Americans Abroad

Sabbi's huge day for Le Havre, Zendejas wins Liga MX, Tillman & Dest excellent, but many struggle

There was a lot to break down this weekend for Americans abroad and ASN's Brian Sciaretta has you covered - from the excellent in Emmanuel Sabbi, Sergino Dest, and Malik Tillman, to the plenty that strugged, including Matt Turner. Here are his thoughts and analysis. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 18, 2023
9:05 AM

THE WEEKEND for Americans abroad only had a few top performers, but the ones who managed to pay well were very impressive. Emmauel Sabbi saw the best game of his career to make a splash in Ligue 1 while Malik Tillman and Sergino Dest were big in keeping up PSV’s perfect start.

Alejandro Zendejas, meanwhile, was competent for Club America which won Liga MX over two legs against Tigres.

On the tougher side, Matt Turner has again put his starting job in question at Nottingham Forest. Venezia and its two Americans hurt their promotional race with a second straight loss. Celtic’s grip on the Premiership is sliding away. Union Berlin couldn’t build off a win and again look like a danger to be relegated.

Here are my thoughts on it all.


Sabbi’s big day


Few would argue that was not the best game of Emmanuel Sabbi’s career. The 2017 U.S. U-20 Word Cup veteran got a rare start for Le Havre (his first season for the club since joining from OB Odense in Denmark this summer) and score two goals in a huge 3-1 win over a Nantes team that sits second in Ligue 1. In addition, Sabbi’s pass set up the penalty for the team’s third goal which was converted by Mohamed Bayo.

Sabbi was all over the place in this game. His opening goal in the 5th minute came from him being in the right place at the right time after Nantes goalkeeper Marcin Bulka coughed up a rebound. Still, it was Sabbi who also played a big role in the build up to the shot.


Then in the 35th minute, it was Sabbi who scored a truly wonderful goal when he got the ball in the box on the left side and hit a powerful ball inside the top corner of the far post for a stunning 2-0 lead.


Sabbi was brilliant in a great Le Havre win that moved it to ninth place. This was just Sabbi’s third start of the season and his first two goal contributions. He’s probably not on the national team radar just yet as it was just one game. But he’s earned himself more starts in the weeks ahead. His athleticism also gives him an opening to compete at a high level.

Now it is up to him to continue to be dangerous and continue to score/assist. If he does that, he will be one to watch in 2024.

This was a great game for him.


Tillman & Dest sharp in PSV Win


It’s hard to think of how PSV will drop points in the Eredivisie as they remain perfect with 48 points from 16 games following a 4-0 away win over fourth place AZ Alkmaar. The gap between PSV and everyone else in the league is wide.

In this game, Sergino Dest and Malik Tillman started for PSV while Djordje Mihailovic started for AZ. Tillman continues to be excellent as he drew a penalty for the opening goal (converted by Luuk de Jong in the ninth minute and assisted on a 16th minute goal scored by Dest to make it 3-0. Through the two Americans, PSV took AZ out of the game early.

The last three weeks have seen Tillman explode and play the best soccer of his young career.

Mihailovic struggled along with everyone on AZ early. He was partially at faut for PSV’s second goal. Mihailovic was one of three AZ players removed in the 36th minute (an the subs were no better).

Ricardo Pepi came into the game in the 69th when the game became an afterthought. For the other two Americans at PSV, it continued to be an excellent season in terms of their goals. Dest is resetting his career. Tillman is proving that he belongs at a high level (after a slow start to the season) and will have options. But it seems hard to imagine that PSV do not exercise the option to buy on the loan.

On top of that, they’re winning in the league and advancing in the Champions League.

As for Pepi, at some point he will get more starts. It’s a process and he has showcased  himself well in his minutes. It comes down to how long can de Jong go before he needs a rest.

For Mihailovic, he wasn’t good, but he was far from being the worst problem for AZ. They just lost to a PSV team that is better and came out playing great. AZ is still in position to compete for a solid finish in the Eredivisie.


Turner’s mistake


After emerging as the starting goalkeeper at the begging of the season, Matt Turner eventually lost the job to Odysseas Vlachodimos after as series of mistakes. But the Greek No. 1 failed to impress and lost the job after a 5-0 loss to Fulham.

Last week, Turner reclaimed the starting job and had a decent performance in a 1-1 draw with Wolves. But it’s safe to say that his grip on the starting job is tenuous, at best. On Friday, he made a mistake that a Premier League goalkeeper just can’t make in a 2-0 loss to Tottenham.

The truth is that Turner had been playing well up to that point with a few very nice saves. But this pass out of the back was a mess.

