The International break is over and that means clubs return to action – including dozens of Americans across the globe. To take a long walk through it all, ASN’s Brian Sciaretta opens up his notebook and shares with you what he will be watching and following in the days ahead. 


BY

Brian Sciaretta



Posted

November 19, 2020

8:30 PM

THE INTERNATIONAL WINDOW is now over and the next one won’t be until March. Players who spent the past two weeks representing their countries will now return to their clubs for the next several months as the next international window will not take place until March.

The past international window revealed a lot for the U.S. team. The key players of the U.S. team are exactly who we all thought: Christian Pulisic, Tyle Adams, Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie, and Gio Reyna. Yusuf Musah probably joins this list if he stays with the U.S. program. Perhaps John Brooks is in that mix as well.

But depth is the most critical thing for the U.S. player pool right now and that will be determined by club performances – both domestically and abroad – as well as staying healthy. The gap between those players mentioned above and everyone else is quite large and the national team depth pool is far from unsettled.

The last international window gave us some key storylines to follow. Reggie Cannon and Nicholas Gioacchini are two players who both impressed and play regularly for their clubs, and that puts them in a good place. For players like Uly Llanez and Richard Ledezma – they can probably get a on a fast track, but need to play more with the first teams at their respective clubs in Holland.

The last two national team games offered some clues but things can change so fast. If Owen Otasowie plays regularly, he could leapfrog others and perhaps emerge as a backup to Tyler Adams. Duane Holmes could return to form at Derby County and compete for the role behind Musah (or in place of Musah if he opts for England). Emmanuel Sabbi and Haji Wright could continue to build their resume for the U-23 team.

In MLS, the playoffs begin. That will offer more of a platform for younger players like Daryl Dike, Mark McKenzie, Ayo Akinola, Caden Clark, Jeremy Ebobisse and others to raise their image and help there teams.

Here is my notebook about what I’ll be watching for:

Bayern Munich – Werder Bremen

The Bundesliga
Saturday, November 21: 9:30am EST

 

Local restrictions prevented Josh Sargent from joining the U.S. national team in November but the St. Louis native was probably better served staying with Werder Bremen to prepare for its challenging visit to Bavaria to take on reigning European Champions Bayern Munich.

The previous international window was useful in that it reinforced that Sargent has some competition for the No. 9 role on the U.S. team as Nicholas Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto each scored two goals. Combined with some promising young U-23 players based in MLS, it is good for Sargent to have some competition.

Scoring for Werder is tough for Sargent as he often drifts back into the midfield to receive the ball and struggles for service in dangerous positions. His hold-up play, along with moving back into the midfield, are strengths that U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter values. Sargent has just one goal this season along with one assist from seven games.

Werder Bremen doesn’t play an attractive style of soccer but is doing what it has to do in order to avoid another relegation battle. It comes into this game having drawn its last four games and it has just one loss from seven games. It has steadily been picking up points.

But Bayern Munich will be a different challenge altogether and if Werder is to have any chance at all, it will have to play exceptional defense and make the most of very limited opportunities.

After earning his first cap for the U.S. team, it is possible that central defender Chris Richards makes the bench for Bayern in this one – but an appearance seems less likely.

Fulham – Everton

The Premier League
Sunday, November 22nd: 7:00am

 

Fulham’s loss to West Ham prior to the international window hurt as it was the team’s final game before a very difficult stretch of games. Fulham has four points from eight games and are in 17th place out of 20 but are in danger of slipping further down the table.

This will be an interesting game. Everton won their first four games of the season but enter into this game with a draw followed by three losses. On paper, Everton has more talent than Fulham but is trending in the wrong direction. If Fulham fail to win this game, the next three are against Leicester City, Manchester City, and Liverpool.

Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream return to Fulham after spending nine days with the U.S. team during the window. Robinson started in the U.S. team’s 0-0 draw with Wales while Ream started in the 6-2 win over Panama.

Both returned to London on Tuesday and should be rested for this one. Robinson is likely to start against Everton, his former club where he developed. Ream has been on the bench for Fulham recently but nothing is settled in Cottagers’ backline.

