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Americans Abroad: 2017/18 Season Preview

The European season is upon us, and it’s an especially important season with a World Cup looming. Several U.S. Men’s National Team regulars enter the club season looking to continue on as planned but, for some, the next year will be make or break for both club and country.

Following a busy summer, the top European leagues began to start up this weekend. The summer was headlined by a Gold Cup featuring an MLS-based squad, leaving the slew of European stars to focus on integrating on the club level ahead of a massive campaign.

The summer period was headlined by some transfers, with John Brooks’ move to Wolfsburg being the biggest of the bunch. He’s not the only American on the move, though, as Danny Williams, Perry Kitchen and Rubio Rubin all most prove themselves after joining up with a new club.

Meanwhile,  players like Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood will look to continue to raise their level ahead of the World Cup while younger stars like Weston McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Julian Green and Lynden Gooch look to push for consistent roles on the club level.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the Americans scattered throughout Europe and what scenarios and situations they face this season:

ENGLAND

PREMIER LEAGUE

Geoff Cameron and Stoke City enter the season after yet another midtable finish, and Cameron’s spot is up for debate for the first time in quite some time. Kurt Zouma joins to add depth in central defense, adding further mystery to where Cameron will play this season. Stoke has been working with a three-man backline and a potential loan move for Bruno Martins-Indi could see Cameron in a battle for minutes.

Cameron Carter-Vickers looked poised to leap into a more consistent role with Tottenham, but a rocky preseason put that role into question a bit. The 19-year-old defender still needs some fine-tuning if he’s to play legitimate Premier League minutes but Tottenham’s lack of transfer activity means he could have a part to play if Jan Vertonghen or Toby Alderweireld are out of the lineup. Regardless, he needs minutes, either at Tottenham or elsewhere.

Emerson Hyndman returns to Bournemouth after a strong loan stint with Rangers. Injury issues remain a concern heading into the new season, but he could feature in the club’s midfield after the Cherries lost Jack Wilshere following the end of his loan spell.

Danny Williams joins David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town after falling in the Promotion Playoff final with Reading. Williams has deserved a Premier League chance for quite awhile and it will certainly come in the heart of the Terriers’ midfield. He’ll hope it leads to more USMNT minutes, too, especially with the World Cup coming up.

DeAndre Yedlin and Newcastle United bounced right back up to the Premier League by cruising through the Championship. It was far from a wasted season, though, as Yedlin grew by leaps and bounds as a defender ahead of another crack at the Premier League. He’ll start the campaign injured, but expect Yedlin to be a frequent inclusion for Newcastle this season.

CHAMPIONSHIP

Lynden Gooch started the 2016-17 season on a high after making several early season appearances for Sunderland but injuries derailed his campaign following his USMNT debut. Now in the Championship, Gooch must impress new manager Simon Grayson as he looks to lock down a more concrete position with the first team.

Eric Lichaj is fresh off a USMNT return, one which featured several ups and downs. He now looks to impress with Nottingham Forest after winning honors as the club’s Player of the Year last season.

Tim Ream has been one of Fulham’s most consistent defenders for several seasons, but this will be his most important yet. With a World Cup looming, Ream is one of central defenders on the fringe and another steady, consistent campaign should keep him in the running right up until Russia 2018.

Luca de la Torre impressed at the U-20 World Cup, but it’s time for him to find first-team soccer. Whether it comes at Fulham or not remains to be seen, but he did do well to score a goal during the club’s preseason.

GERMANY

BUNDESLIGA

John Brooks was the big Americans Abroad transfer of the summer as he sealed a move from Hertha Berlin to Wolfsburg, a club looking to bounce back into the league’s elite with several big signings. Brooks was regularly counted among the Bundesliga’s top centerbacks last season and, when healthy, he remains the USMNT’s best option in central defense.

Timmy Chandler will have a fight on his hands if he hopes to break back into the USMNT picture ahead of Russia. Fortunately for him, his performances with Eintracht Frankfurt have long been consistent. He was one of the club’s top players last season and he’s expected to feature once again in a wing back role.

Julian Green is entering what feels like his 10th straight make-or-break year. He made 10 appearances after joining Stuttgart during the winter but never truly felt like a regular. He’ll need to step up and win a place this season as the club jumps from the second division up to the top flight.

Aron Johannson faces an interesting few weeks before the end of the transfer window. Werder Bremen is open to moving the American forward, who has struggled with injuries since making the leap to the Bundesliga. Even if he does remain with the team, opportunities will likely be limited with Max Kruse leading the line.