It comes at a bad time when Nottingham Forest is skidding towards relegation. They now have just one point from their last six games and are five points clear of the relegation zone. Nottingham Forest is still five points clear of the relegation zone but it’s a bad situation.

As for Turner, he very well might lose his starting job again. Both Turner and Vlachodimos are in danger of the club bringing in another keeper in January. It continues to be bad news for Forest and the USMNT who needs goalkeepers who are in form.


Yanks in the Premier League


Auston Trusty went the distance for last-place Sheffield United in a 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Trusty was decent in the game defensively although he did very little in his ability to pass out of the back. Sheffield United continues to be a team that doesn’t belong in the Premier League but is trying to scrap out results here and there to make it interesting. As for Trusty, is he doing enough to find a Premier League suitor should the team get relegated? No. Is he doing enough to be a valuable part of the mix next year in a bid to get promoted following a likely relegation? Yes.

Crystal Palace did well on Sunday in a surprise 2-2 draw away at Manchester City. Chris Richards did well in a full 90-minute effort for Palace. He started in defensive midfield but soon moved to right back due to an injury. He played extremely deep as only three of his 32 touches were in the attacking half (and two of those were just beyond the midfield line). It wasn’t a performance where he stood out, but he was still playing an important role in an game where his team earned an unexpected and impressive point.

Fulham dropped a 3-0 decision to Newcastle on the road on Saturday. Tim Ream is injured and will miss a few more weeks. Antonee Robinson went 90 minutes for Fulham but there was little he or Fulham could do after they were reduced to 10 men in the 22nd minute following Raul Jimenz’s dismissal. From there, Newcastle just picked them apart.


Yanks in the Championship

On Friday, David Wagner and Norwich played to a 2-2 draw on the road with surprising second-palce Ipswich Town. The former USMNT forward has his team in 10th place heading into the Christmas season.

It was a brutal day for Preston North End on Saturday as they dropped a 5-1 decision at home to Watford. Duane Holmes came into the game for PNE in the 58th when his team was down 4-1 and there was nothing he could do at that point. Despite the result, PNE still sit a respectable eighth place but it’s now an issue if this loss has hurt their confidence.

Sheffield Wednesday defeated QPR 2-1 on Saturday in a relegation battle six pointer. Reggie Cannon was subbed out at the half with QPR up 1-0. It proved to be a disaster as QPR collapsed late, lost, and saw their four-game unbeaten run end. QPR is still two points deep in the relegation zone. Despite this, Cannon still has been a big net positive for QPR over the past month and has helped the club climb. After a tough start midweek in a 0-0 draw with Plymouth Argyle, Charlie Kelman was not in the squad for QPR.

On Saturday, Leeds United and Coventry played to a 1-1 draw. USMNT forward Haji Wright has been playing well but was on the bench for this game due to squad rotation heading into the busy Christmas time. He came off the bench in the 67th minute and was just 3/4  in passing with no shots. He had little impact the game. Coventry now sit in 15th place in the Championship.

Finally in England’s second tier. West Brom and Stoke City played to a 1-1 draw and the opening goal came from Lynden Gooch. The American, who now plays as a right back, hit a cross that likely accidentally went into the goal. He ended up going 90 minutes as Stoke City now sit 19th place and need to pick things up to avoid a relegation battle.


Yanks in the Bundesliga


On Friday, Borussia Monchengladbach and Werder Bremen played to a 2-2 draw. Joe Scally played the entire game on the left side of a three-man backline for M’Gladbach and he was the only American to feature as Jordan Pefok is still injured.

Overall, it wasn’t a great outing for Scally who tried to get forward despite being in a three-man backline. But Scally should have done better on the Werder’s opening goal via Rafael Borre. Scally along with Franck Honorat failed to pick him up and left Borre open. The first equalizer from M’Gladbach, however, was started by a free kick from Scally that led to a loose ball that was finished by Rocco Reitz.

But overall, Scally didn’t win a single duel, aerial, or tackle in this game and Gladbach sit in 11th place.

On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund travelled to Augsburg and played to a 1-1 draw. Gio Reyna came into the game in the 58th minute with the scoring already over. He completed 22/23 passing but didn’t have much of an impact in this game.

It was a very disappointing outing for Union Berlin which was coming off its first win since September last weekend against Borussia Monchengladbach. Travelling to Bochum, Union Berlin were easily defeated 3-0 in a game where they should have been competitive. Brenden Aaronson came into the game in the 74th minute with Union Berlin already down 2-0. Union Berlin are now only safe due to the second tiebreaker of goals scored. This week they host FC Koln in a huge six pointer.

