Your Weekly USMNT Update — April 9, 2019
This week clearly belongs to our USMNT youngsters who are beginning to make a big splash in Europe’s most elite youth leagues - and in Sebastian Soto’s case, even in the first division. Soto, our youth spotlight from two weeks ago, celebrated his Bundesliga debut this Saturday for Hannover 96 after spending less than a full year in Germany. With 12 goals and five assists in 18 games for Hannover’s youth team, he looks ripe for a bigger assignment and is certainly an interesting long term prospect for the USMNT.
Fair warning: given the strong performances of several U20 and U23 players this week, we are highlighting a few more young players than usual today.
Star of the Week
Alex Mendez (18, Los Angeles, CA) — SC Freiburg U19, Germany
Our Star of the week goes to Alex Mendez, who scored his first two goals for Freiburg’s U19 in the German Youth Bundesliga this weekend. And one of them was a real beauty!
Showing tremendous promise early on: Mendez has shown tremendous promise since arriving in Freiburg this winter break, as he immediately played his way onto the team and has already clinched six appearances in 2019. In Freiburg’s 3-3 draw vs. Hoffenheim’s U19, Mendez stood out with two goals and an all around standout performance as he took on the lead creative role in a team that netted three goals. One of the most talented prospects in our pool on the ball, Mendez excels at finding his teammates in space and is more than comfortable navigating tight spaces. He’s not the most physical center midfielder and will need to adapt to the physicality of play in higher leagues, but he possesses a very strong tactical understanding of the game that should help overcome some physical mismatches at higher levels of play.
Long term alternative for the playmaker role? We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but Mendez brings everything that a true playmaker needs: pace, vision, technique on the ball, and an ability to finish long range shots. True playmakers are a rare breed in the modern game and the key position that is lacking depth for the USMNT. That’s why it was even more encouraging to see how quickly Mendez is adapting to the pace of play in Germany, as he already looks ready to demand the ball from his teammates and lead Freiburg’s attack from the center of midfield. Mendez is also fortunate to be at a team that’s known to frequently pull up youth talent into the senior squad - and if keeps going at this pace, his debut in the Bundesliga does not seem far away.
Other Notable Performances
Timothy Weah (20, New York, NY) — Celtic Glasgow, Scottish Premiership
Efficiency in front of goal on point: Getting his first start in about a month, Weah needed just 15 minutes to make an impact when he knocked the ball across the goal line to give Celtic the 1-0 lead over 12th place St Mirren. Not the prettiest goal he’s scored since being at Celtic, but it underscores what we think makes him valuable for any team: the versatile attacker is clinical in front of goal. After his goal against St Mirren, Weah has now directly contributed to a goal every 82 minutes. With numbers like that, it’s tough to imagine he won’t be getting senior minutes in a quality team very soon.
Movement between the lines a difference maker: Every Weah game we watch leaves us more excited about his ability to read the game as he seems able to intelligently slide in between and past an opponent's back four with ease. His strengths on the ball may seem the most obvious: he’s quick, agile, thrives in 1v1s, and has an uncanny ability to finish from seemingly any angle. However, what leaves us most excited about Weah’s long term prospects is his ability to create space for his teammates in areas where it matters most with his runs off the ball. He’s gotten less playing time at Celtic since the departure of Brendan Rodgers a few weeks ago, but he continues to look sharp on the pitch - his time will come.
Haji Wright (21, Los Angeles, CA) — Schalke 04, Bundesliga
Physical presence in the box: Haji Wright was a standout performer with Schalke’s U23 this weekend as he clinched a goal that contributed to their 4-0 victory over which helped solidify their top spot in the table. He now has seven goals in 15 appearances for the second Schalke team. Though it’s been an up and down season for Wright peddling between Schalke’s first team squad and the U23 starting XI, he’s taken major steps forward in performance this season. At 6’3”, he is a towering figure with strong heading ability, but has a quick turn and can dribble nicely in tighter spaces. His speed and strength make it challenging for defenders when he pulls away on a short sprint.
Needs more first team minutes: With Schalke’s struggles this season, it has been difficult for Wright to break into the first team consistently and find minutes. He did score his first Bundesliga goal this season, a tap in off of a flicked McKennie header. Hopefully, with more first team minutes, he can begin to make his mark in Germany’s top flight and become a viable option for the USMNT.
Chris Mueller (22, Schaumburg, IL)— Orlando City, MLS
Our MLS spotlight this week is on Chris Mueller, who is beginning to make major inroads on a very competitive Orlando City attack. Mueller, who can play on the right wing and at center forward, has two goals this season and an assist in five games this season. Known for his speedy dribbling and neat finishing, Mueller put on a superb performance by scoring a goal minutes after coming on, adding extra adrenaline to push Orlando’s late rally. O’Connor, Orlando’s head coach, sees him as a major weapon off the bench - though he expects him to step into the starting line-up. On top of that, Nani had high praise of Mueller: “Chris Mueller is a fantastic player,” said Nani. “He has all he wants on his front. I talked with him before the game, [and] I gave so much positive things.”
