Your Weekly USMNT Update — August 6, 2019

With the start of the European soccer only days away, we wanted to capture the USMNT’s biggest winners from preseason. We have seen a few transfers, squad promotions and plenty of friendly action this summer, so we’re sharing some quick summaries and highlights of the best preseason action. 

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OneGoal USMNT 2019/2020 Pre-Season Winners

Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO) - Werder Bremen, Bundesliga

Perhaps the biggest winner of the pre-season - Josh Sargent made the most of his Gold Cup exclusion by playing a fantastic pre-season for Werder Bremen, where he now looks to be a serious contender for a starting role as one of the three attackers in Werder’s system. Not only did Sargent showcase his goal scoring ability (having netted numerous goals this off-season), but Sargent looks more comfortable holding up the ball, dribbling past defenders, and most importantly for Werder Bremen’s system - linking up with the other two attacking options. In Coach Kohlfedt’s preferred 4-3-3 system, which includes the central striker often dropping deep into the midfield almost as a second playmaker, Sargent is likely to take the role as the right attacking striker. We expect this position to be a challenging one for Sargent through the course of the season, as it will require him to incorporate winger-like attributes into his game (crossing, combination play, dribbling past players, etc.), while advancing as a consistent source of goals for the North German club.

After an overwhelmingly successful pre-season, we think Sargent is up for it. He seems to have matured on and off the pitch and his attitude is definitely admirable: 

"I definitely feel happier and better this summer. I’m also noticing it in the way my teammates treat me both on and off the pitch. I'm not sure exactly what the coach has planned for me this season, but all I can do is train as hard as possible. I can only control what's in my power."

Check out this recent clip of Sargent vs. Everton:

Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY) - Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie

Another major winner this pre-season was Sergino Dest, who has been beyond impressive with Ajax Amsterdam’s senior team this summer. Used primarily as a left back by Coach Ten Hag this summer (who has recently been nominated for Coach of the Year), Dest may prove a solid alternative to Argentinian left back Nicolás Tagliafico over the course of the season. Similar to his appearances at the U20 World Cup, Dest mainly stood out when he joined the Ajax attack with driven runs up and down the flank, dangerous crosses, and swift link up play. To the latter, Dest looks to be thriving when in possession given his superior ball control, ability to maneuver out of tight spaces and one-touch passing skill - all traits that are crucial to Ten Hag’s style of play. As such, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Dest get consistent minutes with the senior team this year (he has officially been assigned the #28) - though full back competition at the Champions League remains ample. More than that, we suspect Dest will need to continue to improve his defensive positioning, something that we believe will come with more professional minutes. 

After this pre-season, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a call up for the upcoming September USMNT friendlies - something that may prove necessary to cap-tie the young American. As a dual-national, he is likely to draw serious interest from the Dutch Federation if he keeps up this rapid rise among the Ajax ranks. 

Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA) - Chelsea FC, Premier League

Christian Pulisic has gotten his Chelsea career off to a bright start, starting all four friendlies since his arrival at Stamford Bridge. Assigned the number 22 (coincidentally the same as Weah at Lille), Pulisic found himself at a familiar spot on the wing in each match. In one of our previous newsletters this summer, we discussed the possibility of Pulisic playing in a central attacking position, as he plays with the USMNT. Under the guidance of Frank Lampard, we thought there was some potential for him to grow into this role in the Premier League. Although the season has yet to kick off, Lampard has played Mason Mount or Ross Barkley in that position instead, leaving Pulisic on the wing. This has worked well overall, as Pulisic’s number one strength is running at defenders. 

After two tidy finishes in the friendly against Leipzig, it’s pretty clear what his strengths are, but there is still room to improve in his vision, short passing and decision making (his mazy runs don’t always convert a final product). Honing those last bits of his game is what separates a great player from a world class one, so if Pulisic wants to reach the heights that Eden Hazard thinks he can, he’ll have to focus even more on combining with the rest of Chelsea’s attacking talent. 

"He can be [a star]," he said of Pulisic. "Now he's at one of the best clubs in the world...He's a proper player." - Eden Hazard 

Pulisic vs Barcelona:

Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY) - OSC Lille, Ligue 1

We recently covered Timothy Weah’s success at the U20 Gold Cup that helped him secure a move to Lille, a club which will be huge in his development as an attacking player. Since Weah joined, he has played in three matches of pre-season, employed on the wing. Weah also managed to find the net, sweeping in a rebound after a beautiful combination play with Bamba, where he flicked a well timed through ball into space. This play was especially exciting because Weah had been linking up well with his attacking counterparts the entire match - something we think will be key to his success at the club. Bamba, Rafael Leao, and Loic Remy will all be essential in not only Lille’s success, but Weah’s development as he needs to improve on his crossing and interplay with attacking players competing at the highest level. This upcoming season is absolutely pivotal in the growth of Timothy Weah, as Lille will look to repeat their 2nd place finish last season and make it through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League. And wouldn’t we all love to see another American score a Champions League goal?