Wolfsburg came away with a big away win on Saturday when they traveled to last-place Darmstadt and came away with a 1-0 win. This was made even more impressive given that Wolfsburg were down to 10 men in the 27th minute when the score was 0-0. This changed the team’s game plans and Kevin Paredes only came into the game in the 87th minute to defend and cover ground as his team was exhausted. Paredes did his job and helped see out the win for ninth-place Wolfsburg.

The big issue for Paredes is whether he makes the Copa America team this summer or if U.S. Soccer attempts to bring him into the Olympic team where he likely starts and plays a bigger role. There are pros and cons with each decision.

FC Heidenheim has won two in a row after Saturday's 1-0 away win over Mainz. Few Bundesliga pundits gave Heidenheim any chance of staying up, but the team is picking off enough results here and there to give themselves a real chance. After a bad outing last weekend (which included an own goal), Lennard Maloney remained in the starting lineup for Heidenheim and played deep in this game. None of his 41 touches were in the final third but he was strong defensively in winning his duels, clearing the ball from danger, and being a physical presence in the middle to disrupt Mainz’s attempt to go up the middle.

Maloney might not have much staying power with the national team. He’s limited in his skillset, and he doesn’t fit into every system. But he has clearly found a role at Heidenheim and the fact he started this game after a tough game shows that he’s very important and is not just a fringe player.

On Saturday, RB Leipzig defeated Hoffenheim 3-1, and John Brooks went a full 90 in the loss for Hoffenheim. Brooks still played well with his distribution out of the back and in making seven clearances. This was just a case of third-place Leipzig being better than seventh-place Hoffenheim, who are managed by New Jersey’s own Pellegrino Matarazzo. For Brooks, it’s been a good first half of the season.

After the game, it was announced that Emil Forsberg has been transferred to the New York Red Bulls. Forsberg came off the bench in this game and scored the team’s second goal in the 70th minute.

Elsewhere, Freiburg defeated FC Koln 2-0 but German-American forward Damion Downs, 19, was not part of Koln’s squad.

Bundesliga leading Bayer Leverkusen defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 but neither Paxten Aaronson nor Timothy Chandler were part of the squad for Eintracht.


Yanks in the 2.Bundesliga


On Friday, Greuther Furth played Schalke to a 2-2 away draw. Furth had to score two equalizing goal in this one after falling behind twice. For Greuther Furth, Julian Green went 90 minutes in central midfield and Maximillian Dietz also went the distance on the left side of a three-man backline. Green’s most dangerous moment came in the 27th minute when his shot from 23 yards forced a diving stop. But he also was 52/59 in his passing and 6/8 in his long balls. With two straight draws, Furth have fallen to fifth despite not having lost in seven games.

On Saturday, Eintracht Braunschweig defeated Kaiserslautern in a matchup between two relegation battling teams. U.S. U-23 forward Johan Gomez had a MOTM performances that included scoring the winning goal in 62nd minute. He ended up going 83 minutes and was dangerous throughout in probably the best outing of his career. Meanwhile, Terreence Boyd started and went 64 minutes for Kaiserslautern. Boyd struggled but so did everyone else on FCK which is having a terrible run with what is now six straight defeats.

Braunschweig is still in the relegation zone, three points from the playoff position. Meanwhile, FCK is only north of the playoff position by a point.

On Sunday, St. Pauli played Wehen Wiesbaden to a 1-1 draw. With the result, St. Pauli, who are managed by Houston-born Fabian Hurzeler, fell out of first place and trail Holstein Kiel by two points. This is the third straight draw for Hurzeler’s team which needs wins for the promotion hunt.


Yanks in Serie A


On Friday, Juventus travelled to Genoa and played to a disappointing 1-1 draw with the midtable club. Weston McKennie continued to start and play the distance for Juventus while Tim Weah returned from injury and played the final 22 minutes.

Overall, it wasn’t a performance for either to remember. McKennie was still his scrappy self and that was useful at times, but he didn’t have enough moments where he was dangerous. Weah’s shift was decent for a player who has missed nearly two months.

On Sunday, Christian Pulisic played well for AC Milan in a 3-0 win over Monza while Yunus Musah missed the game due to “muscle fatigue” – which sounded more like squad rotation. It was a good game for Pulisic who technically had an assist on a wonderful individual effort from Tijani Reijnders. Just minutes before, Pulisic nearly had a more impressive assist to Oliver Giroud, who couldn’t finish from close range. In the 49th, Pulisic was again strong in transition and had a shot from the edge of the box saved.

