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Change is afoot | USMNT Tier Improvements

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The Past

Following the disaster in Couva, USMNT fans and pundits struggled with how it could happen.  There was a sense that the team on the field was too MLS heavy.  However, it had only 6 MLS players starting.   High by historical standards, but not a number like 9 or 10.  Further, the T&T team was so lacking in talent that it was hard to pin the blame on a talent gap.  USSF leaders like Gulati and Arena chalked it up to bad luck.  But I think the fans were on to something.  While, any team should have been able to beat that T&T team and Arena set the game up in the worst possible way, there was also a drop in quality of player on the field, and throughout qualifying that cycle, for the USA. We needed USMNT Tier Improvements.

Drawing on the system for looking at player quality in my last article:

https://chasingacup.com/my-league-is-better-than-your-league/

Where I explained that the attempt to gauge a player’s worth by trying to differentiate the levels of most teams in world football is a Fool’s Errand.  Saying a player playing on a team at the bottom of the Bundesliga is a “Bundesliga player” and therefore must be better than a player playing for the top team in Portugal or a player dominating in MLS is impossible.  Skip a few months ahead and that “Bundesliga player” and his team have been relegated to the 2.Bundesliga.  Is he a vastly inferior player now?  The MLS stand out has possibly moved to a Champions League team.  Is he a vastly improved player now?   That is why it is best to view players in increasingly large tiers in a pyramid of club situations. 

USMNT Tiers

If you don’t want to read the article, here is a quick summary of the three tiers relevant to the USMNT in 2020:

Tier 1:   Perennial Champions League teams (i.e. Chelsea, Juventus, Leipzig), roughly the top 20 teams in the world

Tier 2:  Perennial Europa League contending teams (i.e. Everton, Wolfsburg, Lille), roughly the next 30 teams.

Tier 3:  Top league relegation threatened teams, Liga MX, MLS, Brazil, UEFA leagues 5-12 not in the above tiers.

Using that Tiered approach, the situation on the field in Couva becomes illuminating.  What looks like a mix of MLS, LigaMX, EPL and Bundesliga players, which sounds pretty good, filters out to ten Tier 3 players and one Tier 1 player.  Here is the lineup that night in terms of tiers:

That explains the perception of fans and pundits that the talent was just not good enough.  Many of those Tier 3 players had never played at a higher level.  A few had but were in serious decline and had not for multiple years.  The one Tier 1 player, of course, was Pulisic, but he had only just turned 19.  The other Bundesliga player was Bobby Wood, whose team was soon relegated to the 2.Bundesliga.  The EPL player was Yedlin.  I’m a big fan of Yedlin, but he has mostly started for relegation zone EPL teams.

All the subs that night were Tier 3 players.  Again, the talent was better than what T&T fielded.  But you can see how the USA talent was not overwhelming and poor tactics and personnel decisions by Arena could be decisive because of that fact. USMNT Tier Improvements were needed.

USMNT Tier Improvements

Now for the good part!  What would a USMNT lineup look like today?  Here is the best possible lineup in terms of player “tiers” the USA can field right now:

That is quite a change!  Fans, again, sense this change and it is making the USMNT exciting again.  

In the above example I’m using:

Tier 1:  Steffan (1), Dest (5), Adams (6), McKennie (8), Reyna (10), Pulisic (7)

Steffan is not the starter, so you can ding him.  But one hamstring pull or broken finger and he is.  At worst, you can say he is Tier 2, which is probably where he would move to if City sold him.  The others play for Barcelona, Leipzig, Juventus, Dortmund, and Chelsea.  Obviously, some of the best clubs in world football and all have already played in the Champions League.

Tier 2: Brooks (3), Weah/Boyd (11)

Wolfsburg is in the Europa League this year and is usually within a few spots of 6th place in the Bundesliga.  In the past, the best USMNT players have maxed out at this level.  Weah and Boyd play for Lille and Besiktas.  Lille is defintely Tier 2; Boyd’s club is a little iffy lately but has historically been a UCL/UEL club.  If you think Morris is a better player; that is possible.  If the coach picks a different player and leaves the Tier 2 player on the bench, is that really a problem for this kind of exercise?