Fabian Johnson enters another season with Borussia Monchengladbach after finishing ninth in 2016-17. With Bruce Arena in charge, Johnson has featured as a wide midfielder for the USMNT, and he’ll likely continue in that role with Monchengladbach. Last season, the winger had his ups and downs, leading to a stint on the bench, so he’ll be in a fight for minutes once again this season.

Jonathan Klinsmann made the move to Germany this summer, joining Hertha Berlin after shining for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team. A recent injury crisis means Klinsmann could earn some time with the first team but expect Klinsmann to spend the upcoming campaign with the reserves as he adjusts to professional life.

Weston McKennie is set to start the season with the Schalke first team and his potential rise is certainly a storyline to watch. A very strong central midfielder, McKennie has looked good in preseason and earned praise from the Schalke brass. If he can keep it up, he could certainly earn some looks with the club’s main squad after making his senior debut to close last season.

Christian Pulisic is likely the USMNT’s most important player despite his age. He’s rapidly rising in importance on the club level, too, especially with rumors swirling concerning the future of Ousmane Dembele. Pulisic made 29 league starts last season, but he’ll have even more responsibility this season as he continues as a focal point of a Dortmund team hoping to contend for a title and a strong run in the Champions League.

Caleb Stanko returns to Freiburg after a season on loan with FC Vaduz in Switzerland. He’s played a little right back in preseason and that position could be the key to him finding a role with Freiburg.

Bobby Wood exceeded all expectations in 2016-17 by rapidly becoming Hamburg’s only true goalscorer. The team went out and added quality to the squad in the form of forward Andre Hahn and defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos as they look to avoid the relegation playoff this season. Wood will be a big part of that after scoring nine total goals last season.

Haji Wright faces an interesting situation. He’s not likely to be a part of the Schalke first team and he’s too old to play with the U-18s. A season with the reserves would be a waste far too deep in the German pyramid, making a loan move the likely ideal scenario. Wright did well in preseason, headlined by a four-goal performance, but his immediate future remains up in the air.

2. BUNDESLIGA

Terrence Boyd joined Darmstadt last season and he’ll now look to truly break through with the squad now that he’s fit. After several injury-plagued years, Boyd simply needs games, and he’ll hope to get them with a team now in the second division.

Russell Canouse remains with VfL Bochum after joining from Hoffenheim on a long-term loan. He made 20 appearances last campaign, but only eight starts, and he’ll hope for more starting minutes in an effort to impress his parent club.

Jerome Kiesewetter opened his campaign with an assist, leading Fortuna Dusseldorf to a victory to open the 2. Bundesliga season. The winger made 18 appearances and scored a pair of goals last season, and this season’s target will be making more than the five starts he earned last year.

Alfredo Morales and Ingolstadt suffered relegation last season and they’ll now look to battle back towards the Bundesliga. Morales was a frequent starter for Ingolstadt last season and their hopes will likely depend greatly on his performances in the heart of the midfield.

Andrew Wooten has been a productive forward for SV Sandhausen since 2014, and the 2016-17 campaign was no different. He scored nine league goals last season, and even scored in the opener on Saturday, but an injury could be a setback to start the new season.

NETHERLANDS

EREDIVISIE

Matt Miazga is back with Vitesse as the club looks to build on a trophy-winning campaign. Miazga rose throughout last season, becoming one of the club’s most reliable defenders. Given the attacking nature of the Eredivisie, and the upcoming Europa League campaign, Miazga should face plenty of tests as he looks to make a late surge towards the World Cup squad.

BELGIUM

JULIPER LEAGUE

Ethan Horvath and Club Brugge’s UEFA Champions League campaign ended early, but the Belgian club still has a Europa League push to look forward to. Horvath is now the team’s go-to goalkeeper, and he’ll look to use that as a springboard towards a more consistent USMNT role. Horvath has long been pegged as a goalkeeper for the future, and his pursuit of that spot will continue as he climbs the ladder in Europe.

Kenny Saief made his USMNT debut before the Gold Cup, but it was short-lived due to injury. His health remains an issue ahead of the club campaign, but Saeif remains a dark horse candidate for more USMNT minutes heading down the home stretch of this cycle. He made 23 appearances and scored seven league goals for Gent last season and is expected to be vital piece once again this season.

DENMARK

DANISH SUPERLIGA

Perry Kitchen sealed a move from Hearts to Randers this summer after falling out of favor under new management with the Scottish club. The move is, at best, a step sideways, which means Kitchen is under major pressure to step up and have a big year if he hopes to stay on the USMNT radar.

