This weekend wasn’t one of the epic series of days we had earlier in the season, but it did see a number of quiet but effective performances in wins. But then there was a terrific performances from Julian Green and an absolutely wonderful goal from Leon Flach, a teenager at struggling St. Pauli. 


BY

Brian Sciaretta



Posted

January 03, 2021

3:00 PM

THE FIRST WEEKEND of 2021 for Americans abroad saw steady playing time and some decent to very solid performances while mostly lacking in fireworks. Many of the games involving the top American players were generally decent but unspectacular. The biggest highlight came from a teenager in his debut in the 2.Bundesliga.

This wasn’t a full slate of games, however, as the Eredivisie, Belgian leagues, Austrian Bundesliga, Scandinavian leagues, Danish Leagues, and French Leagues were all out of action.

But there was still plenty of news to go around, even off the field from those leagues in question.

In Germany, former top ranked U.S. youth national team winger Nick Taitague is no longer with Schalke. 

In the Dutch second tier, U.S. national team forward Sebastian Soto played in the second half of Telstar’s 5-2 win over NEC Nijmegen. While he scored the team’s fourth goal, the reports out of England are strong that Championship leaders (who own Soto’s contract are loaning him to Telstar) are seeking a way to bring him to England this month. The obstacle of a work permit and the new rules post Brexit loom large.

 

In Austria, Brenden Aaronson formally arrived in Austria to join Red Bull Salzburg. The reigning Austrian Bundesliga champions purchased the U.S. national team midfielder from the Philadelphia Union in the fall but allowed him to finish the season with the Supporters Shield winners. It will mark the first American Jesse Marsch has coached in Europe. Red Bull Salzburg resumes its season on January 24th when it visits Altach.

 

COVID continues to be a dominant story with games frequently getting cancelled due to outbreaks within teams or sometimes teams playing shorthanded. Fulham, with Americans Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream, are just one of many examples. Others Americans affected were Geoff Cameron and Charlie Kelman at QPR who had their game cancelled over the weekend. The same with Andrija Novakovich at Frosinone in Serie B.

 

Green MOTM, Flach’s rocket

 

Julian Green continues to play well and have a nice season for Greuther Furth in a promotional race to earn a spot in the Bundesliga next season. On Saturday, the Florida-born U.S. World Cup veteran earned the start and scored a penalty as Greuther Furth earned a 2-1 victory over struggling St. Pauli that featured three German-Americans. Green for Furth along with Kevin Lankford and Leon Flach for St. Pauli.

Green, 25, was the best player on the field in this game and his 25th minute penalty (which was earned on St. Pauli handball) gave Greuther Furth a 1-0 lead. But Green was overall excellent and had a huge impact in this game with his passing and his winning of duels, and his huge number of touches.

Green’s numbers in this one were staggering along with his touch map which showed heavy involvement

While Lankford did not have much of an impact for St. Pauli, it was a huge personal achievement for Leon Flach who came off the bench in the 78th minute and scored in the 82nd minute to bring St. Pauli’s deficit to 2-1. The goal was an absolute rocket with his left foot and it was his first ever professional goal.

 

Flach, 19, has earned only token minutes off the bench and was expected to be a key part of the U.S. U-20 team this cycle but the cancellation of that World Cup will deny him a huge spotlight. Flach only U.S. call-up at any age came in January 2020 with the U.S. U-20 team and he had a strong camp.

ASN interviewed Flach from the U.S. U-20 camp last January where he spoke about making his U.S. debut after having previously played for German youth national teams. 

“It had always been in my mind that maybe I will play for the USA one day,” Flach explained. “I had already had invitations [with the U.S.], but it was always a bit difficult to get in here because two times I was injured and one time it was bad timing because of my graduation. Now I’m happy that everything was perfect with the timing. I’m happy to be here.”

The result of this game set the stage and posed questions for each of the Americans heading into the second half of the season. Furth has a genuine chance at promotion and now sits in third place – just one point from automatic promotion in 2nd and just two points off the top of the table. Can Green continue to be an impact player on a weekly basis? Furth is depending on him.

