Welcome back! If you missed it, check out Part 1 of this article here. For a quick summary, last time we examined the male Americans playing in lower leagues. Now we’re looking at the USMNT players who play in the Top 10 leagues in Europe, plus some of the best South American leagues.
Again some housekeeping: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season. In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are from December 28th approximately.
These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order for the bottom tiers. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. This is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.
Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)
Decent 1st Division League (Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina)
- Matt Miazga, 25 (Anderlecht; 10 app, 900 Juniper League mins)
- Reggie Cannon, 22 (Boavista; 11 apps, 964 Primeira Liga)
- Johnny Cardoso, 19 (Internacional; 11 apps, 477 mins across all competitions)
- Alan Sonora, 22 (Independiente; 12 apps, 563 mins across all competitions)
- Luca de la Torre, 22 (Heracles Almelo; 12 apps, 730 Eredivisie mins)
- Chris Durkin, 20 (Sint-Truiden; 13 apps, 784 Juniper League mins)
- Erik Palmer Brown, 23 (Austira Vien; 11 apps, 990 Austrian Bundesliga mins)
This is a bit of a grab bag section for all of the guys who play in non-Top 5 Leagues. I would argue that all of these leagues are a step up from MLS. Miazga has played well on loan from Chelsea to Anderlecht. EPB is technically still a Manchester City player but has been on loan for 4 straight seasons, similar to Miazga with Chelsea. Gotta wonder when either of them will find a permanent home. Cannon has impressed at Boavista, grabbing the attention of Portuguese giants Benfica in just 9 games. Cardoso is one of the first Americans to ever play in Brazil. Honestly, I’ve barely seen him play but getting minutes in Brazil at 19 usually leads to good things. I don’t know much about Sonora either, but again seeing minutes in Argentina at his age is a good sign. It’s nice to see Luca de la Torre get regular-ish minutes after riding Fulham’s bench for a few years. Only one assist in over 700 minutes is disappointing though. Lastly, Chris Durkin is quietly stacking up mins in Belgium. I think he has more defensive bite now than when he played in the 2019 U20 World Cup.
Good Situation, Small Sample Size
- Tim Weah, 20 (Lille; 15 apps, 111 Europa League mins, 212 Ligue 1 mins)
- Richard Ledezma, 20 (PSV; 6 apps, 25 Europa League mins, 93 Eredivisie mins)
- Konrad de la Fuente, 19 (Barcelona; 2 apps, 19 UCL mins).
- Zack Steffen, 25 (Manchester City; 4 apps, 90 UCL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
- Owen Otasowie, 19 (Wolverhampton; 3 app, 112 EPL mins)
- Ethan Horvath, 25 (Club Brugge; 2 apps, 90 UCL mins, 90 Juniper League mins).
- Chris Richards, 20 (Bayern Munich; 7 apps, 129 UCL mins, 89 Bundesliga mins, 15 DFL Super Cup mins)
All of these guys have around 300 mins or less but they are on good teams who either play Champions League, Europa League, or in a Top 5 League. Horvath and Steffen are both backup keepers and will naturally be limited barring injuries to the starters. But goalkeepers hit their prime later so I’m not too concerned. And, recent rumors have Horvath on the trading block. Otasowie got his first EPL appearance and start in the closing weeks of 2020. From what I saw, he looked raw, but with a few moments of skill. Ledezma tore his ACL, which derailed a breakout year for him. Weah had a ton of cameo appearances out of precaution after he lost most of last year to injuries. Last few weeks his minutes for Lille have been trending in the right direction. Richards saw an uptick in mins for Bayern, but it seemed to be more “out of necessity due to injuries” than “he beat out other players in practice”. Konrad barely makes the cut here as he mostly still plays with Barca B. His appearances in UCL were cameos in games where Barca was leading. Hopefully he will see more meaningful minutes soon.
Sustained Success in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)
- Tyler Adams, 21 (RB Leipzig; 16 apps, 109 UCL mins, 701 Bundesliga mins, 104 DFB Pokal mins)
- Christian Pulisic, 22 (Chelsea; 12 apps, 175 UCL mins, 605 EPL mins)
- Josh Sargent, 20 (Werder Bremen; 14 apps, 1010 Bundesliga mins, 175 DFB Pokal mins).
- John Brooks, 28 (Wolfsburg; 12 apps, 1008 Bundesliga mins)
These guys play in Top 5 Leagues, and they are good players, they simply haven’t made significant improvements since the summer. Pulisic has been slowed by injuries but looks great every time he plays. Notably, Pulisic started 2 games for Chelsea in the last week. Sargent is now a regular starter for Bremen but hasn’t done much in that time (3g 2a in ~1300 mins). Adams has been in the rotation for Leipzig and looks comfortable without being flashy. John Brooks is just a known quantity at this point. An overall good centerback who has the occasional error. Now, these guys are not necessarily worse than the players in the next tier. They just sustained a level of success rather than raised their game in some way. I don’t want to undermine what these guys are doing. It is not easy to continuously play at a high level.
Significant Improvement in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)
- Gio Reyna, 18 (Dortmund; 22 apps, 407 UCL mins, 887 Bundesliga mins, 138 DFB Pokal mins, 19 DFL Super Cup mins).
- Weston McKennie. 22 (Juventus; 15 apps, 295 UCL mins, 591 Serie A mins
- Sergino Dest, 20 (Ajax –> Barcelona; 19 apps, 450 UCL mins, 77 Eredivisie mins, 743 La Liga mins)
- Yunus Musah, 18 (Valencia; 15 apps, 961 La Liga mins, 35 Copa Del Rey mins).
- Antonee Robinson, 23 (Fulham; 15 apps, 1080 EPL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
This group is exciting to say the least. Yunus Musah broke onto the scene in this his first professional season. While technically still not committed to the US, I suspect the multi-national Musah will play for the Stars and Stripes going forward (knock on wood). Robinson may not be playing his first pro season, but it is his first EPL season and he has been up for the challenge showing well in Fulham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool. The USMNT starting LB spot is his to lose. McKennie and Dest both moved to bigger clubs (you could argue that Dest’s move was more lateral, but I digress) and are regular starters in their respective new homes. McKennie’s goal against Barcelona in the Champions League was one for the ages. Quick reminder: Messi and Ronaldo were on the field and 22 year-old American Weston McKennie had the best goal of the game! Gio Reyna takes the cake though. His goals + assists per 90 mins are top 30 in the Bundesliga (top 25 if you don’t include penalty goals) and the kid turned 18 last month. Unreal. People are talking about him as one of the best teenage soccer players in the world, and rightly so.
Thanks for reading! Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter @BeardedJack!