NORWAY

ELITESERIEN

Rubio Rubin made the move to Norway in the hopes of reviving his club career with Stabaek. Rubin was once one of the more promising forward prospects, but he’s had a few down hears with Utrecht and Silkeborg. Stabaek has been a club friendly to Americans in past seasons, and Rubin will be hoping to be the latest U.S. product to make an impact at the club.

16 comments
  • TheFrenchOne

    I find this kind of article helpful. Some of it is general knowledge, but it helps to understand what these players are up against in terms of gaining more PT. Well done.

    Like

  • danny kissinger

    I think the most interesting player to watch will be Julian Green. If he can break into the starting lineup for a Bundesliga team and perform, then he immediately get’s pushed into consideration for not just a NATs spot, but possibly even starting position given that we don’t have a big stable of talented wingers. Yes this sounds Eurosnobish, but look at who we have. After Pulisic (who probably won’t be deployed as a winger), we have Fabian Johnson, Zardes, and Arriola as the main contenders for playing time as true wingers. There’s also Morris and Nagbe who aren’t wingers but have had some success playing the position. I am a big fan of Arriola, but if Green becomes a legit Bundesliga winger, he becomes at least on par with him. I think Zardes can play a role on the team with his work rate, but he doesnt have the technical quality to be a starter at the international stage. Nagbe is great, but I think he should really be deployed in the middle.

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      Nagbe generally plays on the outside for Portland, maybe not as wide as Bruce had him playing in the GC. I think US formation will determine where he plays, if we are in a diamond, he has to play wing to see the field he isn’t defensive enough to play the 6 and Bradley has that sealed anyway. If we are in the empty bucket with Pulisic on the wing, Nagbe could play centrally, but then the ball usually goes up the wings and he would have little to do. Some sort of 5 man midfield would allow him to play where he does for Timbers, but forces either Wood or Altidore off the pitch in favor of Accosta, McCarty, Jones, or TBD.

      I’m interested to see Green as well, he looked good last fall for the US against weak competition when others didn’t look good. However, he didn’t do much when given opportunities with Stuttgart last Feb.

      Like

  • Vik

    I think there’s a typo with Perry Kitchen heading to “Rangers” instead of Randers.

    Like

    • eastdeflection

      correct. Randers in Denmark.
      they got the sideways move part right, though.
      Kitchen would much rather be at Rangers, i bet.

      Like

  • DCU Fan in Socal

    How many American players are being transferred overseas this window? … that is the sad situation American Soccer is facing… smh….

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      It’s partially due to the MLS schedule and its parity. Most teams still have a decent shot at the playoffs, so they are reluctant to let go of a player in the Summer transfer window. Also, American players are more valuable to MLS teams than Euro clubs, because of name recognition so the transfer values tend to be less than MLS thinks they should be, think Nagbe last year.

      Kellyn Accosta expressed a desire to move this Summer in an interview last week, but it seems unlikely Dallas will let him go before January.

      Like

      • Chase

        Also, perhaps the biggest road block to transfers (both summer and winter) is the rather large cut that the MLS takes for outgoing players. I suppose this was necessary several years ago when the league needed to subsidize transfer fees for incoming players. However, I hope this is addressed next collective bargaining meeting. Let the teams carry most of the burden for paying the transfer fees, and let them keep most (or all) of the fees for outgoing players.

        There was a good article in ESPN a while back that talked about the MLS progressing from a “retirement league” to a “selling league.” I think this needs to happen. The MLS needs to allow teams to let players like Acosta, Larin, and Almiron go now (assuming the situation is right) so that they can reinvest in their roster, player development, etc. If this happens, I can see the MLS becoming the best league in North and South America by the 2026 World Cup, which will only help the Nats… Then perhaps the World Cup boom will create some momentum that the MLS can capitalize on and try to make some noise on the world stage.

        Like

      • johnnyrazor

        Chase, I think the point is MLS doesn’t want to become a selling league. They think they can tread water and slowly pick away the age of DPs they bring until they are signing more Giovincos and fewer Pirlos and Gerrards. Unfortunately, that doesn’t put much emphasis on academies because why should you develop players if you can’t sell them for lump sum profits. Weak academies, of course, means weaker national team.

        Like

      • Chase

        Agreed. I really hope they either bring in some players to give him some decent service or change their offensive philosophy. It seemed most of his goals last year were just from a great single effort after chasing down a long ball.

        Like

  • eastdeflection

    Hyndman’s situation is the one i’m most anxious to see resolved. Late start due to injury usually translates to difficult to get minutes, especially on what is essentially a new team for him.
    I know Howe digs him, but i’d almost rather see him go back to Rangers if it’s going to translate to more field time.

    Like

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