Americans Abroad 2019-20: USMNT Players in Spotlight Across Europe
With the start of the new European seasons either already underway or around the corner, it's time to take stock of where the top Americans abroad are playing, what their season outlooks are like and how those seasons will impact their roles with the U.S. men's national team as it builds toward 2022 World Cup qualifying. On the road to Qatar 2022, there's Olympic qualifying (for the Under-23 crowd), the first Concacaf Nations League and another Gold Cup, but time moves fast in World Cup cycles, and the competition for places for both club and country should serve as ample motivation for all.
There's a wide swath of American talent overseas, with everyone from prospects on the rise, to stars hoping to hit their stride, to veterans on the downslope of their careers–not to mention two managers in prominent places, with Jesse Marsch at RB Salzburg and David Wagner at Schalke.
Here's a deep look at all of the above as the sun rises on a new set of club campaigns:
Top 10 in the spotlight
Christian Pulisic, MF, Chelsea
No U.S. player carries the burden of high expectations more than Pulisic. Fair or not (spoilers: not), he'll be compared to Eden Hazard, given the $73 million Chelsea spent to sign him from Dortmund before it sold its Belgian superstar to Real Madrid. Pulisic can't be counted on to be a like-for-like replacement, and he's already tried to downplay any comparisons, but his production numbers will need to increase from what he put forth at Dortmund in the last couple of seasons. Pulisic will be 21 in September, and while his potential and skill are unquestioned, Chelsea and its oh-so-patient supporter base will demand immediate impact on the scoresheet. He deserves a grace period to transition to a new club, league, city and manager, but the heat is on for Pulisic to validate his price tag.
Tyler Adams, MF, RB Leipzig
Adams was a smash hit in his first half season in the Bundesliga, but injuries plagued him at the end of it, and he's still carrying some fitness woes into the new year. Gregg Berhalter's plan to play him at right back with the national team doesn't maximize his abilities as a midfield motor, but it's clear that's where Leipzig sees his strengths. Playing under Julian Nagelsmann for a team that's qualified for the Champions League should only help the 20-year-old Adams continue to thrive in Germany.
Weston McKennie, MF, Schalke
McKennie just signed a new long-term deal with Schalke this summer, but it's still a big season ahead for the 20-year-old. He had an up-and-down Gold Cup experience as part of Berhalter's double-No. 10 setup, and he returns to Schalke, which has used him in a variety of positions during his time with the first team. He'll be performing under the German-American coach Wagner, which makes for one of the more intriguing Americans Abroad stories of the season.
Josh Sargent, F, Werder Bremen
Sargent is coming off a learning experience of a summer. Omitted from the USA's U-20 World Cup team to take a place on the Gold Cup squad, Sargent didn't wind up making the 23-man cut. It was a baffling turn of events for a player widely pegged to be the future up top for the U.S. In Berhalter's defense, Sargent's playing time dwindled to non-existent levels at the end of the Werder Bremen season, as he fizzled out after his hot start with the first team in the winter. If he wasn't good enough to make the cut, then so be it, but it still felt like a missed opportunity to help cultivate the talent of a special player. Sargent instead turned his focus to his club's preseason, where he has said that he's seen the positives of missing out on the summer competition. He scored goals in consecutive friendlies–and nearly made it three straight–and could be poised for a bigger breakout in 2019-20. That would give Berhalter no choice but to keep him in frame for the senior team.
Tim Weah, F, Lille
Weah has remained in France after leaving PSG, but the same question that plagued him in Paris follows him to his new destination: Will he play? Weah, understandbly, couldn't crack a PSG squad with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria and was sent to Celtic for the second half of the season. He endured a mixed spell in Scotland prior to showing out in the U-20 World Cup. Like with Sargent, it's a big season for the 19-year-old to make The Leap and become a first-team contributor at his club, so he can then do so at the national team level with regularity.
Tyler Boyd, F, Besiktas
Boyd parlayed a positive loan spell with Ankaragucu into a full transfer to Besiktas, returning to Turkey with one of the Super Lig's most preeminent teams. There will be pressure to perform in Istanbul, and if the 24-year-old New Zealand-born winger can rise to the occasion, that will certainly benefit the national team. He impressed in spurts with the U.S. this summer, and a consistent season at a stronger club that figures to challenge for the title would do wonders. He had two assists in a recent friendly off the bench in what was his first action for the club.
