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Young American prospects who could be the next to enjoy European first-team breakthroughs

The past several weeks have seen several Americans make major leaps while featuring abroad. Keaton Parks recently made his Benfica debut while Shaq Moore appears to have locked down a more consistent role at Levante. Luca de la Torre is making waves at Fulham with several consistent appearances while future stars in Weston McKennie and Jonathan Gonzalez continue to be backbones for their respective teams.

Still, there’s always one important question on everyone’s mind: Who’s next?

Several Americans have vaulted themselves into first team contention throughout the start of the 2017-18 season, and there are several looking poised to join them at some point in the near future.

It’s important to realize that some face tougher roads than others as several remain longshots to break out at their current club. Still, there’s always room for surprises, even at the top level, as a few lucky breaks could sometimes be all that separates a player from a bit of momentum.

With that, here’s a look at some of the top young Americans that could earn first team minutes in the near future:

MUKWELLE AKALE (VILLARREAL)

Mukwelle Akale was one of the more surprising absences from the U.S. U-20 roster this summer, but the Villarreal product is still a player with promise.

The forward has been a part of several teams throughout Villarreal’s youth system and even featured in a first team friendly last year. It’ll be hard to break into a forward pool for a La Liga regular, but at 20-years-old, the forward/left winger has time on his side.

JONATHAN KLINSMANN (HERTHA BERLIN)

Goalkeepers always take time to develop, and Jonathan Klinsmann is no exception.

Klinsmann, son of former USMNT boss Jurgen, has been a fixture for the Hertha Berlin youth teams since joining the club earlier this year. However, when the club experienced an injury crisis early in the season, Klinsmann was named to the bench with the first team. A true first team push may be a ways away with veterans Rune Almenning Jarstein and Thomas Kraft in his way, but Klinsmann appears to be doing fairly well with his new club.

MATT OLOSUNDE (MANCHESTER UNITED)

Despite having several homegrown prospects break through in recent years, it certainly isn’t easy for youngsters to make waves at Manchester United. Matt Olosunde, though, appears to be on the precipice of a senior push.

The gifted fullback has traveled with the first team on several occasions and has been a staple of Man United’s youth sides. A former residency teammate of┬áChristian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, Olosunde could develop into the next top player to emerge from that class.

JOSH SARGENT (WERDER BREMEN)

Josh Sargent hasn’t even officially joined Werder Bremen, but it’s quite clear that the club has high hopes for him once he does make the move to Germany.

Sargent will not join the club until February, when he will link up with the U-23 team. The current plan is for Sargent to begin with the first team in the summer but, with the club floundering towards relegation, Sargent could be in line for a couple minutes later in the year. If Werder Bremen’s relegation is sealed early, it could spell the beginning of Sargent’s real run with the club.

KYLE SCOTT (CHELSEA)

First team minutes are always a longshot for young players coming up through the Chelsea system, including Kyle Scott. However, the young midfielder has already made some sort of progress with the team this season.

Scott was named to the club’s UEFA Champions League roster earlier this season and, while it remains unlikely he’ll see the field, it was a positive gesture for a player rising through the academy. The U.S. youth international, who is also eligible for England, traveled with the team in preseason and even earned several bench appearances early in the season.

JOEL SONORA (STUTTGART)

Formerly a part of the Boca Juniors academy, Joel Sonora is nearly two years into his time with Stuttgart, where he’s primarily been a part of the club’s reserve team.

In 19 appearances in the German third division this season, Sonora has provided four goals and three assists from an advanced midfield position. He was named to the club’s bench several times in 2. Bundesliga action last year and, with Stuttgart’s senior group is firmly in midtable in Bundesliga play this time around, the door could open for a push towards the first team after the winter break.

NICK TAITAGUE (SCHALKE)

Following behind Weston McKennie and Haji Wright, Nick Taitague is the youngest member of Schalke’s promising American contingent, and he’ll look to follow the duo’s differing paths towards first-team action.

Taitague has scored twice for Schalke’s U-19s this season after signing for the club back in February. The midfielder earned a taste of the professional game in the NASL during his time with the Carolina RailHawks and, with the winter break looming, he’ll hope to earn a look like McKennie and Wright did before him.

