USMNT Stock Watch: U.S. friendlies, club performances have players on the move

Christian Pulisic missed U.S. games against Brazil and Mexico, but he’s ready to return to action with Borussia Dortmund.
Christian Pulisic missed U.S. games against Brazil and Mexico, but he’s ready to return to action with Borussia Dortmund.

With the international break now over and the club game back in full swing, it’s a perfect time to look at which American players boosted their standing within the U.S. men’s national team with their performances in the USMNT’s recent friendlies against Brazil and Mexico, and/or in MLS and leagues abroad.

Here’s whose stock is rising or falling this week:

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M Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (German Bundesliga)

Pulisic missed Dortmund’s last two games, plus both U.S. friendlies, with a muscle injury. But he is expected to return to action in Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Belgian side Club Brugge

The takeaway: U.S. fans who worried that the injury might be more serious that initially feared can rest easy, as Pulisic appears ready to celebrate his 20th birthday with his 100th appearance for BVB.

M Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls (MLS)

Adams was perhaps the best U.S. player over the two September games, and his well-taken winner over Mexico made him just the third teenager to score for the Americans against El Tri, joining program legends Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore.

The takeaway: For all the talk about Weston McKennie’s rise in Germany over the last year (more on McKennie below), fellow central midfielder Adams might be playing at an even higher level right now. Still just 19, he’s also starting to have the the look of a future U.S. captain.

M/F Julian Green, Greuther Furth (German 2. Bundesliga)

Green was the big winner coming out of the international break, and he built on his game-changing performance off the bench against Mexico by scoring his first goal of the season for league-leading Furth.

The takeaway: The USMNT is short on attackers and experience. So 2014 World Cup vet Green, still just 23, could end up playing a bigger role for the U.S. this cycle — especially if he can helps club gain promotion to the German top-flight for next season — than many figured.

D John Brooks, Wolfsburg (German Bundesliga)

Brooks was excellent against Brazil before being released from U.S. camp to prepare for Saturday’s Bundesliga match against Hertha Berlin, in which he picked up a game-tying assist in stoppage time.

The takeaway: The towering 25-year-old center back is easily the best pure defender in the national team pool, and his recent performances for club and country suggest that he could be on the verge of a career season after missing most of 2017-18 through injury. That’s great news for the U.S.

Antonee Robinson (right) got beat on this play by Brazil’s Douglas Costa, but Robinson looks like he could be the USA’s starting left back for many years to come. (EFE/EPA/COREY SIPKIN)
Antonee Robinson (right) got beat on this play by Brazil’s Douglas Costa, but Robinson looks like he could be the USA’s starting left back for many years to come. (EFE/EPA/COREY SIPKIN)

D Antonee Robinson, Wigan (English Championship)

The 21-year-old left back was good overall against Brazil and excellent against Mexico. He’s also played every minute of Wigan’s seven games this season.

The takeaway: Robinson showed flashes of his potential in the Americans’ May/June friendlies, but this month’s games were always going to present a sterner test. He aced it, and now has the look of the USMNT’s first-choice left back for years to come.

D Cameron Carter-Vickers, Swansea (English Championship)

Carter-Vickers was near-flawless against Mexico alongside longtime youth national team center back partner Matt Miazga. And after sitting out his first match with the Swans following his loan move from Premier League Tottenham, Carter-Vickers impressed on his deubt Saturday, playing the final 23 minutes and helping his side preserve the clean sheet in a scoreless draw with Nottingham Forest.

The takeaway:  The 20-year-old is improving as he gets more and more experience at the lower levels; this is his third loan to the second-tier Championship inside a year. The game against El Tri was his best, by far, in five USMNT appearances.

M/F Johnathan Amon, Nordsjaelland (Danish Superliga)

The lightning-quick 19-year-old scored a goal and added an assist in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Randers, his latest in a string of impressive showings Denmark.

The takeaway: Amon is the ultimate American soccer unicorn: a naturally left-footed winger with the wheels to consistently trouble opposing defenses. Say what you want about the quality of the competition, but the South Carolina native would fill a need and he is quietly making a case for a future call-up.

M Paul Arriola, D.C. United  (MLS)

Like Brooks, Arriola left camp early to return to his club. And while he didn’t have his best game against Brazil, just being back in the mix has to feel good for the 23-year-old, who was overlooked by interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan for three friendlies earlier this summer.

The takeaway:  Defending Brazil’s Douglas Costa is a nightmare assignment for any player. And Arriola continues to produce in MLS, scoring a well-hit goal in DCU’s 3-3 tie with the Red Bulls on Sunday.

M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Duesseldorf (German Bundesliga)

Morales has started all three matches this season for Fortuna, which currently sits ninth in the 18-team table, and he scored in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Hoffenheim.

The takeaway: Morales didn’t do much in his first 13 caps, all of them under former coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But the USMNT also isn’t good enough to dismiss a 28-year-old playing every week in one of the best leagues around. He might have to wait for a new U.S. coach, but the German-American should eventually get another look if he continues to play well.

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

After shaking off some early season fitness issues, the Manchester City loanee made his first start for Breda in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat to Fortuna Sittard.

The takeaway: Palmer-Brown looked shaky at times — he was beaten on Fortuna’s first goal — but getting on the field counts as a step forward. Will he keep his lineup spot next weekend at VVV Venlo? If he does, the 21-year-old will have to reward coach Mitchell van der Gaag or risk going back to the bench.

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M Weston McKennie, Schalke (German Bundesliga)

McKennie limped out of the Mexico match before halftime with what U.S. Soccer called a bruised left knee, and subsequently missed Schalke’s 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

The takeaway: The initial diagnosis was a sprain, which would’ve been more worrisome. Still, one has to wonder if McKennie will be fit for Schalke’s Champions League opener on Tuesday against Porto, or how even a short-term absence could impact his place in Schalke’s XI.

F Bobby Wood, Hannover (German Bundesliga)

Wood has yet to start a game for new club Hannover after arriving from Hamburg after two seasons. He’s yet to score, too, with no goals in three official appearances, including a German Cup match last month.

The takeaway: Wood’s struggles in front of the net continue. He didn’t really threaten in 100 total minutes against Mexico and Brazil, and he has just one goal —  in Ireland in June — from the run of play in his six U.S. matches.

F Andrija Novakovich, Fortuna Sittard (Dutch Eredivisie) 

With two goals in his first four games this season, U.S. fans were hoping to see Novakovich show what he could do with the national team. They never got the chance, as Novakovich didn’t dress against Brazil, and he didn’t get off the bench versus El Tri.

The takeaway:  The 21-year-old from Wisconsin will probably have to maintain a goal-every-other-game pace in the Netherlands — he started but didn’t score this weekend against Palmer-Brown’s Breda —  to keep getting looks. And he’ll probably have to contribute in other ways besides scoring, with chances at the international level far harder to come by than in the Netherlands’ defensively challenged top-flight.

D Tim Parker, New York Red Bulls (MLS)

Parker was terrific in June’s 1-1 draw with eventual World Cup champ France, but he didn’t play in either September contest and struggled against D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney in Sunday’s nationally televised rivalry match.

The takeaway:  It seems Carter-Vickers has edged just ahead of Parker, 25, on the current depth chart. It’s hard to fault Sarachan for that decision after the younger man’s mature showing against Mexico. But things change qucikly, and Parker can boost his stock with a strong run this fall heading into the MLS playoffs.

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

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