With the win, Milan remained in third place and closed the gap between them and second-place Juventus to five points after the Juve draw. Despite a few tough games, it continues to be an excellent season for Pulisic who is finally happy after leaving Chelsea.


Yanks in Serie B


On Saturday, Venezia lost at home to Sudtirol by a 3-2 score. The good news is that the team’s American midfielders, Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann, played well. The bad news, however, is that this loss hurts. With two losses in a row, the team has blown a chance to move atop Serie B and still trials Parma by two points. Venezia can get promoted, but they can ill afford to lose at home.

On Venezia’s first goal, a scramble after a corner kick, Busio was credited with an assist although it might not have been intentional. Tessmann had three shots, was 5/7 on dribbles, 7/12 in ground duels, and 3/3 in aerials.

But it was a bad game overall from Venezia. The keeper should have saved the first Sudtirol goal. The second goal was a dumb pass to the goalkeeper that was intercepted. The final goal was a careless penalty.

Kristoffer Lund had a good outing on Saturday as he went 76 minutes at left back for Palermo in a 3-2 win over Pisa. Pisa went down to 10 players in the 61st minute and Lund left with the score 2-2. The USMNT backup left back did not have a major impact on the game, but he was mistake-free and competent. Palermo moved into seventh place with the win.

Andrija Novakovich started and played all 90 minutes for Lecco in a 3-2 loss at home to Ternana. With two losses in a row, Lecco has fallen to 19th place in the 20-team league.


Yanks in France


On Friday, Monaco suffered a bad 1-0 loss to Lyon at home after conceding a late 85th minute goal. USMNT forward Folarin Balogun played the full game for Monaco and had five shots in this game and three were on target – all were saved (in the 12th, 37th, and 63rd minute). He was very active in this game but also very wasteful. His teammates were as well and Balogun created two good chances (one in each half). But this was a tough loss for Monaco which could have climbed into second with a win.

Despite the loss, Balogun is not far from putting it all together and being a big time player for Monaco. He’s learning and his teammates are learning more about him. That’s part of the problem with him and the national team, so far. It takes awhile for teammates to get on the same page as him. 


Yanks in Belgium


Three U-23 Olympic eligible Yanks started on Friday in battle between two teams in a relegation battle in Belgium on Friday. For Westerlo, Griffin Yow played 81 minutes at right wing while Bryan Reynolds went the full 90 in a 2-0 win over Eupen where Gaga Slonina was in goal and made two saves.

It wasn’t a noteworthy game for any of the American players. Slonina’s only big save came in the 37th minute when he stopped a Jordan Bos shot from near the penalty spot. The two goals were not his fault as one came from a penalty and the other was off a deflection that went over his head.

Yow had five shots as he tried to make things happen. He was active and played with energy, but wasn’t on the scoresheet. Reynolds, meanwhile, was competent at right back playing defense and winning duels very effectively. Offensively, he had one pass in the second half that sprung a dangerous chance for Westerlo.

Westerlo has been climbing the standings lately and is now out of the relegation playoff positions. Meanwhile, Eupen fell to third from the bottom and has just two points from six games.

On Sunday, Mark McKenzie went the full 90 for Genk in a 4-0 win over last-place Kortrijk. This game was a total blowout and McKenzie was not tested much defensively. He still was important in possession and in distribution as he had 102 touches and was 81/89 in passing (4/6 in long balls). With that in mind, he was helpful for Genk to pressure Kortijk and play a high defensive line. Genk remained in fifth-place with the win.

Alex Mighten came into the game in the 86th minute for Kortijk after all scoring was completed. It was a thankless task in what is a terrible season for Kortrijk, with relegation almost certainly on the horizon. They have just 10 points from 13 games.

Kahveh Zahiroleslam injured his shoulder and will miss a few weeks. He did not take part in eighth-place  St. Truiden’s 3-0 loss to RWD Molenbeek.

Marlon Fossey played 79 minutes at right wingback for Standard Liege in a 0-0 draw with Sporting Charleroi on Sunday. It was mostly a lackluster outing for Fossey.

Sam Vines is still out for Royal Antwerp and he missed his club’s 1-1 draw with Anderlecht.


Yanks in the Netherlands


In the Eredivisie, Taylor Booth came off the bench and played the last 27 minutes for FC Utrecht in a 1-1 draw with RKC Waalwijk. All the scoring was complete after Booth entered the game and Utrecht’s unbeaten run was extended to eight games (although this was a disappointing result not to win).