TIMOTHY WEAH (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)

After shining at the U-17 World Cup with one of the best goals of the tournament, Timothy Weah could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

The forward is a key member of the PSG youth teams and recently trained with the Brazilian national team during the group’s stay in Paris. A recent report says that Weah is among the more likely PSG products to earn a cameo or two before the end of the season and, with the club set to make several sales next summer in accordance with Financial Fair Play, Weah could be a major beneficiary of the team’s overhaul.

Comments

  1. Its amazing that there has been so much good news in the past three weeks that Caleb Stanko’s Bundesliga debut has hardly been mentioned. His start would have been bigger news during pretty much any other month during the last two years. At age 24 he has less upside potential than most of the other players mentioned in the article and in the comments, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

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    • He went back to La Masia at the begining of the year. I think there is a strict policy not to report on youth over there. I’m sure he still has a chance to be a very good player. IT does seem comforting that we can have a thread like this and not mention either of the americans at Barcelona though.

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    • He was promoted to Juvenil A from Juvenil B at the start of the season as well. The Juvenil A coach recently took a job in the Bundesliga I think and his former Juvenil B coach is now the Juvenil A coach. Juvenil A is the U19 team, Juvenil B is the U17 team. Lederman turned 17 in January I believe. He holds a Polish passport as well which is how he was able to go back to Barcelona after the new youth rules imposed by UEFA that forced him to leave a couple years ago. I think it says a lot about his talent that they allowed him to come back and have now promoted him to the U19. The next step up is Barcelona B team which plays in the Spanish third division or something like that. He’s a CM who plays a bit more forward and potentially could be a ACM or Box2Box type CM but he’s too young to really know where in MF he’ll end up. Important to note that not all Barcelona academy players turn into great players but most go on to be solid pros somewhere else. Also, at Barcelona is Konrad de la Fuente a striker who is a year or two behind Lederman I believe in age.

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      • He came back to the states after the ban, the report on him is that he is not physical enough for his own age group. The kid has good technique but can easily be pushed off the ball, without the support of a Barca midfield he is exposed when playing for our U-17. The kid needs more maturing.

      • De la Fuente is about a year younger but they were playing on the same team. Konrad seems to have passed Lederman but that might just be because he’s a striker and thus has more highlights to share.

  2. I know this article was specifically about US players in Europe, but there are some players in MLS and even college soccer who will be part of the US program going forward. Obviously Tyler Adams fits that description in MLS, but so do Brooks Lennon (on loan from Liverpool to SLC), Danilo Acosta, Eric Palmer-Brown and Mardo Farfan all aged 20 or less.

    I think John Nelson, the freshman left back at UNC is a college player with lots of up-side (and he plays a position the US desperately needs). He still looks like a little boy so maybe he is not ready for the physical demands of professional soccer yet, but he will be soon.

    It is always easier to spot goal-scores because goal-scoring stats are easy to find. It is harder for someone not doing it full-time to spot players who are defensive standouts or who are the guys who link the defense with the attack effectively. Note: only one defender was in the article’s list.

    A player not mentioned is defender Cameron Carter-Vickers who is rumored to be recalled to Tottenham due to injuries of some starters.

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    • The list was of young guys that haven’t made it out of the youth ranks yet with their respective clubs. All of the guys you mentioned have played either in MLS or Championship.

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      • Well, of course Nelson has played only amateur soccer. Taitague, Scott, Sonoro and Olosunde have all spent time on the first team’s bench and Akele played in a first team friendly so they are not, strictly speaking, just youth team players either.

    • There’s a special talent waiver generally used for players too young to be considered for National Team duty that would typically qualify other players. I couldn’t find confirmation for sure, but that would be the likely path. My guess is ManU gets anybody they ask for anyway.

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      • His dad went to college in England but is from Nigeria, stories from around his transfer talked about him having to be cleared and he had to wait until age 18 so I don’t think Dad’s studies had much to do with it. I’ve seen no indication that he has eligibility for England, just US and Nigeria.

  3. I’m plenty excited to see these young yanks breaking into teams all over Europe, but is there any real evidence that any of these kids might break into these teams?

    Are there other guys like Keaton Parks I’d not heard of that are making their way up in Euro leagues? What is the the with this kid in Belgium Juan Pablo something? Anyone seen him play?

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    • There are any number of kids in Europe who could be nearing Break-Outs. Most need a couple of things the break there way….loans, coaching changes, etc….