For Robinson, he needs to continue to grow in the Premier League to secure a starting spot with the U.S. team.

  

Schalke 04 – Wolfsburg

The Bundesliga
Saturday, November 21: 9:30am EST

 

With two wins and five draws from seven games, Wolfsburg is undefeated to start the Bundesliga season. One of the reasons why it has been successful so far is that its defense, which features U.S. national team central defender John Brooks in the starting lineup, has conceded just five goals.

Brooks is a central figure for Wolfsburg this season as its defense will be the cornerstone of what it hopes leads them to a European berth next season. Brooks was very good for the U.S. team in the 0-0 draw against Wales where his passing out of the back helped the American team win the possession battle – and have the ball regularly in the final third. Brooks, however, struggled with his aerial game and winning duels.

Wolfsburg is heavily favored in this one against a Schalke team that is favored to be relegated this season. While Schalke is still winless on the season and has a -17 goal differential from its first seven games, its fortunes have improved slightly in recent weeks with three draws in its last four games.

 

Eintracht Frankfurt – RB Leipzig

The Bundesliga
Saturday, November 21: 12:30pm EST

 

Tyler Adams, 21, proved that he is healthy and in good form over the international break and he should be good to go for second place RB Leipzig. Adams started both games for the U.S. team and went 71 minutes against Wales and 62 minutes against Panama. As is the case with Adams, for both club and county, his team does much better when Adams is on the ball a lot and the former New York Red Bull had 78 touches against Wales and 54 against Panama.

Eintracht Frankfurt has three draws and a loss (to Bayern) over its last four games but is not an opponent that Leipzig can take lightly. Adams has a good chance to start this game as he will be returning to the club from international duty earlier than other players. If he does play, can he get on the ball around once a minute? That seems to be a key number.

2014 U.S. World Cup fullback Timothy Chandler, 30, is likely to be on the bench for Eintracht in this one.

 

Hertha BSC – Borussia Dortmund

The Bundesliga
Saturday, November 21: 2:30pm EST

 

After making his U.S. national team debut in the recent friendlies where he scored his first goal off a free kick against Panama, Gio Reyna returns to third place Borussia Dortmund as it will visit the German capital to take on Hertha on Saturday.

Reyna, who turned 18 during the international window, has been exceptional to start the 2020/21 season where he is starting most of Borussia Dortmund’s games and is making impacts on a regular basis. Thus far in seven Bundesliga games, he has one goal and four assists (he also has a goal in the German Cup and an assist in the Champions League).

In the most recent game, Reyna played well in a 3-2 loss to Bayern Munich. Hertha is off to a mediocre start with seven points from seven games but was strong in its last game, a 3-0 away win over Augsburg.

Reyna is still learning a lot, but for him to have locked in such an important role for one of Germany’s best clubs – it puts him up with the very best of 2002-born players in the world and Reyna’s combination play with Erling Haaland is one of the most exciting young combinations in Europe.

 

Le Havre – SM Caen

Ligue 2
Saturday, November 21: 9:00am EST

 

To say Nicholas Gioacchini, 20, has had a good November would be a massive understatement. Following a rebound from COVID, he scored a stoppage time winner for SM Caen in a 2-1 victory over Nancy just before the break. Then in his first start for the United States national team (in his first call-up at any level), he scored two first half goals in a 6-2 win over Panama.

SM Caen is a club that desperately wants to get promoted to Ligue 1 and with it now in fourth place in the second tier, it is a realistic option. With 17 points from 10 games, it is just a point out of second place. But the standings remain tight and its opponent on Saturday, Le Havre (a team once coached by Bob Bradley), is in seventh place but just a point behind Caen.

No matter what, Gioacchini is a player who is critical to Caen’s promotion hopes, and is a player who could feature for the United States (as well as the Olympic team in 2021) for a long time. His stock is certainly rising.

 

Atletico Madrid – Barcelona

La Liga
Saturday, November 21: 3:00pm EST

 

Two of the most historically powerful teams in Spain will meet on Saturday when Barcelona visits Atletico Madrid. By its lofty standards, Barcelona had a poor start to the season but played very well just before break in a 5-2 win over Real Betis.