DeAndre Yedlin, D, Newcastle
Yedlin's last season was cut short by a groin injury, which required surgery and kept him out of the Gold Cup. Now, he'll hope to be fit enough to win a place under a new manager, with Steve Bruce replacing Rafa Benitez for Newcastle. Even if he does, it's unclear what it will mean for his national team prospects, with Berhalter indicating he views the 26-year-old Yedlin more as a winger than as a right back in his system.
Zack Steffen, GK, Fortuna Dusseldorf
Steffen was officially sold to Man City this summer and then promptly loaned to Fortuna Dusseldorf. He was never going to supplant Ederson as Man City's starter, and a loan always figured to be in the cards. Returning to Germany, where he began his pro career with Freiburg, gives Steffen a chance to show the progress he has made after his early stumbles following his departure from the University of Maryland. The U.S. No. 1 will compete with German veteran Michael Rensing for the starting job.
Duane Holmes, MF, Derby County
Holmes was one of the few bright spots for the U.S. in its underwhelming pre-Gold Cup friendlies before suffering a quadriceps strain that forced him to withdraw before the competition. He helped Derby nearly secure promotion to the Premier League a season ago and will be looking for more of the same in a vital attacking role in England's second tier. If his brief showing this summer proved anything, it's that there's room for a player with his skillset and technical ability on the national team.
John Brooks, D, Wolfsburg
Like Yedlin, Brooks was forced to miss the Gold Cup with an injury, preventing him from taking a starring role in leading the U.S. back line. Another strong Bundesliga season would help his cause, and there's no denying the 26-year-old center back's ability, but it's hard to know what the U.S. has in Brooks given his penchant for injuries and inconsistency when wearing the U.S. shirt.
In need of some progress
Matt Miazga, D, Reading
Miazga will spend more time with Reading after landing there for the second half of last season as part of Chelsea's loan army. The 24-year-old center back was largely a second-choice option at the Gold Cup, and in order to leap the likes of Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman, he'll need to refine his game during England's lengthy Championship season.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, D, Tottenham
Carter-Vickers needs a move, whether it's permanent or another loan. It's clear he's not close to being part of Mauricio Pochettino's inner circle in the back for Spurs, and a poorly timed injury didn't help his cause when it kept him from Tottenham's preseason preparations. Long tabbed to be a next top option at center back for the U.S., CCV has been reduced to three loan spells and missing out on the national team for the Gold Cup over the last two years. He's still just 21, but this season feels like it's clouded with more urgency for the English-born defender to get on the right and stable path.
Antonee Robinson, D, Wigan
Robinson secured a permanent move to Wigan after faring well on loan there from Everton. The 21-year-old has not looked good against solid competition on the international level, but have you seen the USA's depth chart at left back? Improvement this season would put the attack-minded Robinson back in frame, and perhaps the Nations League this fall is an opportunity to see if he has what it takes to be a more regular international contributor.
Tim Ream, D, Fulham
Speaking of the USA's left backs: Ream has been filling in as a makeshift fullback despite his regular role as a center back. At this point, he is what he is. He's 31, sound in some areas, shaky in others and a late-career renaissance isn't likely. But helping Fulham contend for promotion back to the Premier League would certainly help his cause to stay in the international picture for a bit longer.
Shaq Moore, D, Tenerife
Moore just secured a transfer from Levante to Tenerife, where he'll play in Spain's second division. The USA's fullback cupboard is not overflowing, so the 22-year-old right back with five caps to his name should have his opportunities, provided this move works out better than the failed loan to cash-strapped Reus Deportiu, which crippled his season.
Kenny Saief, MF, Anderlecht
Saief had his largely fruitless (one goal, two assists) loan to FC Cincinnati cut short after suffering a hamstring injury and has returned to Belgium, where Vincent Kompany is now his teammate and coach. The 25-year-old needs a clean bill of health in order to go on a resurgent run that puts him back on the radar.
