Here are the 5 USMNT Americans to keep an eye on in Europe this season
The 2020/21 European season is less than a week away, with clubs across the continent ready to begin their respective domestic campaigns. Thankfully for fans of the USMNT, there are a number of American players abroad who could make their mark this year. Some are on the back of a big-money transfer, while others are fighting for consistent first-team minutes at their established club. Either way, there are plenty of names to keep an eye out for.
Juventus, who have won nine straight Serie A titles, and are one of the biggest teams in all of Europe, have an American on their roster for this upcoming season. That is massive. After impressing many at Schalke, Weston McKennie was brought in by the Italian giants. He’ll technically be on loan for this season, but Juventus can then make the move a permanent one for a fee of roughly 20 million euros, which they’ll likely do when the time comes.
McKennie certainly won’t start, but he’ll get plenty of minutes off the bench. The midfielder brings so much energy to the field whenever he steps on it, able to track back and venture forward whenever need be. That versatility also makes him a dream for coaches, who can play him in the middle, at fullback, on the wing, or even up top depending on the circumstances.
Some may question why Juve bought him, but it would be foolish to doubt a club that’s run as well as they are. There’s a plan in place for McKennie, and he’ll be ready to take any opportunity with both hands.
More from MLS Multiplex
Another US international that was on the move this summer was left back Antonee Robinson, who made the jump up to the Premier League.
He had excelled with Wigan Athletic this past season in the Championship and nearly joined AC Milan in the January transfer window as a result. However, that deal fell apart, and Robinson was forced to stay for a few more months as Wigan were eventually relegated.
He would not be denied a second time, though, as he finally got his move away when newly-promoted Fulham came calling. The Cottagers have a long and storied history when it comes to having American players succeed there, and Robinson will hope he’s the next in line to continue that legacy.
Robinson will have to fight for a starting role in the team, though. Joe Bryan, who was Fulham’s left back last season, was the hero in the Championship playoff final. He scored the two goals that brought the club back up to the EPL, so he probably won’t be benched to start this campaign.
With that in mind, the London side has two options. Either use Robinson’s height and play him at centerback, or use his attacking ability further up the field on the wing. It wouldn’t make sense for Fulham to buy him if they didn’t want to utilize him consistently, so US fans just have to hope Robinson gets a fair chance in the team.
Last year showed just how good Christian Pulisic can truly be at the highest level. He had a wonderful debut season at Chelsea despite numerous factors going against him. Pulisic was hampered by injuries for most of the campaign and missed plenty of games due to an abductor muscle tear that ruled him out for months. He also had issues with manager Frank Lampard early on, as the coach didn’t play him much, relying on more experienced players instead.
Despite all that, Pulisic became a Premier League star. He had a hat trick against Burnley and put on a show versus champions Liverpool, grabbing a goal and an assist off the bench. His ability on the ball was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the winger was constantly dribbling past opposing defenders who were desperate to bring him to ground.
Those performances led to Pulisic becoming a crucial first-team player, but his spot is under danger after Chelsea’s recent transfer business. They bought world-class attacking talents like Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and Kai Havertz, who will all need to start week in and week out. There’s still room for Pulisic in the lineup, but he now knows any slip in form will allow one of Chelsea’s role players a chance to take his minutes.
Pulisic has always risen to the challenge throughout his brief career, and he’ll have to do just that once again this season if he wants to continue his rapid rise.
Everyone knows about the USMNT’s issues up top. Jozy Altidore, who was the go-to guy for years, just seems too old and injury-prone to cut it at the international level anymore. Gyazi Zardes gets goals in MLS, sure, but his flaws get exposed when up against top tier countries who know how to defend. There are players who tried to make it in Europe, like Bobby Wood, Aron Johannsson, and Andrija Novakovic, but have failed instead.
That’s why there’s so much pressure on Josh Sargent this season. The 20-year-old has been a lethal goalscorer at the youth level, but he now has to get the job done as a professional. In previous years, the only thing coaches and analysts cared about was his development. Now, he has to start living up to his lofty expectations.
Sargent will likely start up top for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen at the beginning of the campaign. He’s had a strong preseason, and the club doesn’t really have any other reliable options to turn to. However, the American could easily lose that spot in the lineup if he fails to score in the first few games.
He’s a quality player, of course. An incredibly intelligent forward, Sargent makes excellent runs in the final third that either open space for himself or for teammates. He’s not bad on the ball either, able to play a clever first-time pass or dribble by a defender. The striker is a good enough finisher for now, but he does need to improve and become more clinical as time goes on.
Bremen aren’t the best team on the planet, so service will be hard to come by. However, if Sargent can lead the line of a team in the Bundesliga, then he’ll certainly be able to do it for the USMNT in the future.
He made his first-team breakthrough last season for Borussia Dortmund, but this year will be the one where Giovanni Reyna really shines. First things first, he’s only 17 years old and is already playing for one of the best teams in all of Europe. The son of USMNT legend Claudio Reyna, Giovanni Reyna has gotten plenty of minutes for Dortmund during their preseason tour. He’s made the most of the opportunity, grabbing a few goals during that time as well.
There’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll only get better. Dortmund knows how to develop young talents, with Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland serving as prime examples. They’ll take their time with Reyna, of course, but they won’t be afraid to play him in the biggest games. He featured in both legs of their Champions League round of 16 tie versus Paris Saint-Germain and went on to assist one of Haaland’s goals in the first leg.
Reyna’s ceiling is almost limitless, and American fans should expect him to be playing for the USMNT whenever the next game eventually happens. Until then, he’ll get to show why he’s so highly touted at Dortmund.