Atletico Madrid has been sharp to start the season. It’s 17 points has it in third place (three points off the lead) but it has played two fewer games than the top two teams. It has the best points per game ratio in Spain and its goal differential of +15 over seven games is also elite.

This will be a true test for Barcelona to see if they can be expected to be one of the best teams in Spain this season. Sergino Dest should be on the matchday roster for this one although it is tough to predict if he will start. He has started several important games (including in the Champions League) but did not feature in the win over Real Betis. Konrad de la Fuente is also returning to Barcelona after earning his first cap with the U.S. team during the window. He has floated between making the first team bench and starting for Barca B. The teenage winger from Florida is still looking for his first team debut.

 

Deportivo Alaves – Valencia

La Liga
Sunday, November 22: 3:00pm EST

 

Yunus Musah, 17, is now a player American fans will be eagerly following. The New York-born midfielder who was raised in Italy and England, impressed mightily during the international window where he made two impressive starts against Wales and Panama. After previously representing England’s youth national teams, this was Musah’s first appearance at any level with the United States.

He remains undecided on his international future, however, and his stock is surging at the club level with Valencia. Just prior to the international break, he started in a 4-1 rout over Real Madrid. The potential addition of Musah into the U.S. pool would be huge and U.S. Soccer has done well, so far, just to have its foot in the door for a potential chance with Musah. But the more he succeeds at Valencia, the more aggressively England will be pursuing him as well.

Valencia should be favored in this one against Deportivo Alaves, which has drawn its past two games.

 

Juventus – Cagliari

Serie A
Saturday, November 21: 2:45pm EST

 

Weston McKennie, 22, was very solid for the U.S. team over the international window and he will now return to Italy to rejoin Juventus. Thus far his time at Juventus has gone well, despite a bout with COVID in October. He’s made four Serie A appearances along with two Champions League appearances for a total of 275 minutes. He’s not a lock starter, but minutes have been steady for the Texan.

Juventus has some work to do if it wants to get back on track for another title. It has not lost any of its seven Serie A games this season but it has four draws (including three of its last four).

This game will be interesting to watch as Cagliari has won three of four heading into this game and have a potent offense led by Brazil’s João Pedro with five goals and Gaetano Castrovilli with four goals. Those two players have scored nine of the team’s 14 goals so far.

If McKennie starts this one, he will need to be the disruptive force he can be to limit Castrovilli and Joao Pedro in their touches and time on the ball.

 

Boavista – Belenenses

Primeira Liga
Sunday, November 22: 12:30pm EST

 

After notching two assists for the United States on Monday in a 6-2 win over Panama, Reggie Cannon will return to Portugal and look to help his Boavista team that has just one win from seven games to start the season. That win, two games before the international window, came against a very good Benfica team. In the subsequent game, however, Boavista lost to a previously winless Farense team that came into the game in last place.

So which Boavista team will show up? It is tough to tell and when watching the team, you can see both talent and a complete lack of chemistry as many of the players, like Cannon, are in their first year at the club. Cannon has been among Boavista’s better players and is an automatic starter at the moment but he will need to get involved more in the attack.

Belenenses is a winnable game for Boavista playing at home. Both teams have one win in seven games with Belenenses having seven point to Boavista’s six points.

 

Ajax – Heracles

The Eredivisie
Sunday, November 22: 6:15am EST

 

Luca de la Torre, 22, moved on from Fulham in search of more playing time. The San Diego native found that in the Eredivisie with Heracles Almeo – one of the smaller teams in the top-fight but one that succeeds in playing a lot of young players.

While he prefers the No. 10 position, de la Torre has been starting on the win in recent games for Heracles and the club sits midtable in 10th place. De la Torre is still searching for his first goal and has one assist over six games.

But a visit to Ajax is a massive uphill climb for Heracles as Ajax sits atop the table with 21 points through eight games. Even on points with second place Vitesse, Ajax holds the edge for the league lead by virtue of its +27 goal differential – which was helped by a 13-0 win over VVV-Venlo. Coincidentally, VVV-Venlo defeated de la Torre and Heracles 3-2 in the last game before the break.