Ethan Horavth, GK, Club Brugge
Steffen is the leader for U.S. starting duties, but any inability to secure playing time on loan would open up the door for Horvath, who became Brugge's go-to backstop last season. More Champions League action could be in the cards for Horvath this season in Belgium, with Brugge in the play-in rounds (vs. Dynamo Kiev, Aug. 6 and 13).
Andrija Novakovich, F, Reading
The Wisconsin-born forward scored plenty on loan with Fortuna Sittard (nine goals) in the Eredivisie last season and Telstar (19) in Netherlands' second tier the season before but couldn't quite turn that into prime opportunities with the U.S. under Dave Sarachan's watch, and he's been left out ever since Berhalter took over. The 22-year-old, 6-foot-4 forward returned to his parent club, where he'll have to fight for playing time in order to catch the U.S. manager's eye. The dearth of top target strikers means a strong run of form should do the trick.
Julian Green, F, Greuther Furth
The 2014 World Cup lightning rod played his way back onto the U.S. radar momentarily in 2018 before retreating and finds himself at an inflection point. Now 24, Green is no longer a potential-filled Bayern Munich prospect but instead a piece of the puzzle at a 2. Bundesliga club with seven goals to his name over the last two seasons.
Jonathan Klinsmann, GK, St. Gallen
Jurgen's 22-year-old son left Hertha Berlin for Switzerland's top flight, where he'll aim to secure more playing time and keep his place on the U-23 depth chart for Olympic qualifying. That may be difficult to do, though, with Austrian Dejan Stojanovic the incumbent starter. Klinsmann was on the bench for St. Gallen's first two games this season.
Lynden Gooch, MF, Sunderland
Gooch, 23, has earned sporadic national team looks during his rise with Sunderland, where he's been a fixture. But with the Black Cats mired in League One, it's not really a showcase to launch him to the top of the U.S. depth chart, and he faces an uphill climb to end an international appearance drought that extends to a May 2018 friendly vs. Bolivia.
Joe Gyau, MF, MSV Duisburg
Gyau returned to the national team for the first time in over four years with his stint before the Gold Cup, marking an impressive landmark in his continued climb back. His club was relegated to Germany's third division, though, and he claimed in June that he was weighing other offers in MLS and Europe. Wherever the 26-year-old winger winds up, he'll need it to result in consistent, productive minutes in order to stay on the U.S. radar.
Marlon Fossey, D, Fulham
Fossey, 20, was part of Berhalter's 40-man preliminary squad for the Gold Cup and took part in the combined USMNT/U-23 pre-Gold Cup camp. Cracking Fulham's first team after its drop to the second-tier Championship would go a long way in ensuring future call-ups follow for the right back.
Bobby Wood, F, Hamburg
Fabian Johnson, MF, Borussia Monchengladbach
Geoff Cameron, D, QPR
Eric Lichaj, D, Hull City
Remember them? Johnson, who was linked to FC Cincinnati a year ago, is in a contract year, while Wood is coming off an atrocious campaign on loan at Hannover and is back at Hamburg, buried on the depth chart. The international futures aren't very bright, but rejuvenations at the club level can bring just about anyone back in frame. Cameron could put that theory to the test, though, after his scathing comments of Bruce Arena following his omission from the USA's lineup on the fateful night in Couva in 2017. At 34, he's essentially playing out the string of his career on the club level, doing so with QPR after securing a permanent move following his successful loan spell from Stoke City. Joining him in England's second tier is Lichaj, the 30-year-old fullback who was just named Hull City captain but never was able to seize a regular place on the national team in his prime years.
Stars on the rise
The U.S. youth national teams–largely the U-20s–are littered with European-based talents. Here are the ones whose times could come sooner than later with their clubs.
Giovanni Reyna, MF, Borussia Dortmund
Reyna has drawn rave reviews since officially joining Dortmund this summer. Just 16, the son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna has taken over as Dortmund's cherished American prospect after Pulisic's departure. Those are big shoes to fill, but everything about Reyna's projected trajectory suggests he'll be well on his way, especially given Dortmund's track record of cultivating young, skilled talent.
Richie Ledezma, MF, PSV
Ledezma has earned recent praise from PSV U-19 coach Ruud van Nistelrooy, which bodes well for his prospects at the Dutch club. He was largely a reserve at the U-20 World Cup, playing just 85 minutes in Poland, but the potential is there for the 18-year-old to be a midfield difference-maker down the line.