For Lankford and especially Flach, the club is three deep in automatic relegation and four points from automatic safety. Can they find ways to turn the tide for St. Pauli? If not, can they attract any kind of interest to avoid falling to the 3.Liga with the club?

 

Pulisic takes on Steffen

 

This game was expected to be a big one for American fans as Christian Pulisic earned the start, as expected, for Chelsea as it hosted Manchester City. Due to a COVID outbreak at City which affected goalkeeper Ederson, Zack Steffen earned his first Premier League start for the powerful club.

While Christian Pulisic once again was a rare bright spot for Chelsea, the Blues suffered a brutal first half and fell to 3-1 and now has just one win from its last six games. Steffen was rarely tested and surrendered a goal only in second half stoppage time.

Instead of on the Americans, the theme after this game was the job security of head coach Frank Lampard who has seen his team struggle mightily this season despite spending a quarter of a billion in 2020 to improve. With that level of expenditures, the club is clinging to a top 10 position on goal differential.

While no one at Chelsea is completely free from blame, Christian Pulsiic has been more effective than most on the team. He had some good moments but also some moments in the second half when he was forcing plays when they weren’t there and appeared frustrated. 14 dribble attempts is a huge number – especially when you should have quality teammates to combine with.

  • 90 minutes
  • 69 touches
  • 30/35 passing (86%)
  • 1 shot
  • 1 key pass
  • 13 duels won (9 lost)
  • 9 dribbles (14 attempts)
  • 3x fouled
  • 2 interceptions
  • 1 tackle


Chelsea’s primary problem is that its midfield is getting dominated by all decent clubs and it makes it hard for the forwards and wingers to get involved nearly as much.

For Steffen, it was a ideal first step in the Premier League. He had the chance to play in an environment with to of the world’s marquee teams but without the pressure of having to make huge saves that were the difference. He showed he is ready if called upon in these types of games.

 

Adams & Leipzig vs. Matarazzo & Stuttgart

 

On Saturday, Tyler Adams got the start for RB Leipzig in a visit to VfB Stuttgart, which has had a nice season under American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo fresh off promotion.

Adams, 21, continues to see his minutes fluctuate between his preferred central midfield and right back. In this game he started at right back and was quiet but competent. Sometimes when he plays right back, he cuts centrally to remain heavily involved. In this game, he stayed true to the right side and was solid defensively.

  • 80 minutes
  • 78 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 84.8% passing (50/59)
  • 1 dribble
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 tackle
  • 2 interceptions
  • 1 clearance
  • 1 cross
  • 1/3 long balls

 

It is tough for Adams as the club continues to win and manager Julian Nagelsmann is surely reluctant to make too many changes. The club is in second place in the Bundesliga and is just two points off leaders Bayern Munich.

It has been a tough stretch for Matarazzo and Stuttgart which has is in a challenging stretch of the season facing many of the top teams in the Bundesliga. Just before the break it was a 1-0 loss to Wolfsburg and now it is a 1-0 loss to Leipzig. Those results now has it fallen out of the top 10 and into 11th place. Still, in a season where survival is the top goal, it is well ahead of pace.

 

Reyna & BVB down Brooks & Wolfsburg

Two United States national team starters were in action in the Bundesliga on Sunday when Borussia Dortmund hosted Wolfsburg on Sunday. Gio Reyna earned the start for Dortmund and John Brooks was in the backline for Wolfsburg as both teams are contending for Champions League spots this season.

The game was generally lackluster given the talent of both teams. Borussia Dortmund is still trying to adjust under interim manager Edin Terzic but was boosted by the return of Erling Haaland from injury. Reyna surely had his moments but didn’t have a major impact in the game.

  • 90 minutes (subbed out in stoppage time)
  • 55 touches
  • 1 shot
  • 1 key pass
  • 87.2% passing (34/39)
  • 1 dribble
  • 4 aerials won
  • 4 tackles
  • 0 interceptions & clearances
  • 1 cross
  • 1/2 accurate long balls

Brooks was partially at fault for Manuel Akanju’s 66th minute opener. He also had a nice goal-line clearance. Then with Wolfsburg pressing late in the game down by a goal, Brooks move almost into a target forward role – before Dortmund sealed in in stoppage time with a second goal.