Tier 3:  Sargent/Altidore/Zardes/Etc (9),  Long/Zimmerman/CCV/EPB/Miazga/McKenzie/Etc (4), A. Robinson/Vines/Gasper/Etc. (2).

Here is the beauty of the system that also shows its worth.  I can name anyone in the USMNT player pool at the 9, 4, or 2 and it is a Tier 3 player.  Fulham and Werder Bremen are just not good teams that are looking like relegation fodder.  I would pick Robinson over the MLS options because he dominated the EFL Championship last year and was bought (but it fell through on a freak medical issue) by a Tier 2 team.  Right now I might just pick Erik Palmer-Brown as the best option at RCB.  Some would say, “but he plays in Austria”.  But the Austrian Bundesliga is ranked, by UEFA, as on par with Holland and Portugal and Palmer-Brown is consistently making Team of the Week and dominating his games.  Any striker option is also a Tier 3 option.  Maybe Sargent leads Bremen back to mid-table, maybe not.  I’d go with him based on potential.   But it will depend on how Berhalter wants the 9 to play.

What’s Next for USMNT Tier Improvements

But does it really matter where these players play at?  It does seem to.  Empirical studies have shown that the national teams with the most Champions League players do the best, on average, at the World Cup.  In 3 short years (ok, very long and grueling years for USMNT fans and just in general), the USA has gone from one Tier 1 player to six.  If in three more years we can get to 12, and possibly 15 by 2026, we will have a legitimate shot at winning the World Cup as the home team.

The big wet blanket is that Covid-19 has cancelled every game this year.  If we ever get to see this team play again, it is going to be fun!  What do you think of the USMNT Tier Improvements?

Follow me on Twitter at @pkeeler167

Club News

The Top 10 Americans in Europe this Season

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The season is over for most of the major European leagues and compared to last season, this was a better season for Americans in Europe.  The US had several Americans win a trophy this season or were promoted with their club.  Both Tim Weah and Weston McKennie won the Coppa Italia, while Cameron Carter-Vickers won the double in Scotland.  You also had Nick Gioacchini, Gianluca Busio, and Tanner Tessmann gain promotion to Serie A in their respected clubs.  In this article we will cover who we consider to be our top 10 Americans this season in Europe.  The stats information for each player comes from FotMob.

Lennard Maloney

Few Americans played in the Bundesliga this season and even fewer had a good season in the German topflight.  Lennard Maloney was one of those Americans who had a successful Bundesliga season.  Maloney was the main central defender for the newly promoted club Heidenheim.  Last season, he helped them win the 2. Bundesliga to get their first ever promotion to the Bundesliga.  This season, he helped Heidenheim qualify for the UEFA Conference League, their first ever continental competition.  Few American soccer players can say they have that accomplishment.  It was only until this season did Maloney get his first call-up to the USMNT.  Maloney was spectacular on the stats sheet, but it was what he did off the ball that made him one of the best American players this season in a top European league.  At one point during the season, Maloney was leading in distance covered.  His ability to stop the opposition’s transition to the attack helped Heidenheim to have 1.6 goals conceded per match and a possession of 42.1%.  Maloney outperformed 97% of Bundesliga midfielders in aerial duels won and 90% in defensive actions.  Between the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal, Maloney started in 29 matches out of 31 matches played with 2 goals and 1 assist.  He also had an 83.5% passing accuracy, 69.4% long ball accuracy, 29 tackles for 80.2%, 79.1% aerial duels won, 29 interceptions, and 144 recoveries.  For me, Maloney barely makes it in the top 10 list due to his low stats.  His accomplishments for Heidenheim and being a major piece to their successful season can’t be ignored.