It will be tough, but de la Torre (a U.S. U-23 hopeful) at least as a big stage going against Ajax.

 

OB – Sonderjyske

Danish Superliga
Sunday, November 22: 8:00am EST

 

Two players who were left off the recent roster for the U.S. national team despite have relatively strong cases will be opponents on Sunday in Denmark when Emmanuel Sabbi and OB hosts Haji Wright and Sonderjyske.

OB has been a mixed bag this season with 10 points from eight games to sit in eighth place in the 12-team league. Sabbi has been strong with three goals and one assist as he has played both his typical right wing but also center forward as well.

Haji Wright, however, has been one of the bigger surprises of Americans in Europe in recent months. After a brutal past few seasons in Germany and in Holland, his move to Sonderjyske has paid off enormously. In eight games for 401 minutes, Wright has six goals and an assist to lead the Superliga in scoring – and help move Sonderjyske into first place.

Both players are just 22 years old and are also eligible for the U.S. U-23 team as well as it will attempt to qualify for the Olympics in March.

 

Beerschot – Anderlecht

Jupiler League
Sunday, November 22: 7:30am

 

Matt Miazga, 25, started both games in central defense for the U.S. team over the international window. He will now rejoin an Anderlecht team that has played well since the New Jersey native arrived last month. Since Miazga’s joined Anderlecht on loan from Chelsea, has made four starts and the club has two wins and two draws.

The standings remain remarkably tight in the Jupiler League as Anderlecht sit in seventh place with 21 points through 12 games but is just two points behind leaders Club Brugge which has 23 points.

In this game, Beerschot is in third place with 22 points. An Anderlecht win would see it leapfrog Beerschot as well as possibly several other teams.

 

Independiente – Central Cordoba SdE

Copa de la Liga Profesional – Group 2
Saturday, November 21: 7:30pm EST

 

For American fans looking for players flying under the radar, Alan Sonora is probably your guy. Born in New Jersey while his Argentine father, Diego Sonora, played for the Metrostars, Sonora is poised to gradually earn significant minutes at an Independiente team that is one of the most prestigious teams in Argentina.

Many fans might be more familiar with Alan Sonora’s older brother, Joel Sonora, who played for the United States U-20 World Cup team in 2015. But the younger Sonora is perhaps even more highly rated and being born in 1998, is eligible for the United States U-23 team in 2021.

As an attacking midfielder, Sonora earned the start last weekend for Independiente in a 0-0 away draw against Defensa Y Justicia. In the four team group, Independiente sits in second – two points behind Colon and three points ahead of Defensa Y Justicia. Its opponent on Saturday, Central Cordoba, has just one point from three games

If Sonora can continue to start for Independiente, he would be in strong shape to move into the U.S. U-23 pool in the months head – which would be a surprise as he has never been caled up to the U.S. team before at any level.

 

Internacional – Fluminense

Brazil’s Serie A
Sunday, November 22: 4:15pm EST

 

There is a lot of good news for Johnny Cardoso, 19, these days. The Denville, NJ-born defensive midfielder returned from a hamstring injury just before the international window and played the final 10 minutes of a 1-0 loss to Corinthians. Then Cardoso travelled to Europe and made his first two caps with the United States national team when he was a second half sub to replace Tyler Adams against Wales and Panama.

Now back in Porto Alegre, Johnny and Internacional will host Fluminense on Sunday. Internacional played through the international window and has been skidding in the table. Previously at the top, it has just two points from its last four games and is now in a three way tie for second place behind Atletico Mineiro. Fluminense, meanwhile, is in eighth place with 32 points from 21 games and has lost its last two games.

Both teams are struggling and Internacional is still within striking distance of league-lead. Will Johnny return to the starting lineup to shake things up?

 

Hammarby – Malmo

Allsvenskan
Sunday, November 22: 11:30am EST

 

Aron Johnannsson, 30, was not called up to the United States national team for November and with the emergence of center forwards at that camp as well as some solid young forwards in MLS, it is going to be tough for him. The only thing he can do is continue to score lots of goals.