For both players, it was an average outing that won’t standout as good or bad based on the current season’s progress.

 

Sargent starts in Werder loss

 

On Saturday, Josh Sargent earned the start in another tough outing for Werder Bremen- this time a 2-0 loss to Union Berlin. After a decent start, Werder has continued to sink in the Bundesliga table and is now in 14th place – just four points clear of the relegation playoff.

While Sargent has struggled as of late to get involved offensively, in this game he was actually pretty solid – despite the result. He managed to get a fair number of touches, pass effectively, press well, and get shots. In the 43rd minute, he was part of a golden opportunity for Werder that required quite a bit of skill from Sargent just to make it happen. It turned out to be the team’s best chance of the game.

  • 90 minutes
  • 42 touches
  • 2 shots
  • 1 key pass
  • 75% passing (15/20)
  • 1 aerial won
  • 1 dribble
  • 3x fouled
  • 2 tackles
  • 1 interception
  • 2 clearances
  • 4 fouls
  • 2 crosses

In might not seem like it due to the shutout loss, but if he get a similar number of touches in future games, he should be able to grow into games and have a bigger impact. This was at least a sign of progress in getting Sargent involved in the game with increased touches in dangerous areas.

 

Yedlin still starting for Newcastle

 

On Sunday, DeAndre Yedlin earned his fourth consecutive start for Newcastle United in a tough matchup at home against Leicester City. It has been a very impressive turnaround for Yedlin who rarely played this season before December and made his first Premier League appearance of the season only in December. Midweek, Yedlin had been singled out by manager Steve Bruce for his ability to seize the opportunity contribute to the team.

On Sunday, he made his fourth straight Premier League start in a 2-1 loss to Leicester City. It wasn’t a great performance from Yedlin but he wasn’t a factor in why the team lost to the third-place team in the league. The loss dropped Newcastle into 15th place but still eight points clear of the relegation positions.

  • 78 minutes
  • 42 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 51.9% (14/27)
  • 2 aerials won
  • 0 dribbles
  • 1x fouled
  • 2 tackles
  • 0 interceptions
  • 2 clearances
  • 3 crosses
  • 1/4 accurate long balls

What is interesting for Yedlin is his improving position on the U.S. national team depth chart. In November he was not selected to the U.S. national team camp as Gregg Berhalter opted with Sergino Dest and Reggie Cannon at right back. With the way the situation has changed since then, there is a very good chance that Yedlin might have overpassed Cannon to reclaim the backup right back spot.

 

Cannon starts in Boavista draw

 

Over in Portugal, Boavista remains squarely in a relegation battle and with the team’s inability to generate much offense, that seems unlikely to change. Fortunately, its defense is holding its own in many games so the team has a chance of avoiding the drop.

On Sunday, Boavista played Maritimo to a 0-0 draw and U.S. national team right back Reggie Cannon has started every game this season. He’s gone the distance in all but one. In this game he went 90 minutes and was generally decent.

 

  • 90 minutes
  • 63 touches
  • 0 shots
  • 0 key passes
  • 26/34 passes
  • 2 crosses
  • 3/3 long balls
  • 2 duels won (5 lost)
  • 4 clearances
  • 1 tackle
  • 0 interceptions
  • 1 foul

What stood out in this one was his strong passing from range, his clearances, and his ability to get 63 touches. It is tough for a right back to standout offensively and Cannon’s lack of offense still falls mostly on the team, but this is a bleak situation at Boavista. It has scored just two goals from its last five league games and has not won since November 2 when it upset Benfica.

Boavista now sits in 16th place in the 18 team league and that has it in the relegation playoff position. It is just one point from falling into the automatic relegation positions.

 

Dest starts in Barca win

 

On Sunday, Sergino Dest started and played 75 minutes for Barcelona in a 1-0 away win over last-place SD Huesca. The win was a positive for Barcelona but the fact it was close against the worst team in the league was reflective of Barcelona’s step back this season. Konrad de la Fuente went as an unused substitute for Barcelona.