Check out Weah’s highlights from the pre-season friendly against AS Roma:

Michael Edwards (18, Woodbridge, VA) - VfL Wolfsburg, Bundesliga

A surprise inclusion in Wolfsburg’s pre-season training camp, Michael Edwards made a lasting impression on Wolfburg’s new head coach, Oliver Glasner, who arrived this summer to take over the Bundesliga side. A physically strong, defensively sound, and tactically well-versed center back, Edwards proved that he can hold his own at the professional level in Wolfsburg’s pre-season friendlies, where he was mostly used as one of the center backs in a back three formation. His impressive athleticism and tackling abilities leave him well suited to make a mark with the first team this year in our view, though the pace of play on the ball and passing abilities out of the back will take some time for Edwards to grow into. Nonetheless, while we expect Edwards to predominantly feature for Wolfsburg’s U19 or second team this year, we think he’ll definitely see some Bundesliga minutes as well. Could a USMNT John Brooks-Michael Edwards center back pairing be in the works?

Gio Reyna (16, New York, NY) - Borussia Dortmund U19, Bundesliga

Our second major surprise standout goes to Gio Reyna, who capitalized on his opportunity to join Dortmund’s senior team for their USA tour this year, where the team played against the Seattle Sounders and Liverpool (at Notre Dame). What was first thought of as a marketing stunt (bringing the only American on the roster on the USA tour) soon evolved into huge praise for the youngster by teammates, Coach Favre, and the German media as Reyna did not look one bit out of place. Quick one touch passing, getting stuck into challenges, dribbling past opponents, and having an eye for his teammates, Reyna proved why so many think he is the next rising USMNT star. Despite his early success at Dortmund, we think Reyna will likely stay with the Youth team for the duration of the season, as Dortmund is known to build up its youth prospects slowly and internalize tactics before granting serious first team minutes. Not to mention that the competition including Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt, Raphael Guerrero, Jacob Bruun Larsen, and Marius Wolf isn’t exactly easy to get by. 

Nonetheless, this quote from Dortmund’s starting Goalkeeper, Roman Burki says it all on a tremendous pre-season for Gio: “You can’t tell that he is only sixteen. His playing style is very robust and he knows what the game is all about.” High praise for the young American, whose future is undeniably bright.

Haji Wright (21, Los Angeles, CA) - VVV Venlo, Eredivisie 

After moving on a free transfer from Schalke to Dutch side VVV Venlo earlier this summer, Haji Wright quickly earned a starting spot with his new team during pre-season where he quickly got on the score sheet. Interestingly, while Wright has usually played as a central striker given his physicality (6’3”, 175 pounds) and his ability to play with his back to goal, Venlo has also occasionally used him on the wing, given his speed and ball control. As such, it wasn’t too surprising to see Wright start as a right-winger in this week’s competitive kick-off for Venlo (3-1 victory vs. Waalwijk) and Wright immediately made an impact by drawing a penalty for the crucial go-ahead goal in the second half:

Certainly not the most conventional move to go from Schalke to VVV Venlo, but who knows - many great careers have started or regained traction in the Dutch Eredivisie. Keep an eye out for Wright this year.

MLS Spotlight

Miles Robinson (22, Arlington, MA) - Atlanta United, MLS

Atlanta United’s young center back had a stellar performance against a formidable LA Galaxy attack this past weekend, as the team kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 victory. With Zlatan suspended, the Galaxy shaped up with pacy winger Uriel Antuna playing center-forward, in direct combat with Robinson. Robinson has proven himself as one of the best 1v1 defenders in the league, underpinned by his excellent recovery pace and speedy feet. Robinson’s performance was epitomized in one single play, as he won a header on a bouncing ball against Antuna and masterfully spun around several times to maintain possession while under pressure. Considering he was dangerously close to his own goal for this play, the 22-year-old’s composure showed his self-confidence with the ball at his feet. In fact, Robinson’s solidity enabled Atlanta to take an incredible 19 shots moving forward. His presence gives his teammates the ease of mind to have more freedom. 

Robinson has reaped praise from MLS veterans Bobby Boswell and Jeff Larentowicz who said (on Miles’ performance):

“Enormous, enormous, LA [doesn’t] have Zlatan up there, so they do what a couple of teams have done — D.C. probably most recently — where they play smaller attackers with speed and they try to break on us. They try to break from outside to in and they play in behind us. With a guy like Miles that can match up athletically, not only does he have the pace to get there, but once he gets there, he’s tied to you. You’re not going to get the ball from him.”

Without a doubt, Miles Robinson is one of the most exciting center backs in the league. With that being said, the USMNT has a tremendous amount of depth at the center back position, and to be fair, Robinson has shown that he is a bit raw and shaky at times this season. While his incredible athleticism gives him a unique edge against competing center backs, we do believe that he should get a closer look once he completes a full season as Atlanta’s starting center back, especially if they make a playoff run.

OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today

Goalkeepers:

  • Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA): Did not play this week - no game this week.