But even if he never returns to the U.S. team, it’s a great story. After a brutal five-year stretch of injuries, this year he final was able to return to the field and play with consistency. Over 21 Allsvenskan games and 1250 minutes, Johannsson has 11 goals. Combined with three goals in the Swedish Cup and an assist, he has 14 across all competitions in 2020.

There are three games remaining in the season and Hammarby is in sixth place. It is four points out of a European spot and would need a near perfect run to finish in the top three.

This game will be a big opportunity for Johannsson as Malmo are already the Allsvenkan champions as they hold a 10-point lead. No matter what, Johannsson has opened doors with this season and who knows, maybe MLS teams will take notice? He has said publicly that he would love to play in the league.

 

Coach’s Corner

 

There are currently two American managers coaching at high levels in Europe: Jesse Marsch at Red Bull Salzburg and Pellegrino Matarazzo at VfB Stuttgart.

For Matarazzo and Stuttgart, they are doing all that your want from a newly promoted club. They are avoiding losses and picking up occasional wins – but mostly settling for draws. This gradual accumulation of points has it in eighth place after seven games. After a loss in its opening weekend, it has two wins and four draws over its last six games.

On Saturday (9:30am EST), Stuttgart will visit a Hoffenheim team that won its first two games of the season but has since earned just one point from its next five. Despite the losses, all the games have been close and this should be a tough but winnable game for Stuttgart.

Meanwhile, Jesse Marsch and Salzburg have been romping through the Austrian Bundesliga with a real purpose. It’s only blemish came in the game before the international window when it played second place Rapid Vienna to a 1-1 draw. But otherwise, with six wins and a draw, Red Bull Salzburg has a two point lead atop the Austrian Bundesliga with a very impressive +20 goal differential (25 scored, 5 conceded – both bests in the league). On Saturday it will host a tricky Sturm Graz team that is in sixth place with nine points from six games.

In the 3.Liga, Sacramento’s own Joe Enochs will lead Zwickau on Saturday as it hosts Waldhof Mannheim.

 

Elsewhere in Europe

 

Christian Pulisic will not play for Chelsea on Saturday due to his hamstring injury. Chelsea visits Newcastle United on Saturday and DeAndre Yedlin likely won’t play for the hosts as he is not in the team’s plans at the moment.

After earning his first USMNT cap against Panama, teenager Owen Otasowie, 19, is looking to make his first team debut in the Premier League for Wolves when they host Southampton on Monday. Otasowie, a defensive midfielder, has been an unused sub three times this season.

In the Championship, Cameron Carter-Vickers will attempt to make AFC Bournemouth’s matchday roster for the first time when it visits Reading on Saturday. Derby County changed managers over the international window and Duane Holmes will hope that sees his return to the starting lineup when they visit Bristol City on Saturday.

H

Queens Park Rangers and its American captain, Geoff Cameron, host Watford on Saturday. U.S. U-20 forward Charlie Kelman will hope to make QPR’s bench for the second time since transferring there from Southend United at the close of the window. Meanwhile, Matthew Olosunde and Rotherham United visit Swansea City on Saturday. The New Jersey fullback will hope to make his third appearance of the season in this one.

In third-tier League One, U.S. U-20 attacking midfielder/winger Indiana Vassilev and Burton Albion will hope to climb out of last place when they host last-place Northampton Town on Saturday.

Also in League One, Lynden Gooch and Sunderland visit Doncaster Rovers on Saturday. The only other club Gooch has ever played for was actually Doncaster on loan when first adjusted to the adult levels of the game.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Alfredo Morales has returned from injury for Fortuna Dusseldorf and will look to feature when his team hosts Sandhausen on Saturday. Meanwhile, U.S. U-20 midfielder Leon Flach and U-23 eligible German-American winger Kevin Lankford – both at St. Paul – will visit Paderborn on Saturday.

