The last week or so has been a mixed bag for American soccer players plying their trade overseas. There’s been good news, sure — like a pair of key defenders aiming to finish career years on a high, or a prized teenage attacker making the bench with one of Germany’s elite sides — but we’ve also seen two U.S. men’s national team regulars go down with injuries at a most inopportune time.
So let’s delve right into the latest, then. Here’s where a number of established USMNT members and roster hopefuls stand with their European or Mexican clubs just three weeks before the calendar year comes to a close.
USMNT players trending up
D/M Sergiño Dest, Ajax (Netherlands)
After briefly losing his place in early November, Dest reclaimed his spot and has now started 14 of Ajax’s last 17 games across all competitions.
Takeaway: Young players — Dest just turned 19 last month — are often susceptible to inconsistency. But while the Dutch-American fullback has struggled defensively at times, he’s also been remarkably steady overall considering the prominent role he’s been thrust into this year.
D John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Brooks has quietly led the Wolves to the best defensive record in the Bundesliga so far this season, with the ninth-place side having conceded just 14 times in as many matches.
Takeaway: If it seems as though Brooks is popping up in this space as much as any other American, it’s because he is. A year after the 26-year-old put together the most complete campaign of his career, he’s currently on pace to go one better in 2019-20.
M/F Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey)
Boyd still isn’t getting much playing time in the Super Lig, making just one league appearance off the bench since September. But he did score his second goal for the club in last week’s Turkish Cup win over fourth division outfit 24 Erzincanspor.
Takeaway: Boyd has been doing what he can to break back into Besiktas first team; he’s also started the club’s last three Europa League games. A good showing in that competition Thursday at Premier League Wolverhampton would strengthen his case significantly.
D Tim Ream, Fulham (England)
The 32-year-old veteran missed the first game of the season, then went the full 90 minutes in the 19 matches since, helping Fulham rise to third place in the English second tier.
Takeaway: Ream’s steady play is one of the reasons the Cottagers are well-positioned position to make an immediate return to the Premier League after being relegated last spring. He’s also become a vital presence for the USMNT, limiting his mistakes whether at center or left back while also assuming a leadership role. Ream captained the side a team-high six times in 2019, including each of the final three matches (and four of the last five) to end the year.
M/F Tim Weah, Lille (France)
A hamstring tear prevented the teenage striker from playing for the senior USMNT in 2019 after he won his first eight caps (with one goal) in 2018, but the New Yorker returned to training this week with Lille in welcome news for both club and country.
Takeaway: The hope is that Weah, who won’t turn 20 until February, can make his Ligue 1 return before the year is out. Either way, the speedy winger/striker will be aiming to make a fast start to 2020, which would put him in position for a March debut under current USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter.
M/F Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
The 17-year-old son of former U.S. World Cup captain Claudio Reyna made the BVB bench for the first time for Saturday’s 5-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf (and fellow Yanks Alfredo Morales and Zack Steffen).
Takeaway: Nobody should get carried away just yet. That said, Reyna’s promotion confirms reports that he’s impressed during first-team training sessions at BVB. If he begins to get minutes during the second half of the Bundesliga season, like Christian Pulisic did with Dortmund at the same age, it probably won’t take long for noted admirer Berhalter to see how the former U.S. under-17 national team standout fits in with the senior squad.
USMNT players trending down
F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Germany)
The 19-year-old striker sat out Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Paderborn and is expected to also miss Bremen’s final three matches of 2019 after picking up a muscle injury.
Takeaway: It’s bad news for a player who had only recently established himself as a regular starter both at the club and national team level. “It’s a massive shame for him,” Werder coach Florian Kohfeldt said. “He played really well throughout the first half of the season.” The good news? The setback isn’t likely to stall Sargent’s rapid development in the new year.
D/M DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)
Although Magpies boss Steve Bruce declared Yedlin recovered from the hip injury that kept him out of last month’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City, Bruce has preferred Javier Manquillo over the Seattle native for Newcastle’s last two Prem matches, both of them victories.
Takeaway: Yedlin’s injury has coincided with Newcastle’s best spell of the season. That means the 26-year-old might have to wait for his chance, although Bruce will almost certainly have to rotate his squad over the festive period, when Newcastle plays five times in 15 days between Dec. 21 and Jan. 4.
D Ventura Alvarado, Necaxa (Mexico)
The slick-passing 27-year-old center back spent much of the last two years making a case for his first USMNT recall since 2015. But after making 15 consecutive starts and captaining Necaxa during the Apertura season, Alvarado lost his starting job on the eve of the Liguilla playoffs.
Takeaway: With Brooks, Ream, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman and even Matt Miazga — who was inexplicably left off Berhalter’s most recent roster — ahead of him in the pecking order, it was always going to be an uphill climb for Alvarado, who still struggles defensively at times, to force his way into Berhalter’s plans.
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