that Real Betis is plagued with injuries at the moment and it has left the seventh-place club scrambling for options. Cardoso will certainly be given a look sooner than later.

In the Segunda, Jonathan Gomez went the distance at left back for Mirandes in a 0-0 away draw with Alcorcon. The draw left Mirandes in 13th place but Gomez had a strong game. For the former Louisville City left back, he has begun to turn the corner in Spain and is playing well in the second tier. The push is on for him to make the U.S. U-23 Olympic team, but the left back pool on that team is deep with John Tolkin, Caleb Wiley, and George Bello all pushing for a spot.

On Friday, Eibar defeated Racing Santander to move into fifth place. Konrad de la Fuente played the final six minutes of the win (he entered just after Eibar scored its second goal and he had a nice chance late).


Yanks Elsewhere


In Ligue 1, Monaco dropped a 3-1 decision at home to Stade de Reims to fall to fourth place in France's top tier. Folarin Balogun came into the game to start the second half for Monaco but didn't play well against his former team. He didn't connect well with his teammates and had just 10 touches, one shot (inside the box which was saved) and was 4/7 in passing. Balogun has just one goal in his last 10 Ligue 1 appearances and is in a tough run of form lately.

In Portugal's top tier, Alex Mendez came off the bench to start the second half for Vizela in a 4-1 loss at home to Boavista. Mendez played well but could not help his struggling team get a needed result. Vizela sits second from the bottom and are two points deep in the automatic relegation zone. Mendez should get opportunities to move forward as the club needs to change things. Mendez needs to find a way to be part of the solution - otherwise he faces a murky future if the club are relegated.

Also in Portugal, Benji Michel and Arouca visit Vitoria Guimaraes on Monday.

In Greece's Super League, Caleb Stanko came off the bench in the 71st minute for eighth place Lamia in a 2-0 loss at home to ninth place Panserraikos. It was 1-0 when the former FC Cincinatti defensive midfielder came into the game.

Also in Greece, Joe Efford played the second half for PAS Giannina in a 4-0 loss on the road to leaders PAOK. PAS Giannina is even on points for last place with just goal differential keeping them out of the basement.

In Italy's Serie B, Andrija Novakovich played all 90 minutes for Lecco in a 5-3 loss away to Catanzaro in Southern Italy. Novakovich scored his fifth goal of the season in the 55th minute to equalize the game at 3-3, but it was not enough for a result and Lecco fell to 16th place (relegation playoffs). The good news is that after a tough season with Venezia, Novakovich is back to being effective in Serie B.

Also in Serie B, Palermo dropped a 2-0 decision away to Cittadella in Padua. Kristoffer Lund started and played 77 minutes for Palermo and had a decent outing, but Palermo continue to skid in their automatic promotion hopes as they fell to seventh place, six points behind Venezia for second place (the last automatic promotion). It seems more and more likely they will be in the promotional playoff rounds.

In the Eredivisie, Agustin Anello was not in the squad for Sparta Rotterdam which defeated Fortuna Sittard 2-0 on the road. The same could be said for Anthony Fontana who also did not make the bench for PEC Zwolle, which defeated Heerenveen 2-2. On Sunday, Taylor Booth made the bench for FC Utrecht but did not play as his team played Vitesse to a 0-0 away draw.

The younger Booth brother, Zack Booth, did play however for Volendam in a 1-0 loss at home to Almere City. Booth started and was removed in the 63rd minute as Volendam remained in last place in the Eredivisie with 11 points from 17 games.

In Mexico, the Clausura opened over the weekend.

Brandon Vazquez was not yet in the squad for Monterrey, which defeated Puebla 2-0 at home on Saturday.

Apertura champions Club America defeated Tijuana 2-0 away with two late goals in the 89th and 90+4. USMNT attacking midfielder/winger Alex Zendejas came into the game in the 89th minute and assisted to Salvador Reyes for the opening and winning goal.

Club legend Joe Corona returned to Tijuana and was announced on Friday. He was an unused substitute in this game. Despite the loss, Tijuana outplayed Club America for long stretches in this game.

Former U.S. U-20 midfielder Fernando Arce played 90 minutes for Necaxa in a 2-0 win over Atlas on Sunday.

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