Chris Richards

April 21, 2024: Crystal Palace v West Ham United Premier League 21/04/2024. Chris Richards 26 of Crystal Palace during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Ham United at Selhurst Park, London, England on 21 April 2024. Editorial use only DataCo restrictions apply See www.football-dataco.com , Copyright: xNigelxKeenex PSI-19528-0101 (Credit Image: © Imago via ZUMA Press)

It took a while for Chris Richards to get a start for Crystal Palace and it was worth the wait.  When Richards began getting minutes this season, it was at defensive midfielder.  He took people by surprise with his solid performances in the position.  With the injury of Marc Guehi and Crystal Palace moving to a back 3, Richards became a lock starter in the defense.  It was rocky at first for him, but that all changed when Oliver Glasner took over the club.  In the first match under the new manager, Richards got a goal.  Richards became one of Crystal Palace’s best CBs.  In the 30 matches played, Richards started in 27.  Richards finished ahead of 83% of the CBs in the Premier League in aerial duels, and 66% in both defensive actions and goals.  Across all competitions, Richards had 1 goal and 1 assist, 85% passing accuracy, 59.2% tackles won, 54.5% duels won, 37 interceptions, and 106 recoveries.  There is hope next season for Richards.  Guehi is gathering interest from other EPL clubs once again and Glasner will be returning next season.  If Richards retains his starting role next season, we could see Richards be one of Palace’s best defenders.  Due to not appearing in every match, having some inconsistent matches before the Glasner Era, and not unlocking his full potential this season until Glasner took over is why Richards is 9th on my list.

    Josh Sargent

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    One of the US’ most prolific scorers this season came from Josh Sargent in the English Championship.  Missing 22 matches due to an ankle injury did not stop him from scoring double-digit goals, but it did stop him from winning the league’s golden boot.  Sargent finished 6th in goals scored with 16 in 26 league matches played with 2 assists.  If Sargent had not sustained the injury, he would have been in the argument for the league’s golden boot.  Across all competitions, Sargent started in 25 matches out of 28 matches played.  When you compare his traits to other strikers in the English Championship, Sargent finished ahead of 65% strikers in chances created, 83% shot attempts, and 96% goals.  In league play, Sargent had an 81.8% passing, 23 chances created, 47.5% dribbles completed, 45.4% duels won, and 39 recoveries.  Even with the injury, there have been rumors that Premier League clubs are monitoring him.  Maybe we will see him back in the EPL next season.  The reason he falls just short of the top 5 is because between the months of May and April, he had only 2 goals and 1 assist.  As a striker, you cannot have only 3 G/A in 2 months.  The injury also allowed others, mainly Haji Wright, to pass him in the top 10 Americans in Europe this season.  If he was not out for 4 months and was in contention for Championship Golden Boot, he would have been a top 5 American.

      Johnny Cardoso

      Johnny would be much higher on this list if he had played a full season in Europe based on his form with Los Verdiblancos since joining in January when you compare him to the other Americans in a top 5 league.  Johnny took LaLiga by storm and quickly took a starting role in just his second match, which happened to be against Barcelona.  He also received how praises from Manuel Pellegrini just after his first week with the club.  Johnny was awarded the LaLiga EA Sports U23 Player of the Month in February, his first full month for Real Betis.  Johnny’s quick adoption to LaLiga and excellent performances has already caused inquiries from major clubs, one of those clubs being Barcelona, and being a LaLiga U23 Player of the Season nominee.  Across all competitions, Johnny had 3 goal contributions, 72% long ball accuracy, 9 chances created, 78.9% successful dribbles, 34 tackles won for 65.9%, 51.2% of duels won, 35 interceptions, 101 recoveries between LaLiga and Europa Conference League.  In just half of a season, Johnny beat 96% of midfielders in LaLiga for defensive actions and 92% of them in aerial duels.  For playing only half a season in a top 5 league, these are very impressive numbers, and it made him one of the most exciting Americans to watch in Europe this season.  His nomination for LaLiga U23 Player of the Season, winning a U23 Player of the Month, and the quality of the teams he faced compared to other Americans in Europe is very difficult to ignore when placing him on this list.  Johnny only playing half the season in Europe does keep him from being higher up in the top.  If he can continue this form next season, he will for sure be a top 5 American in Europe.  Next season, Real Betis will be taking part in the Europa Conference League once again.

