Ten USMNT players to watch as Europe's top soccer leagues open the season

Yahoo Sports

With some of the biggest leagues in Europe now under way, U.S. national team supporters can start paying close attention to how their players are doing overseas.

Who should fans be keeping an eye on this season? With more than 30 USMNT-eligible players employed overseas there’s no shortage of options, even if Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin could be sidelined awhile after suffering a knee injury against Tottenham on the English Premier League’s opening weekend.

Let’s start with the 10 Europe-based Americans who have the most to prove this campaign, listed in alphabetical order.

D Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur (English Premier League) 

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino took a long look at Carter Vickers during preseason,  giving him 90 minutes against the likes of Roma and Barelona. But the 20-year-old center back injured his groin on the eve of the new campaign,  and with veteran Toby Alderweireld apparently staying put (Alderweireld didn’t move during the Prem’s summer transfer window but could still transfer to another league) it seems likely that Carter-Vickers will again be loaned to a second-tier Championship club before the Aug. 31 deadline. For a player who still lacks experience, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. 

D John Brooks, VfL Wolfsburg (German Bundesliga) 

Injury limited him to just 10 appearances across all competitions in his first season with Wolfsburg following a $22 million-plus move from Hertha Berlin, still the record transfer fee for an American. This year, the 25-year-old needs to prove is that he can stay healthy. If he can, the rangy center back will be expected to help drag the Wolves up the standings following consecutive 16th-place finishes, mainly by making them stingier. Just six teams conceded more than Wolfsburg last season.

M Weston McKennie, Schalke (German Bundesliga) 

Still a teenager for another few weeks, McKennie enters his second full season in Germany as an integral part of Schalke’s midfield. McKennie started almost half the club’s matches and played in 22 overall last year – and it would’ve been more had he not suffered a midseason knee injury – en route to a runner-up finish for the club behind Bayern Munich. Now we’ll get to see what the ball-winning Texan can do against some of Europe’s best over six games in the Champions League group stage, which begins next month.

(Getty)
(Getty)

D Matt Miazga, Nantes (French Ligue 1)

The imposing New Jersey-born center back faces a serious step up in qualify after spending the last two years at Dutch club Vitesse on loan from Chelsea. France’s top flight boasts some of the greatest attacking players alive, highlighted by defending champ Paris Saint-Germain’s otherworldly front trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani. Still, it’s a challenge Miazga appears ready for after improving his footwork, passing, reading of the game and his leadership qualities while also maturing off the field in the Netherlands. He needs to win a starting spot first, though. Miazga didn’t play in Nantes’ season-opening 3-1 loss to Monaco.

F Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (German Bundesliga)

Still just 19, this is a nonetheless crucial season for the U.S. national team’s best player. Pulisic became a full-time starter for Dortmund last season on the heels of his breakout in early 2016, scoring four goals and adding five assists in 32 games. He’ll be expected to improve on those numbers when the new Dortmund campaign begins Aug 26, especially after BVB brought in a pair of capable attacking midfielders this summer in Axel Witsel and Marius Wolf. With potential suitors watching, the pressure will be on to perform.

D Erik Palmer-Brown, NAC Breda (Netherlands Eredivisie)

The 21-year-old, on loan from Manchester City, already has some quality European experience to his name, having played 28 games with clubs in Portugal’s second tier and Belgium’s first. But the Dutch top flight is a step up in both quality and exposure. If Palmer-Brown, who made just 20 appearances over parts of five seasons with Sporting Kansas City before signing with the English champions in January, intends to emulate former U.S. U-20 teammate Miazga and use it as stepping stone, he’ll need to get on the field. The Ohio native didn’t play in Breda’s opener. But after a 5-0 loss to AZ Alkmaar, his chance could come soon.

D Antonee Robinson, Wigan (English Championship) 

One of the few natural left backs in the U.S. player pool will spend the season on loan to the second-tier Latics from Premier League Everton. It’s a good situation for Robinson, who started 26 games in the Championship for Bolton last term. The 21-year-old is clearly in his parent club’s plans, having just inked a new three-year contract extension, and he’ll continue getting valuable playing time with Wigan; Robinbson went the distance in the team’s first two matches of 2018-19. That wouldn’t happen at Everton with ex-Barcelona fullback Lucas Digne blocking his path.

F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (German Bundesliga)

The ice-cool Sargent, 18, scored twice last week for Werder’s under-23 squad and now he’s training with the first team as it prepares to host Hannover in the 2018-19 curtain-raiser Aug. 25. Will Sargent really see minutes with the varsity right from the start, as many have predicted? We’ll know where he fits in coach Florian Kohfeldt’s plans soon enough.

F Timothy Weah, Paris Saint-Germain (French Ligue 1)

With Cavani, Mbappe and Neymar still recovering from World Cup duty, Weah got a ton of minutes during the preseason and made the most of them. The 18-year-old scored in a friendly against Bayern Munich, notched is first competitive goal as a pro versus Monaco in the French Super Cup, then added his fist league strike on Sunday after coming off the bench for Neymar. He won’t start when the Big Three are fit, but coach Thomas Tuchel – who gave Pulisic his senior debut at Dortmund – will find ways to play Weah if he keeps scoring.

F Bobby Wood, Hannover (German Bundesliga)

At 25, the Hawaiian striker gets a second and perhaps final chance in the Bundesliga after two difficult years with Hamburg, who loaned him to Hannover after being relegated last season. Wood managed just seven goals in 50 league games for rudderless HSV. But the change of scenery seems to be paying off already, with Wood scoring in his first preseason match for the Reds.

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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