It’s early December and the year is already over for the United States men’s national team and all of its MLS-based players. For those members toiling away in Europe, though, things are as busy as ever. The Bundesliga is hurtling toward its month-long winter break, with German Cup games also on tap this week.
There’s a full slate of midweek English Premier League fixtures, the Prem schedule now ramping up ahead of the jam-packed festive period at the end of the month. Meantime, the two U.S. reps who have been getting regular minutes in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Sergino Dest of Ajax, both head into next week’s final group stage matchday with a spot in the knockout stage on the line.
It would be foolish to bet against Pulisic pulling the Blues, though. The Pennsylvania native’s otherworldly recent displays for Frank Lampard’s team have been flat-out unprecedented for an American at the highest level. The news isn’t as rosy for others, but that’s as good a place as any to kick off our latest USMNT Stock Watch.
USMNT players trending up
M/F Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)
Pulisic wasn’t able to prevent Chelsea from losing at home to West Ham over the weekend, but he’s been Lampard’s best player for the last six weeks, scoring seven goals across all competitions — including in last week’s thrilling 2-2 tie at Valencia in the Champions League — in his last eight outings.
Takeaway: Mexican striker Raul Jimenez took home PFA Fans’ Player of the Month honors for November, but it could’ve just as easily gone to Pulisic. After a rough start to life in London, the 21-year-old is now in the form of his young career and hitting heights never before seen from a U.S player. After a quiet outing on Saturday, expect a strong response from Pulisic in Wednesday’s contest vs. Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.
M Weston McKennie, Schalke (Germany)
After entering as a substitute against Werder Bremen on Nov. 23 following international duty, McKennie reclaimed his starting job for last Friday’s 2-1 win over Union Berlin.
Takeaway: The Texan might not have a goal or an assist yet, but the versatile 21-year-old —who has even played a little center back this year — is quietly having an excellent season under new coach (and former USMNT midfielder) David Wagner, helping Schalke rebound from an awful 2018-19 and into third place in the Bundesliga.
G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
After a rough outing against Bayern Munich two weekends ago, the U.S. No. 1’s five stops stole a point for Fortuna away to Hoffenheim.
Takeaway: The best news of all regarding Steffen is that the 24-year-old only has to play four more Bundesliga matches before the break provides some badly needed rest for his sore left knee.
M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
The Berlin-born central midfielder, 29, has started four consecutive games for Fortuna, going the distance in each of the last three.
Takeaway: No player in the U.S. pool forced his way into U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s plans though club performances more than Morales — who hadn’t been capped since 2016 — did this year. He’s clearly established himself as a regular, if not a starter, heading into 2020.
D Antonee Robinson, Wigan (England)
Robinson has played almost every minute of second-tier Wigan’s 19 league games this season and has also been a mainstay with the U.S. U-23s.
Takeaway: The Latics have struggled mightily this season and while Robinson, 22, has struggled at times he continues to pick up valuable experience. In March, he’ll be key part of the U-23s effort to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. And given the U.S.’s ongoing depth issues at left back, don’t be surprised if he gets the opportunity to add to his seven caps later in the new year.
USMNT players trending down
M/F Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey)
Boyd was pulled at halftime of last week’s 2-1 Europa League win over Slovan Bratislava, and the New Zealand-reared attacker has played just 14 minutes over Besiktas’ last seven Super Lig matches, including Monday’s 4-1 win over Kayserispor.
Takeaway: The third-place Black Eagles have won six times and drawn once in seven games over that span, making it unlikely that the 24-year-old will see a ton of action over the club’s final four league matches before Turkey’s winter break. Whether Boyd retains his starting Europa League role next week at Premier League Wolves remains to be seen.
D/M DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)
A hip injury rendered Yedlin unavailable for Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City.
Takeaway: The timing stinks for the veteran right back, as Newcastle is back in action Wednesday against Sheffield United. Yedlin had started the Magpies’ previous six Prem matches. But if he can’t go midweek, and if Javier Manquillo produces another strong showing in his stead, the 26-year-old Seattle native could be forced to win back his spot when healthy.
M/F Julian Green, Greuther Furth (Germany)
An MCL injury has forced Green out of the second-tier club’s last two matches.
Takeaway: Although he’s been ignored by Berhalter so far, Green — who is still just 24 — was quietly having a strong season for Greuther Furth, with four goals in 13 total 2. Bundesliga games, when he went down. Green will probably have to pick up where he left off, at the least, in early 2020 to earn a USMNT look in March.
F Bobby Wood, Hamburg (Germany)
After going all of October without seeing the field in the 2. Bundesliga, Wood played in each of Hamburg’s last three games. But he was yanked at halftime of Die Rothosen’s most recent match, a 2-1 loss to Osnabruck, and still hasn’t scored this campaign
Takeaway: It’s been a miserable year for the 27-year-old, who went without a cap in 2019 for the first time since breaking in with the U.S. in 2012. Even with the USMNT’s lack of depth up top, Wood figures to remain on the outside unless and until he reverses his fortunes at club level.
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