Chris Richards, D, Bayern Munich
Bayern is moving on from its veteran core in defense, with Mats Hummels returning to Dortmund and Jerome Boateng's future still in the balance. Richards isn't quite poised to seize a first-team role, but the 19-year-old Alabama native showed well at the U-20 World Cup and has drawn glowing reviews from Bayern personnel since his arrival from FC Dallas. Regardless of whether he goes on loan or plays for Bayern's reserves, his future remains bright.
Chris Gloster, D, Hannover
Sebastian Soto, F, Hannover
Both players were among the USA's best at the U-20 World Cup, with Gloster starring at left back and Soto scoring four goals as a lead striker. Both are also said to be eyeing options away from Hannover, which was relegated after last season. PSV has reportedly come in hard for Gloster, while Dortmund was reported to be interested in Soto. It's important that both sort out their situations sooner than later–they've begun the new 2. Bundesliga season with Hannover–given the difficulties that come with breaking into a new squad, but both clearly have the potential to excel.
Sergino Dest, D, Ajax
Dest had an adventure of a U-20 World Cup, exposed in defense at times but excelling when pushing forward, and he appears to be on a strong path at Ajax, which is no stranger to giving opportunities to young, deserving players. Given all the turnover at the club after its run to the Champions League semifinals, perhaps there's a first-team opening that the 18-year-old fullback can seize. He earned the start in Ajax's Dutch Super Cup win over PSV this past weekend to make his senior team debut, which is as good an indicator as any of what could be to come.
Alex Mendez, MF, Freiburg
The attacking spark isn't shy at showcasing his penchant for trying the spectacular, and with a dangerous shot from distance and off set pieces, he's one of the more intriguing attacking pieces in the U.S. pipeline.
Ulysses Llanez, MF, Wolfsburg
Llanez brought consistent production and energy off the bench at the U-20 World Cup and is one to watch rising through the ranks at the Bundesliga club.
Konrad de la Fuente, F, Barcelona
On one hand, de la Fuente didn't do much with his multiple opportunities at the U-20 World Cup. On the other hand, he just turned 18 this month. There's still a growth curve for the forward, who is nowhere near the Barcelona first team but is still a key part of its youth side.
Luca de la Torre, MF, Fulham
It's about that time for de la Torre to make his move at Fulham. With the club in the second tier after being relegated and de la Torre, who rose through the club's academy, now 21 and in a contract year, his long-term prospects with the Cottagers should materialize, for better or for worse.
Emmanuel Sabbi, F, Hobro
The 21-year-old forward ended last season in form and started the new one in Denmark with two goals in three games to keep the momentum going. Eligible to represent Italy, Ghana and the USA, Sabbi is firmly in the U-23 Olympic qualifying discussion.
Christian Cappis, MF, Hobro
Sabbi's teammate, Cappis, is another one in the Olympic qualifying picture, and the 19-year-old former FC Dallas academy product has appeared in all three of Hobro's games to start the season, making a start in the most recent one. In his previous two appearances, he came off the bench for the waning seconds, but he managed to assist on a game-tying goal in one of them. Hobro will be one of the low-key important clubs to watch from an American standpoint for the coming year.
Jonathan Amon, F, Nordsjaelland
Like Sabbi and Cappis, Amon plays in Denmark. He's already earned looks with the full senior national team and is also likely to be a big part of the U-23 picture. He didn't play in Nordsjaelland's opening games of the season, but he's shown his flair, speed and knack for getting forward in his brief time with the U.S.
Haji Wright, F, VVV Venlo
Wright departed Schalke, where first-team minutes were at a premium, for the Eredivisie, where Americans have previously enjoyed success and where the goals tend to flow a bit more. The 21-year-old could help his Olympic qualifying cause with a bright start to life at his new club.
Brady Scott, GK, Cologne
Scott started three of the USA's five games at the U-20 World Cup but doesn't figure to factor into the first-team picture for Cologne this season with veterans Timo Horn and Thomas Kessler still in the fold. Still, the goalkeeper pipeline isn't exactly overflowing, and staying sharp with the club's reserve team could still aid in the 20-year-old's progression.