      Antonee Robinshon – LB – Bolton
      Emerson Hyndmann – CM – Bournemouth
      Josh Perez – F/MF – Florentina
      Desevio Payne – LB/RB – Groningen
      Sergio Dest – RB – Ajax
      Andrija Novakovich – F- Reading
      Marion Fossey – RB – Fulham

      These are some of the players to keep an eye on over the course of the next year or so. They may not be ready for the USMNT yet, but they are players who could add depth the the team in 2-3 years.

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      • Kyle Scott is likely to get a few cup appearances, but the chances of him pulling a Pulisic and just becoming a monster for Chelsea are pretty low. He was going to be loaned out at the beginning of the season and his deal got screwed up on the last day because of another Chelsea player. I hope he gets loaned at the winter break.
        Antonee Robinson has already broken out. He has been a very solid LB this season and already has like 10 appearances for an awful Bolton side.
        Hyndman needs to permanently transfer away from Bournemouth if he’s not starting by the summer.
        Weah actually has a moderate chance of playing some at PSG. Aside from his talent, he has two things going for him – 1) PSG is going to have to clear out a bunch of veterans this summer due to Financial Fair Play rules and 2) PSG have recently let a few academy players leave and they have all been playing great for teams like RB Leipzig and Dortmund. I think they are weary of making that same mistake again with Weah.
        Lastly, Juan Pablo Torres. 18 year old CM from Georgia. Atlanta United wanted to sign him to their team but he decided to have a go in Belgium. Too early to say what his ceiling is, but getting minutes at age 18 is great.

        Akale feels like the biggest wildcard to me. People have raved about him on soccer boards for awhile, but Spanish teams don’t report much on youth players. He’s the one that will either never get time (and transfer to the Eredivisie or something), or just randomly one weekend be on the roster, play the next week, and then be a starter… Let’s hope for the latter!!

      • I don’t think Antonne Robinson has what it takes to be a top LB for our NT. He has average speed and hardly goes inside because he is not too comfortable with the ball at his feet. He is young enough to improve, so the jury still out on him.

        Emmerson Hyndman, looks to be your run of the mill ball circulator in a small package, the way the young ones in our NT are playing, we are beyond that type of player.

        Josh Perez, seems to be too small for a forward/winger, doesn’t do enough with the little chances he is getting in his U-23 team.

        Desevio Payne, has regressed where he is not even a consistent starter in a lower division team, I believe he was also hurt for almost a year.

        Sergio Dest, saw him in the U-20 WC, looks good so far, I think he has a chance at a position of need if he switches to LB.

        Andrija Novakovich, good size at 6’3, decent speed, can knock it in when given a chance. I think he got a raw deal with Bolton but now that he is out on load he seems to be coming into his own. We can always use a big CF, he is better than Haji Wright? hard to tell because they are very different types of CFs.

        Marion Fossey, like the kid, he brings heart into his game, his game is sort of like Payne’s but with more heart, good speed, good tackler, was injured for half the season, not even sure if he is back playing.

      • Serie C where Perez plays is not an U23 league, teams are capped at 16 players above age 23 all but one of Livorno’s starters are over 23. It is disappointing he hasn’t gotten more time, but that is one of the reason Italy will be implementing a U23 league I believe next season so top teams can manage their 19-23 year olds better.

    • The business model of most of the truly “big money” clubs in Europe very rarely involves the best prospects actually coming through to the first team. As a matter of fact, it seems more and morae that the “value maximizing” model for acquired players – even the very best of the bunch – involves multiple transfers (not just loans) prior to formal “validation” as a first team player for a Champions League team.
      Chelsea actually provides an excellent example….. At one time, they have owned De Bruyne, Lukaku, Salah, and numerous others who were sold in spite of being obviously talented. PSG, Man City, Spurs, RM, United….. all are moving to this model. As US fans, we shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about whether the player moves into the first team at clubs like this. Probably, it was never the plan in the first place. Even in a “best case” scenario.

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  4. The only two players on that list who have a “chance” to become very good performers at a high level…play and produce in mid to upper mid table big five team….is Tatigue and Sargaent. They clearly have innate skills, understanding that can allow them to succeed if all falls right. The others are all the usual, they play for big teams and the coach says nice things, and OMG they are right on the edge of the first team patronizing statements and hype….that we all know so well. The others can certainly have careers somewhere, but they are just run of the mill guys. Weah is young, so their maybe hope, but let’s see how he does against men, and if he can be consistent.

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