Soccer

Americans Abroad: USMNT in Europe

(Brad Smith, ISI Photos)

As we bounce into yet another round of Qualifiers for the USMNT, rarely do we see a squad consisting of a majority of European-based players. Americans abroad in Europe is almost becoming the norm for the USMNT, when it has traditionally been the exception. In Fact, this October international break squad has more European based players than MLS players. This article will delve into the backgrounds of the European-based players within the squad and provide a brief overview of their season so far.

Note: Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargeant, and John Brooks are not included in this squad, thus they will not be discussed.

Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen – Manchester City, England

Age: 26

Pennsylvania native Zack Steffen made his move to the blue half of Manchester in July 2019. After spending a season on loan at German club Fortuna Düsseldorf, Steffen returned to City to backup starting goalkeeper Ederson. Since then Steffen’s appearances remain limited, however, he started City’s EFL Cup Final win over Tottenham in April. Steffen’s only club appearance this season was a 6-1 demolition of third division side Wycombe Wanderers in the EFL cup.

Defenders

Sergiño Dest – Barcelona, Spain (RB, LB)

Age: 20

Dutch-born and raised, Dest qualifies for the United States National Team through his Surinamese-American father. Having come through the ranks of famed Ajax Academy, Dest earned a big-money move to Barcelona in October of last year. Currently, the La Liga Giants are struggling, sitting in 9th place in the league. Dest, However, has appeared in every match, starting 6 and coming on as a sub once.

Mark McKenzie – Genk, Belgium (LB, CB)

Age: 21

Philadelphia Union Academy product Mckenzie grew up in Delaware. After just one season of NCAA soccer at Wake Forest University, Mckenzie returned to play professionally for the Union. Mckenzie impressed, being named to the 2020 MLS Best 11, and sealed a transfer to Belgian club Genk in January of this year. At this time, Genk sits 5th in the Belgian league with Mckenzie starting 5 matches. Also, Genk sit 3rd in their Europa League group. Mckenzie has not appeared in the club’s last two matches, both resulting in losses.

Shaq Moore – Tenerife, Spain (RB)

Age: 24

Moore made the brave decision to move to Spain from his home state of Georgia at the age of 18. After bouncing around the professional youth academies in the city of Valencia, Moore eventually made his move to his current club Tenerife. The second division side sits 4 points off the league leaders in 4th place. Moore, however, has yet to start a match, making 5 substitute appearances. Moore is eligible to play for Trinidad and Tobago but rejected the island nation’s advances at the youth level.

Chris Richards – Bayern Munich/Hoffenheim (Loan), Germany (CB)

Age: 21

Birmingham-born Richards was offered a 10-day trial at German powerhouse Bayern Munich in 2018, just one month after signing his first professional contract with FC Dallas. After impressing, Richards earned himself a contract with the Bavarian club in January 2019. Having spent a year in the reserves of Bayern, Richards joined club TSG Hoffenheim on loan where he remains today. Richards is a regular in the clubs backline, starting the last 4 matches and registering an assist for the season. Hoffenheim are in 11th place currently in the Bundesliga.

Antonee Robinson – Fulham, England (LB)

Age: 24

Born in England to American parents, Robinson was developed by Everton’s youth academy. After bouncing around the English second division, Robinson transferred to then Premier League side Fulham in 2020. Unfortunately, Fulham was relegated with Robinson making 28 appearances on the season. Fulham currently sits 5th in the English 2nd division, qualifying them for the promotion playoffs as things stand. Robinson is an ever-present making 10 appearances from 11 matches so far.

Deandre Yedlin – Galatasaray, Turkey (RB)

NASHVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 05: DeAndre Yedlin #22 of United States throws the ball in against Canada during the first half of their World Cup qualifying match at Nissan Stadium on September 5, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Age: 28

This name should sound more familiar to longtime followers of the USMNT. After 5 years and 112 appearances for Premier League side Newcastle United, Yedlin crossed the English channel to join Turkish club Galatasaray in February. Yedlin has started 5 matches this season for the 8th place side

Midfielders

Tyler Adams – RB Leipzig, Germany (CM, RWB)

Age: 22

Tyler Adams is a typical company man. Having been developed from a young age by The New York Red Bulls Academy, Adams made the switch to Red Bull’s sister German club, RB Leipzig, in January 2019. Under the tutelage of American Jesse Marsch (former NY RB and RB Salzburg manager), Adams will continue to gain valuable experience against top-quality opposition, like champions league sides and Bayern Munich. Adams has made 4 starts for the 8th place Bundesliga side in the league this campaign.