The younger Booth brother, Zach Booth, started and picked up an assist in the 51st minute for Volendam against Heerenveen. He also started the play with an interception before feeding it to L Zeefulk for the goal. That gave Volendam a 2-0 lead in what turned out to be a 2-1 win on the road. For Booth, 19, this was the best outing of his young career and the win gave Volendam a pulse as they are now three points from the relegation playoff position and four-points from safety. They have always been considered favorites to be relegated but if they can play this well, they could push for survival.

For both Booth brothers, the U.S. Olympic team is likely the goal. Taylor has been a favorite to make the team, but he has cooled off in 2023 and it could be a close call due to the small roster size. Zach will need to continue to start for Volendam and play well.

On Sunday, Sparta Rotterdam played Twente to a 2-2 draw and Agustin Anello was not in the matchday squad for Sparta. Also, PEC Zwolle played Ajax to a 2-2 draw and Anthony Fontana was an unused sub for PEC.

In the second tier Eerste Divisie, Justin Che was injured for ADO Den Haag’s 3-1 win over NAC Breda. Gedion Zelalem also did not play for FC Den Bosch in a 4-0 loss at home to DeGraafschap. The best news for Americans in the Eerste came from FC Dordrecht which defeated Telstar 2-0 despite going down to 10 men in the 12th minute. John Hilton went 90 minutes for Dordrecht and assisted on the second goal in the 89th minute. Former Orange County SC winger Korede Osundina went 89 minutes for Dordrecht (he is on loan from Feyenoord).


Yanks in Spain


Luca de la Torre did not start but he played the last 18 minutes for Celta Vigo in a big 1-0 win over 19th place Grenada that pushed Celta close to climbing out of the relegation zone (they are in the zone now only by goal differential). De la Torre’s outing was uneventful, as he had just five touches and was 2/3 in passing. The question is whether he is going to continue to ride the bench, or if this was just a matter of squad rotation.

On Sunday in the Segunda, Konrad de la Fuente was an unused substitute for sixth-place Eibar in a 1-0 loss to Alcorcon. Jonathan Gomez went the distance for 12th-place Mirandes in a 2-0 win over Albacete. According to local media, Gomez was strong in this game on both sides of the ball in helping his team get the win.


Yanks Elsewhere


In Scotland, Celtic lost its second Premiership game in a row following a 2-0 defeat at home to Hearts on Saturday. As a result, they lead Rangers by just five points while Rangers has played two fewer games. The Premiership is now a tossup.

Cameron Carter-Vickers
went the distance for Celtic which dominated possession and chances, but couldn’t avoid defeat. The USMNT defender was at fault for neither goal (the first was a corner kick and he was marking someone else and the second was a free kick). That being said, there is going to be a lot of pressure on Celtic in the coming games.

Also in the Premiership, last place Livingston played Kilmarnock to a 0-0 draw. Scott Pittman went 90 minutes for Livingston, which desperately needed a win.

Aberdeen lost to Rangers in the final of the Scottish Leagues Cup on Sunday with Dante Polvara coming off the bench in the 70th minute for Aberdeen. Rangers scored the winning goal minutes after Polvara came on.

In Croatia’s Eternal Derby, Hajduk Split played Dinamo Zagreb to a 0-0 draw in Zagreb. Rokas Pukstas, 19, went the distance for Hajduk, who were likely happy with the result as they sit atop the table and their rivals were unable to gain any ground while playing at home. Pukstas was not on the ball a lot but when he was, he was able to put pressure on Zagreb’s backline. He has been strong this season and looks to be one of the top American teenagers in the game right now.'

In Portugal, Benji Michel played the last six minutes for Arouca in a 3-0 win over Gil Vicente. Meanwhile, Alex Mendez made a rare starter for Vizela and played 67 minutes in a 1-1 draw away to Rio Ave. The 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup veteran left with his team up 1-0. But the draw saw Vizela remain near the bottom of the table – 17th out of 18 teams.

In Greece’s Super League, Caleb Stanko played the final nine minutes plus stoppage time for Lamia in a 2-1 loss at home to Volos. Lamia sits seventh in the Super League but have just one point from their last five games.

Elsewhere in Greece, Joe Efford did not play for PAS Giannina in a 4-2 loss to Kifisia and Erik Palmer-Brown was injured for Panathinaikos in a 3-2 loss away to Atromitos.

Club America won the Liga MX apertura title on Sunday night with a 3-0 win over Tigres. The first leg on Friday ended 1-1 and all three goals in the second leg were scored in extra time.

USMNT winger and former FC Dallas homegrown Alex Zendejas played 76 minutes in the second leg and played 89 minutes in the first leg to help earn this stitle for Club America.

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