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The American Soccer Kickoff: Gio Reyna, McBride and more

(With the new year upon us, SBI will begin a new regular Monday series, the American Soccer Kickoff, which will highlight the biggest storylines in American soccer from the weekend)

The past and future of American soccer both made headlines over the weekend, giving U.S. Men’s National Team fans some reason for optimism after some otherwise lackluster recent weeks.

Gio Reyna and Brian McBride grabbed headlines over the weekend, with Reyna impressing during Borussia Dortmund’s winter camp and McBride becoming the new general manager of the USMNT.

There were other positive developments, from Josh Sargent’s impressive showing in his return with Werder Bremen, and Tyler Adams having one of his biggest competitors for defensive midfield minutes at RB Leipzig being sold.

Here is a closer look at some of the weekend’s biggest storylines across American soccer:

Reyna shines in Dortmund camp

Gio Reyna scored a goal and added an assist in Borussia Dortmund’s winter break friendly win against Feyenoord.

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Dortmund had a big winter break, landing highly-rated Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, but reports out of the club’s camp suggest Reyna was one of the most impressive players of the break after joining the first team for the camp.

Reyna is looking like a prime candidate to join the first team for the second half of the Bundesliga season. Not bad for a 17-year-old who is continuing to travel a familiar path previously blazed by Christian Pulisic.

McBride starts USMNT GM job

U.S. Soccer’s long-awaited hiring spree reached full speed on Friday, with Brian McBride being announced as the new USMNT general manager.

McBride joined the team at its January camp in Florida on Saturday, jumping into the role previously held by Earnie Stewart before Stewart was promoted to U.S. Soccer sporting director.

McBride’s hire was welcome news given his highly-regarded reputation in American soccer circles. The hire brought some much-needed goodwill for U.S. Soccer after the highly-criticized appointment of Anthony Hudson as U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team coach.

So what is McBride’s role exactly? Here is how it was described when his hiring was announced:

Working closely with Stewart and Berhalter, McBride’s primary areas of focus will be to oversee the development and management of the player pool, build and guide the culture within the Men’s National Team environment, manage relationships with clubs and represent the USMNT on the global stage.

McBride’s post-playing resume is light on management experience, at least when it comes to pro clubs or national teams, but the impeccable reputation he developed during his playing career has led to mostly positive reactions to his hire. That honeymoon period won’t last forever though. It wasn’t too long ago when Earnie Stewart’s hiring as USMNT GM was met with positive reactions too, and nowadays Stewart’s popularity among USMNT fans has plummeted due to a widely-held belief that the program has stagnated under his guidance.

Sargent nets double in Bremen return

Gio Reyna isn’t the only American to enjoy a good winter break camp with his Bundesliga side. Josh Sargent marked a successful return from injury with two goals in Werder Bremen’s preseason win against Hannover.



Sargent looks to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him in early December.

Pulisic’s latest knock raises durability concerns

Christian Pulisic missed Chelsea’s win against Burnley, and is expected to miss more time with an adductor injury suffered last week. It’s the latest in a long list of stints on the sideline for the American story, and it has led to some questions about his durability.

FOX Sports analyst and former USMNT defender Alexi Lalas expressed his concern, even mentioning Pulisic in the same breath with former USMNT standout and injury-prone midfielder John O’Brien:

Does Lalas have a point? Pulisic has had multiple stints on the injured list, both at Chelsea and Dortmund, but he has also managed to avoid long-term issues, and has generally responded to those stints on the sideline with good recoveries and returns to his team’s playing rotation.

The reality is that injuries are part of the game, and advances in sports medicine have allowed clubs to better identify injuries, even minor ones, and clubs with the depth to rest top players have the luxury of erring on the side of caution rather than pushing players to play with the type of minor ailments that they might have played through in prior generations, like when Lalas was a player.

Is there something to be said for players who successfully avoid injuries and missed games? Absolutely, but if you take a closer look around the world’s game you will find fewer and fewer top players successfully making it through a full season without some time spent in recovery mode.

Could Pulisic be more durable? That much is clear, but he’s also 21, and responded very well each time he has been forced to the sidelines. The injuries are something to keep an eye on, but lumping him with the most injury-prone players in American soccer history feels like a serious leap.

Demme deal a boon for Adams

Speaking of injuries and their impact, Tyler Adams had his own injury ordeal to get through after a persistent groin injury and subsequent foot injury kept him sidelined for the second half of 2019. While he recovered, RB Leipzig enjoyed an outstanding first half of the Bundesliga season, and its midfield helped lead the way.

When Adams was played at right back in his return to the Leipzig lineup, it looked like an option to get Adams on the field, but the recent sale of Diego Demme to Napoli is a big boost to Adams’ chances of resuming his role as regular starter in the heart of RB Leipzig’s midfield,

Adams still faces plenty of tough competition for minutes, with the likes of Konrad Laimer, Amado Haidara and Kevin Kampl, but the fact he was plugged into the lineup just before the break suggests Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann rates him and will give him his chance to stake his claim to the spot left open by Demme’s departure.