Gianluca Busio – Venezia, Italy (CM)

Age: 19

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina to an Italian father, Busio signed his first professional contract with Sporting KC in 2017. This was the youngest player to sign with an MLS club since Freddy Adu. Busio’s budding talent recently caught the eye of Serie A club Venezia, sealing a permanent transfer of the player in august this year. Busio has taken the transfer in stride starting 6 out 7 league matches while contributing a goal and an assist so far. Venezia sit in 18th place in Serie A, just one point above the relegation zone, although.

Weston Mckennie – Juventus, Italy (CM)

Age: 23

Mckennie was born into a Washington-state military family. Consequently, he spent several teenage years in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where he developed as a player. Once back stateside, he joined FC Dallas’ Academy. Having initially signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Mckennie opted to return to Germany to join Bundesliga side Schalke 04. After cementing himself as a first-team regular for 3 seasons in Germany, Italian super-giants Juventus took on Mckennine via a Loan deal with an option to buy in August of 2020. Juventus opted to make the deal permanent just 7 months later. Unfortunately, Mckennine has shown signs of disciplinary problems in the past. In April he was suspended from the Turin Derby for breaking Covid protocols and was dismissed from the USMNT camp during the September World Cup Qualifiers for similar circumstances.

Juventus currently sit in 7th place in Serie A, 10 points off of leaders Napoli. Mckennie has made 5 appearances for the Turin based club, starting in their most recent 1-0 over Torino.

Brenden Aaronson – RB Salzburg, Austria (CAM)

Age: 20

For two seasons, Aaronson was lighting up the MLS playing for his Local club Philadelphia Union. His debut season saw him place 2nd in the voting for MLS Rookie of the Year. He then followed this up by being named into the MLS best 11 the season after, earning himself a move to perennial Austrian league winners RB Salzburg. Having developed the likes of Sadio Mane, and more recently Erling Haaland, Aaronson could not be in a better environment. Salzburg have won the Austrian Bundesliga and the Austrian cup since Aaronson’s arrival, and currently sit top of the league having won every match. Aaronson has appeared in 9 out of 10 matches, contributing a lone goal.

Americans Brenden Aaronson (left) and Jesse Marsch (right) celebrate their Austrian cup victory. (Jesse Marsch, Twitter)

Forwards

Yunus Musah – Valencia, Spain (RW)

Age: 18

Yunus Musah is the most exciting American soccer prospect you’ve never heard of. Born in New York City to Ghanian parents, but spending stints of his childhood in Italy and England, Musah finds himself eligible to play for four different national teams. The Arsenal youth product even represented England at U-16 and U18 levels, prompting senior national team manager Gareth Southgate to say this. However, in March 2021 Musah committed to representing the United States. Currently, Valencia sit in 8th place in La Liga. Musah has started their last two matches, although, he has yet to make a goal contribution this season.

Mathew Hoppe (ST)

Age: 20

LA Galaxy academy reject Hoppe, joined Bundesliga club Schalke 04 in 2019. He would go on to become the first American to score a hattrick in the Bundesliga. After enduring a torrid season ending in relegation in May, Hoppe joined La Liga side RCD Mallorca in August of this year. Hoppe has made 2 appearances for the 12th place Spanish side, contributing 1 assist.

Tim Weah – Lille, France (RW,LW)

Age: 21

Born in Brooklyn, New York to former Ballon D’or winner, and current President of Liberia George Weah, the speedy winger crossed the Atlantic to join Paris Saint Germain’s academy in 2014. Weah remained at the club until 2019 when he joined French club Lille. After struggling with injuries for his first season, Weah went on to make 28 appearances, contributing 3 goals and 3 assists in Lille’s unlikely title triumph over PSG this May. Weah has appeared 7 times in the league this campaign for the 9th place side but has yet to make a goal contribution.

Thank you for reading part 1 of the Americans Abroad Series. Stay tuned for future updates as I plan to continue them throughout the season.

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