After a rough outing midweek in a 1-1 draw with Eibar, Dest was improved in this game although he did not have too much of an impact. He connected on 39/41 in passing (95%) and had one near assist in the first half.

On both sides of the ball, Dest made few mistakes but it was a tough game to thrive when a team is bunkering and satisfied with 30% passing. Dest tends to do much better in wide open games where he has space to operate and teammates making runs where he can combine.

It has been a great season for Dest despite Barcelona not playing as a contender. He has answered the call that he is part of the future even if he still has areas of his game to work on to be at the highest levels of the game.

 

McKennie & Juventus rout Udinese

 

Weston Mckennie, 22, earned the start for Juventus on Sunday as it hosted 13th place Udinese in Turin. The Texan played 65 minutes and left with Juventus up 2-0. The reigning champions ended up winning 4-1.

Mckennie’s outing was quieter than his strong outings of recent months where he is part of numerous good chances. In this one, he was part of one terrific and skill chance early in the second half when he had a nice combination with Aaron Ramsey only to have the Welsh midfielder’s shot saved.

This game saw McKennie return to a more withdrawn role in the midfield where his passes are simpler, he does a lot of the dirty work behind other midfielders, and his touches are fewer.

  • 64 minutes
  • 44 touches
  • 97% passing (32/33)
  • 0 shots
  • 1 key pass
  • 0 aerials won
  • 0 dribbles
  • 1 tackle
  • 3 interceptions
  • 2 clearances
  • 2 fouls

 

It is hard to argue with the results. While McKennie has showcased very strong offensive talent, the fact that he can play to a more limited role and help his team win is going to keep him on the field at Juventus and earn him more minutes.

Juventus is unlikely to repeat as champions this year but McKennie will be a big part of the team moving forward.

 

Elsewhere around the globe

 

In its first season after promotion, Dundee United is hanging safely around midtable in the Scottish Premiership. Ian Harkes continues to play a big role and on Saturday he made his 18th start of the season in a 0-0 draw with Aberdeen. Dillon Powers came off the bench and made his 10th appearance. Harkes numbers were very solid in this one – which were especially impressive coming against the third-place team in the league.

 

In the Premier League, Owen Otasowie played the final three minutes plus stoppage time in a 3-3 draw with Bright & Hove Albion. Despite the limited minutes, Otasowie won three duals, won one aerial, and made a tackle. A loan could happen this window because, despite being young, Otasowie could help a bunch of teams who need a physical presence in the midfield or the backline.

Matthew Hoppe, 19, should have been a key player for the U.S. U-20 team this cycle but that World Cup has been cancelled. For now, he has been gaining some nice minutes in the Bundesliga with Schalke. He earned his second start (and fourth appearance) of the season on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Hertha BSC. Schalke continue to be on pace to be one of the worst teams in Bundesliga history and are over matched every game.

In this game, Hoppe actually started out with some nice energy before his team was overwhelmed. Hoppe’s contract is set to expire in June and it will be interesting to see if he stays with Schalke on a new deal in the 2.Bundesliga or moves on.

Speaking of the 2.Bundesliga, Bobby Wood played the final five minutes for Hamburg in a 3-1 win over Jahn Regensburg (German-American midfielder Jan George played the final 24 minutes for Jahn Regensburg). It was the fourth win in a row for HSV which is now at the top of the 2.Bundesliga table. Wood’s expensive contract will expire in June and he is looking at a pay cut if he wants to continue playing. A return home might be in the cards if that happens but at least he is getting regular token minutes off the bench.

In Spain’s Segunda, Shaq Moore, 24, had a very nice assist to Carlos Pomares for Tenerife in a 1-0 win over Castellon. It was his second assist of the season.

 

In Argentina, Alan Sonora, 22, played the second half for Independiente in a 4-3 loss to Arsenal de Sarandi. The score was 1-1 at the half.

In League One in England, Lynden Gooch played the final 24 minutes for Sunderland in a 0-0 draw wiht Northampton Town. Indiana Vassilev is having a brutal loan right now with last place Burton Albion and did not play in a 5-1 home loss vs Oxford United on Saturday.

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