NYCFC a good fit for Zelalem

Gedion Zelalem’s quest to revive his career has taken him to New York City FC, where he signed after an unsuccessful stint at Sporting Kansas City.

The move has plenty of risk, but the opportunity for a big reward for the 22-year-old midfielder. He never felt like a good fit with Sporting KC’s counterattacking style. NYCFC’s possession-oriented style — assuming it isn’t drastically changed by new coach Ronny Deila — should suit Zelalem’s strengths well.

Throw in the fact Zelalem will have a chance to play on the small field at Yankee Stadium (and Citi Field) and his quick feet and deft touch could make him a real threat in NYCFC’s setup.

The risk lies in the heavy competition he will face for minutes. NYCFC is stacked in central midfield, with Maxi Moralez, Keaton Parks, Alexander Ring, James Sands, Tony Rocha and Juan Pablo Torres, but given the fact NYCFC will be competing on multiple fronts this year (Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup), there will be minutes to go around and Zelalem could thrive in New York in a way he wasn’t able to at SKC.


  1. Is pulisic’s injury the adductor or abductor? I’ve seen both reported and they have different recovery implications. Maybe Ives can reconfirm.

  2. I think US Soccer is figuring this out as they go, that’s why the details are shaky on things like job responsibilities. Remembering listening to the recent podcasts about the ’98 US world cup team, I was startled by the lack of management. The onfield quality had outpaced the management, and sadly that hasn’t changed until the last year or so. I give them credit for realizing they need more soccer people to manage and run the national teams, and finally adding positions to address the need. For the record, I am cautiously optimistic about the McBride hire. I am rooting for him and for Berhalter. But at some point, US Soccer needs to start looking outside the family to bring in the best candidates to help the program. If I was asked to hire a general manager for the national team, I would start with the most successful general managers in MLS, then in 1st division leagues around the world. Narrow it down from there. McBride was a great player, a legend. I’ve enjoyed listening to him commentate on tv, more so than most really. But what experience does he have actually being a general manager? What international coaching experience did Berhalter have? Again, I love both these guys as players, and acknowledge they have potential for their positions, but can’t help feeling like they should have more experience before getting the national team jobs.

    • The general manager job doesn’t really exist anywhere else in soccer and MLS isn’t a fair comparison because you’re not buying, selling, drafting and trading players, or worrying about salary caps.

  3. I think McBride has no authority as GM. A figure head only. Apparently Ernie and GB will make most decisions and that leaves us right where we were with GB picking players that are not international quality as the clock keeps running. “Working closely with Stewart and Berhalter, McBride’s primary areas of focus will be to oversee the development and management of the player pool” So what happens if McBride says Zardes or Roldan are not good enough? Can that happen? How can one develop a player pool if the coach makes bad decisions? Who wins this argument? BM or GB???

    I just wonder how long USSOCCER will wait before correcting this hiring blunder (GB)?

    • Can you think of a US manager that didn’t pick players that weren’t international quality. I’ve followed since ‘94 and I can think of guys every cycle that had no business being there. McBride provides one more voice in the room which can’t hurt. It’s not just in the US either ask anyone devoted to another country they’ll come up with guys who didn’t belong that played before better players.

      • I had hoped for a proven foreign manager with no ties to any US Players. I thought that would be the way forward for the best players with every player having to win a spot. We didnt get that… In fact… its the worse its every been and I am very upset about the time we’ve wasted and how the program is sinking fast. We have good players in the UK and Germany that don’t look good with the Nats. Do they suddenly stink when they come here? or is it because they are forced to play in a stupid system with a substandard supporting cast.

      • An experienced European manager wasn’t going to take a job with little to no power. The GM post has no final say in any decision from what I can see.

  4. I seem to remember a certain Landon Donovan was given the nickname “Landycakes” by some because in their opinion he was “soft” or missed games with lesser injuries. That guy turned out to play in a lot of games for the USMNT. Ives makes a good point when he brings up the depth of Chelsea. They have plenty of productive players that can fill the void left by Pulisic, so there is no need for him to “play through the injury”. Let’s not jump off the ledge just yet. Could it be a problem in the future? yeah, but is it correct to call him “injury prone”. I don’t think so. He will grow and his body will mature. He will learn his body, and when to back off a little. I think Alexi is just being Alexi here. He is the Jim Rome or the Colin Cowherd of US Soccer pundits. Saying stuff that’s out there, just to keep himself in the news.

    • I think that nickname was more in response to his mental health struggles. I don’t know that in today’s climate he’s be as ridiculed for that, but it does still come up so maybe.

      • Landycakes was a perception that he didn’t want to challenge himself in Europe because he was comfortable (too comfortable) in LA. Maybe that was because of his mental health issues, or maybe it was something else.

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