Bobby Wood can only realistically expect limited minutes for Hamburg SV when it hosts Bochum on Saturday in the 2.Bundesliga. Staying in the 2.Bundesliga, Julian Green will most likely start for Greuther Furth as it strives for promotion this season. It hosts Jahn Regensburg on Sunday with the chance now-healthy Jann George makes his first appearance of the season. The German-American has been out since the summer.

In the 3.Liga, former U.S. striker Terrence Boyd and Hallescher hosts Kaiserslatuern on Saturday. Boyd made his professional and Bundesliga debut with Kaiserslautern nearly 10 years ago.

In France’s Ligue 1, Tim Weah will hope for minutes off the bench for Lille when it hosts Lorient on Sunday. Meanwhile in the second tier, Patrick Koffi is hoping to return to the bench and make his second appearance of the season for league-leading Paris FC when its hosts Auxerre on Saturday.

In Serie B, Wisconsin forward Andrija Novakovich drifts between starting and being a sub for Frosinone as it pushes for promotion this season. Frosinone hosts Cosenza on Friday. Also in Serie B, Giuseppe Barone is hoping to make his professional debut for Salernitana on Monday when it hosts Cremonese. The former Long Island University midfielder has been an unused substitute the past two games.

In Spain’s second tier Segunda, 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup fullback Shaq Moore and Tenerife host UD Logrones on Sunday.

In the Eredivisie, 2015 U.S. U-20 World Cup fullback Desevio Payne and FC Emmen visit AZ on Sunday in an uphill climb to avoid a relegation battle this season. After making his debut for the full U.S. team on Monday against Panama, Richard Ledezma will push to be part of PSV’s squad on Sunday when it visits Twente.

Ian Harks will likely start for Dundee United while fellow American midfielder Dillon Powers will likely be on the bench for Dundee United when it hosts Hamilton Academical on Saturday in Scotland’s Premiership.

In Turkey’s Super Lig, Chicago native and right back Eric Lichaj and Fatih Karagumruk host Sivasspor on Saturday. Lichaj is quietly having a strong season in his first professional season out of England. Tyler Boyd won’t feature for Besiktas on Saturday against Istanbul Basaksehir.

In Argentina’s Copa Liga de Professional, Joel Sonora scored the winner off bench for Talleres de Cordoba against Boca Juniors on Monday. The Texas-born Sonora will now hope to start against Newell’s Old Boys on Monday. U.S. U-20 attacker Matko Miljevic likely won’t play for Argentinos Juniors against San Lorenzo on Sunday as he is caught up in a nasty contract dispute with the club that will likely see him leave early in 2021.

In Belgium’s top flight, winger Joe Efford, 24, could start for Waasland-Beveren on Saturday when it hosts Cercle Brugge. Efford has been surprisingly successful this season since moving to Belgium from the second-tier of Greece. Two Americans from Colorado should be on the bench when Club Brugge hosts Kortrijk on Saturday: defender Brenden Hines-Ike for Kortrijk and Ethan Horvath for Club Brugge. Finally, Chris Durkin has been struggling for minutes recently for St. Truiden but he hopes to change that when they visit OH Leuven on Monday.

In the Danish Superliga, Michael Lansing will be the backup goalkeeper for Horsens when it visits Lyngby on Friday. Jonathan Amon is still out long-term for Nordsjaelland.

In Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Mix Diskerud and Helsingborg visit Elfsborg on Sunday. Romain Gall and Orebro visit AIK on Sunday as well.

In Norway, Seattle right back Henry Wingo and Molde visit Stabaek on Saturday.

In Austria’s Bundesliga, U.S U-23 center back Erik Palmer-Brown and Austria Vienna host St. Polten on Sunday.

In the Swiss Super League, Jordan Siebatcheu will likely be on the bench for Young Boys when it hosts Basel on Saturday.

In Poland’s top flight, Kenny Saief is a likely starter for Lechia Gdansk when it visits Piast Gliwice on Monday. Meanwhile, Ben Lederman will probably be on the bench for Rakow Czestochowa when it vists Lech Poznan on Sunday.

In Greece’s Super League, Gboly Ariyibi and Panaitolikos hosts Aris on Sunday.