  • Ethan Horvath (24, Highlands Ranch, CO): Did not play this week - Club Brugge remains in pre-season. 

  • Bill Hamid (28, Annandale, VA): Played 90 minutes in D.C. United’s 1-5 loss to Philadelphia Union (MLS)

Defenders:

  • John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL): Did not play this week - no game this week.

  • DeAndre Yedlin (26, Seattle, WA): Did not play this week - no game this week.

  • Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): Played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 3-2 win vs. Cardiff City (Championship).

  • Matt Miazga (24, Clifton, NJ): Did not play this week - no game this week.

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Baton Rouge, LA): Did not play this week - no game this week.

  • Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY): Did not play in Ajax’ 2-2 draw vs. Vitesse but was on the bench (Eredivisie). 

  • Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Played 90 minutes in NY Red Bulls 2-0 win vs. Toronto FC (MLS).

  • Reggie Cannon (21, Chicago, IL): Did not play this week - not in FC Dallas squad (MLS).

Midfielders:

  • Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Did not play this week - recovering from injury and RB Leipzig remains in pre-season. 

  • Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): Did not play competitive soccer this week as Schalke 04 remains in pre-season.

  • Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 90 minutes in Columbus Crew’s 1-1 draw to San Jose Earthquakes (MLS).

  • Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.

  • Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX): Played 90 minutes in FC Dallas’ 2-0 loss to Orlando City (MLS).

  • Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 5 minutes in Chicago Fire’s’ 0-1 win against Houston Dynamo (MLS).

Forwards:

  • Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA): Did not play this week - no competitive game this week.

  • Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Played 69 minutes in D.C. United’s 1-5 loss to Philadelphia Union.

  • Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA): Did not play this week - no competitive game this week.

  • Jonathan Amon (20, Summerville, SC): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.

  • Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY): Did not play competitive soccer this week - no game this week.  

  • Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): Did not play this week - no game this week.

On the Rise / In the Hunt

  • Kellyn Acosta (24, Plano, TX), Midfield, Colorado Rapids

  • Corey Baird (23, Escondido, CA), Forward, Real Salt Lake

  • George Bello (17, Douglasville, GA), Defense, Atlanta United 

  • Jeremy Ebobisse (22, Bethesda, MD), Forward, Portland Timbers

  • Romain Gall (24, Herndon, VA), Midfield, Malmo FF

  • Chris Gloster (19, Montclair, NJ), Defense, Hannover 96

  • Richy Ledezma (18, Phoenix, AZ), Midfield, PSV Eindhoven 

  • Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA), Defense, San Jose Earthquakes

  • Jonathan Lewis (22, Plantation, FL), Forward, Colorado Rapids

  • Andrija Novakovich (22, Muskego, WI), Forward, Reading FC

  • Erik Palmer-Brown (22, Napoleon, OH), Defense, Chelsea FC

  • Chris Richards (19, Hoover, AL), Defense, Bayern Munich

  • Sebastian Soto (19, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Hannover 96 

  • Haji Wright (21, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, VVV Venlo 

  • Walker Zimmerman (26, Lawrenceville, GA), Defense, LAFC

News / Transfers

  • The Red Bulls are supposedly asking a $15 million transfer fee for Aaron Long, who has drawn interest from West Ham United. This type of fee is effectively “pricing [Long] out of the market” per his manager. 

  • George Bello has returned from a month long thigh injury and is back in practice for Atlanta United. 

  • Chris Gloster has reportedly told Hannover 96 that he wants to be transferred to PSV Eindhoven. Despite a suspension for their starting left back, Gloster was not in the squad for Hannover’s game. 

  • Weston McKennie is rumored to become Schalke’s next captain, per German news source Kicker. 

  • Alex Mendez has officially transferred to Ajax Amsterdam after spending just one season with SC Freiburg. 

  • Tyler Adams to miss Leipzig’s first Cup game match this upcoming weekend as his injury has proven “complicated” per Leipzig Coach Nagelsmann.

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers has drawn interest from eight Championship teams, sources report. The English transfer window closes this Thursday. 

  • When asked about his dual nationality by a Dutch reporter, Sergino Dest noted that he has not yet decided between the United States and the Netherlands. 

  • DeAndre Yedlin has resumed training with Newcastle United, recovering from an injury that kept him sidelined since the end of last season. 

  • Sam Rogers, a US U20 player who is a member of the Seattle Sounders Development Academy, is in discussions with joining top Belgian club, Standard Liege. 

  • Eric Palmer-Brown has joined Austria Vienna on loan with an option to buy from Manchester City. 

  • Matthew Hoppe has scored five goals in five games for Schalke’s U19 squad. The 6’2” striker spent time most recently at Barcelona’s Development Academy and is originally from Southern California. 

Injury Update

  • Tyler Adams (Groin injury; timeline TBD)

  • Jonathan Amon (timeline TBD)

  • Duane Holmes (timeline TBD)

In Case You Missed It

Weah’s preseason performances have got Lille fans already chanting his name!

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