Quote from MLSsoccer.com
See Mueller’s game-tying goal here:
Richie Ledezma (18, Phoenix, AZ) - PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands
This week’s Youth Spotlight goes to Richie Ledezma, who clinched his first minutes with PSV Eindhoven’s U19 team this week following his move to Europe this winter. Similar to Mendez and Pomykal, Ledezma is a quick and agile midfielder who is extremely technically gifted on the ball. Will be great to see the trio link up for the red white and blue soon.
By the way, Ledezma made the most of his first minutes in Eindhoven and almost got one the scoresheet after this strike:
OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today
Note: We are excited to add a couple of U20 USMNT players to the hunt after they hit the ground running faster than expected with their new European clubs. At this rate, we believe Sebastian Soto, Alex Mendez, and Chris Gloster are all very viable candidates for a call up to the next World Cup.
Zack Steffen (25, Coatesville, PA): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 1-0 win vs. New England Revolution (MLS).
Ethan Horvath (23, Highlands Ranch, CO): Played 90 minutes in Brugge’s 2-3 win vs. RSC Anderlecht and played 90 minutes in the Brugge’s 4-0 win vs. Standard Liege (Belgian Pro League).
Alex Bono (24, Baldwinsville, NY): Played 90 minutes in Toronto’s 2-2 tie vs. Chicago Fire (MLS).
John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL): Played 90 minutes in Wolfsburg’s 3-1 win vs. Hannover 96 (Bundesliga).
DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA): Played 90 minutes in the Newcastle’s 0-1 loss to Crystal Palace (EPL).
Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): Played 90 minutes in Wigan Athletic’s 2-2 tie vs. Bristol City (Championship).
Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ): Played 90 minutes in Reading’s 3-1 loss vs. Hull City (Championship).
Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Louisiana): Played 90 minutes in Swansea’s 3-1 win to Nottingham Forest (Championship).
Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY): Played 90 min in Ajax Amsterdam II’s 1-3 win vs Helmond Sport
Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Played 90 minutes in the New York Red Bulls 1-2 loss to Minnesota United (MLS).
Walker Zimmerman (25, Lawrenceville, GA): Played 90 minutes in LAFC’s 0-4 win vs. D.C. United (MLS).
Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA): Played 21 minutes in San Jose Earthquakes’ 3-0 win over Portland Timbers (MLS).
Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA): Did not play this week due to injury.
Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Did not play this week due to injury.
Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): Did not play this week due to injury.
Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 1-0 win vs. New England Revolution (MLS).
Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Played 74 minutes in Derby County’s 3-3 tie vs. Brentford (Championship).
Kellyn Acosta (23, Plano, TX): Played 90 minutes in Colorado Rapid’s 4-3 loss to Orlando City (MLS).
Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 90 minutes in Chicago Fire’s 2-2 tie vs. Toronto FC (MLS).
Jonathan Amon (19, Summerville, SC): Not on roster this week.
Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): Not on roster this week.
Timothy Weah (20, New York, NY): Played 78 minutes and scored a goal in Celtic’s 0-2 win vs. St. Mirren, and did not play against Livingston FC (Scottish Premiership).
Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Played 90 minutes in DC United’s 0-4 loss vs. LAFC (MLS).
ON THE RISE/IN THE HUNT
Corey Baird (23, Escondido, CA), Forward, Real Salt Lake
Taylor Booth (17, Eden, UT), Midfield, Bayern Munich
Andrew Carleton (18, Powder Springs, GA), Midfield
Sean Davis (26, Long Branch, NJ), Midfield, NY Red Bulls
Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY), Defense, Ajax Amsterdam
Jeremy Ebobisse (22, Bethesda, MD), Forward, Portland Timbers
Romain Gall (24, Herndon, VA), Midfield/Forward, Malmo FF
Chris Gloster (18, Montclair, NJ), Defense, Hannover 96
Jonathan Lewis (21, Plantation, FL), Midfield/Forward, NYCFC
Alex Mendez (18, Los Angeles, CA), Midfield, SC Freiburg
Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX), Midfield, FC Dallas
Chris Richards (19, Hoover, AL), Defense, Bayern Munich
Sebastian Soto (18, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Hannover 96
Haji Wright (21, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Schalke 04
News / Transfers
In Case You Missed It
We recently had the chance to sit down with Santi Patiño, the third overall draft pick in the last MLS Superdraft. Check out our full length interview where we discuss the transition from College to the MLS, Santi’s goals with Orlando this season and a long term international career.
In honor of Zack Steffen’s 25th birthday this week, check out this highlight reel of some his best saves: