Welcome back! I wrote a similar pair of articles like this past December looking back at Fall 2020. Check there for the premise. Now we will examine the entire 2020-2021 season. For the most part, this series is more about breadth than depth of information. I will be looking at each players’ minutes, games played, assists, and goals (mostly all available at https://fbref.com/en/ with some help from https://www.transfermarkt.us/). I didn’t include stats for youth players or if I couldn’t find them. I definitely went overboard and tried to make this way more comprehensive than it needs to be. Here in Part 1, we will mostly examine the bottom of the US player pool in Europe. Come back for Part 2 where I look at the prospects, Part 3 to read about the fringe of the player pool, and Part 4 where we talk about the top USMNTers in Europe.
New rules: I expanded this article to include Americans playing in European 3rd divisions or lower, Americans playing in European youth systems, and some potential dual nationals who have yet to officially switch to the USMNT. On the other hand, I narrowed my focus to just players in Europe. Sorry Johnny Cardoso fans. Also if you don’t see a name in their expected section, keep scrolling, as there are some special sections throughout.
These tiers are *supposed* to be in order from worst-to-best but I’ll admit I got a little lost in the sauce. Also, who’s to say whether its better to be in the English 4th division or the Premiere League 2? I sure as heck don’t know. Within each section I listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. Overall this is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who had the best season” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.
Player Name, Age (Club/League; Total appearances, total mins, goals, assists)
** – Has appeared for USMNT under Gregg Berhalter
The Land of Misfit Toys
- Jordan Morris**, 26 (Swansea City, loaned from Seattle Sounders; Tore his ACL)
- Paul Arriola**, 26 (Swansea City, loaned from DC United; returned early due to injury)
- Jonathan Amon**, 22 (Nordsjaelland; injured for a vast majority of the season)
- Richard Ledezma**, 20 (PSV; tore his ACL)
- Sebastien Soto**, 20 (Norwich City U23; joined US U23’s for Olympic Qualifying)
- Ulysses Llanez Jr.**, 20 (Heerenveen, loaned from Wolfsburg; injured before Olympic Qualifying)
- Nick Taitague, 22 (Became Free Agent in January, retired later in the spring)
- Joshua Pynadath, 19 (Free Agent)
These players were either without a team, injured, or simply did not play in the spring of 2021. Taitague was released by Schalke after a few injury plagued seasons and then decided to retire from the sport. Richie Ledezma looked great in the fall before he tore his ACL in December. Jordan Morris and Paul Arriola had their loan spells cut short by injury. Joshua Pyndath was last with Jong Ajax at the end of the spring 2020. From what I can find, he has yet to sign for a new club. Llanez and Soto left to play in Olympic qualifying for a large chunk of the spring. Llanez was injured before qualifying started. They were also both on loan for parts of the year, Soto in the Dutch 2nd division and Llanez in the Dutch first division. Soto will likely be loaned again next season since Norwich were promotoed. There are rumors Llanez might reunited with Tab Ramos, his former US U-20 coach, in Houston with the Dynamo.
Smaller Leagues (Ranked 20+ by UEFA; Israel, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, and Hungary).
- Aron Johansson, 30 (Lech Poznan; 9 apps, 519 mins, 2 goals)
- Kenny Saief, 27 (Lechia Gdnask; 23 apps, 1430 mins, 1 assist)
- Josh Cohen, 28 (Maccabi Haifa: 40 apps, 3600 mins, 16 Clean Sheets)
- Ben Lederman, 21 (RKS Rakow; 13 apps, 484 mins)
- Nebiyou Perry, 21 (Ostersunds FC; 6 apps, 340 mins)
- Romain Gall, 26 (Orebro; 5 apps, 266 mins)
- Henry Wingo, 25 (Ferencvaros; 12 apps, 608 mins)
- Eduvie Ikoba, 23 (AS Trencin; 25 apps, 1123 mins, 4 goals)
- George Fochive, 29 (Bnei Yehuda; 24 apps, 1752 mins)
- Will Seymore, 29 (Finn Harps; 11 apps, 898 mins)
- Jacob Bushue, 29 (FC Haka; 1 app, 90 mins)
- Tim Murray, 33 (FC Honka; 4 apps, 360 mins)
Note some of these leagues (Ireland, Norway, Sweden) have a summer schedule, and just started playing. These leagues are ranked outside of the top 20 leagues in Europe by UEFA. These guys would be better off playing in MLS. Some of them even tried to play in MLS and did not make a large impact (see: Gall, Saief, and Wingo). Plus, none of these guys are particularly young, otherwise I might have placed this section higher on the list. With all that said, Wingo won the Hungarian league with Ferencvaros. Johansson decided to move to the Polish league in January rather than going to MLS, where there was rumored interest. Saief is @away_goals favorite niche player. Interestingly, former USL goalkeeper Josh Cohen was voted Player of the Season in the Israeli league (no not GK of the season, *Player* of the season). He won the Israeli Premiere League with Maccabi Haifa. Fun Fact: Cohen also played the most minutes of any American in Europe this season. Otherwise, this group is barely worth discussion, and we have bigger fish to fry, so, we are moving on!
3rd and 4th Divisions + Obscure 2nd Divisions (England, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, and Switzerland)
- Indiana Vassilev, 19 (Cheltenham, loaned from Aston Villa; 12 apps, 218 mins)
- Justin Butler, 19 (Ingolstadt; 15 apps, 398 apps)
- Jalen Hawkins, 19 (Ingolstadt; 6 apps, 75 mins)
- Noah Jones, 19 (FC Will 1900; 23 apps, 799 mins)
- Arda Bulut, 21 (Karacabey, loaned from Kasimpasa; 17 app, 749 mins, 4 goals, 2 assists)
- Marlon Fossey, 22 (Shrewsbury Town, loaned from Fulham; 8 apps, 523 mins)
- Kevin Lankford, 22 (SV Wehen Wiesbaden, loaned from FC St. Pauli; 16 apps, 977 mins, 2 goals, 2 assists)
- Isiah Young, 22, (Rot-Weiss Essen; 3 apps, 204 mins)
- Lynden Gooch, 25 (Sunderland; 39 apps, 2398 mins, 4 goals 9 assists)
- Maki Tall, 25 (Francs Borains; 0 mins)
- Mael Corboz, 26 (SC Verl; 20 apps, 1463 mins, 2 goals, 3 assists)
- Ryan Malone, 28 (Lubeck; 23 apps, 1686 mins, 2 goals)
- Terrence Boyd, 29 (Hallescher; 35 apps, 3042 mins, 18 goals, 5 assists)
The teenagers here have potential to make a name for themselves one day, but they need to rise up the ranks quickly. Vassilev is probably the most recognizable name as he received cameo appearances for Aston Villa in the Premiere League last year. Butler and Hawkins’ Ingolstadt were promoted to the 2. Bundesliga at the end of this season, which will be a great place to get minutes at their age. Marlon Fossey was loaned down from Fulham and it seems like he scuffed his chance. He was originally loaned down to an English 3rd division team and in January they switched his loan to a 4th division team … not great. Gooch and Boyd have made cameos for the USMNT in the past, but at this point they are no longer relevant.
Players Returning to MLS/USL
- Alfredo Morales**, 30 (Dusseldorf -> NYCFC)
- Bobby Wood, 28 (Hamburg -> Real Salt Lake)
- Geoff Cameron, 35 (Queens Park Rangers -> FC Cincinnati)
- Leon Flach, 19 (FC St. Pauli -> Philadelphia Union)
- Cameron Harper, 19 (Celtic -> Red Bull New York)
- Chris Gloster, 20 (Jong PSV -> NYCFC -> loaned to Sacramento Republic)
- Brendan Hines-Ike, 26 (Kortrijk -> DC United)
- Michael Edwards II, 19 (Wolfsburg II -> Colorado Rapids)
- Brandon Austin, 22 (On loan from Tottenham -> Orlando City)
- Damian Las, 19 (Fulham U23 -> North Carolina FC)
- Jack Imperato, 18 (Villareal U19 -> Orange County SC)
- Rickson van Hees, 18 (NEC Nijmegen U21 -> North Texas FC)
- Travian Sousa, 19 (Hamburg II -> Sporting Kansas City II)
- Jordan Adebayo-Smith, 21 (Sutton United -> Tampa Bay Rowdies)
- Duncan Turnbull, 23 (FC Portsmouth -> Las Vegas Lights)
- Joshua Gatt, 29 (Dundalk FC -> Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
These are players who were not making the cut in Europe, so they decided to return to MLS to find minutes. These players are not necessarily in the bottom of the player pool, but they did leave Europe so it feels weird including them higher on the list. There’s a real range here, as Leon Flach, Chris Gloster, Travian Sousa, Michael Edwards II, Cameron Harper, et al. are young and could pan out into good players if they find playing time. Flach in particular has started well in MLS. On the other hand, I doubt Bobby Wood will find enough form to rejoin the USMNT striker conversation, but he could see a career rebirth in RSL. I feel similarly about Morales, although he was doing better in the 2. Bundesliga than Wood. Cameron came home to retire, lets be real. Gatt is a throwback, and Adebayo-Smith comes from the English lower leagues, but hey who knows.
Thanks for reading! Come back for Parts 2, 3, and 4 later this week. Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter, @Beardedjack