        Malik Tillman

        The American player who had one of the best loan spells this season was Malik Tillman.  After his successful loan at Glasgow Rangers last season, Malik Tillman proved that he could conquer a top 7 league after putting up 19 goal contributions for PSV in the Eredivisie.  His effort on the offense helped PSV win the league title.  Amongst all attacking midfielders and wingers in the Eredivisie, Malik finished ahead of 94% of the players in touches and 92% in chances created.  Also, he beat out 90% of them in defensive actions and 71% in goals.  Malik started in 24 matches out of 39 across all competitions with a total of 21 goal contributions (his one match with Jong PSV is not included).  Tillman also had 71% shots on target in league play; 81.6% passing accuracy, 67.8% long ball accuracy, 61 chances created, 47 successful dribbles for 47.8%, 3 penalties won, 36 tackles for 81.2%, 48.2% duels won, 25 interceptions, 9 blocks, 171 recoveries, and 39 possessions won in the final third.  On May 10th, PSV made the announcement at the end of the season that they had acquired Tillman permanently through 2028 and Bayern retained their buy-back clause.  PSV were not the only club that was pleased by his performance this season.  His parent club, Bayern, was reportedly to be very happy with his season as well.  Maybe we will see Tillman back in a Bayern shirt in the future.  Tillman not being higher on this list was due to his inconsistent performances in the Champions League and early in the Eredivisie season.

          Segiño Dest

          The player with arguably the best loan spell of the Americans in Europe was Sergiño Dest.  After appearing in only 14 matches for Milan AC last season and his second season with Barcelona under Xavi Hernández.  A step back to the Eredivisie was the right move for Dest to rejuvenate his career.  Due to Jordan Teze being PSV’s RB, Dest played LB this season and was successful at it, showing he can play on both sides.  In the Eredivisie, Dest made it on the Team of the Month on multiple occasions.  There are still improvements that need to be made in his defensive game, and that was evident in the UCL matches.  In the Eredivisie, Dest finished ahead of 90% of other fullbacks in chances created, 88% in touches, and 90% in shot attempts.  Across all competitions, Dest finished with 9 goal contributions, 86.9% passing accuracy, 69.1% long ball accuracy, 52 chances created, 62.4% dribbles completed, 58.5% ground duels won, and 163 recoveries.  Dest played a critical role in PSV winning the Eredivisie this season.  He did make some mistakes in the UCL matches, but he was still one of PSV’s better players in the competition.  Even though the Eredivisie is not a top 5 league in Europe, Dest was one of our top performers and most informed American players in Europe.

            Haji Wright

            Arguably one of the top 3 Americans in England this season, it did not start well for Haji Wright in his record transfer to Coventry City.  In his first 3 months at the club, Haji only had 2 goals and 2 assists.  Things did not start to turn around for him until November when he scored 3 goals in 4 matches.  By the end of the 1st half of the season, Haji had 12 goal contributions.  What changed for him?  Manager Mark Robins moved Haji to LW and occasionally as a left striker.  That move in position helped provide Haji Wright his best season of his career and one of the best American players this season.  His most iconic goal in my opinion this season was scoring the winning goal at the last minute against Wolves to help get Coventry City into the FA Cup Semi-Final followed by his goal against Manchester United.  By the end of the season, Haji had 25 goal contributions across all competitions, tying him with Christian Pulisic for most goal contributions by an American in a top 10 European league.  In league play, Haji and Sargent tied for 6th in goals with 16.  Haji was better than 93% attacking midfielders and wingers in aerial duels won, along with 97% in goals, and 98% in shot attempts.  Haji finished the season with 75.9% in passing, 32 chances created, 4 penalty goals, 36 completed dribbles, 49 fouls won, 63.9% tackles, 47.8% aerial duels won, and 114 recoveries.  If Haji Wright can recreate this season again next year in the English Championship, I will have no doubt he will be linked to a move to the Premier League.

              Weston McKennie

              Another player who was consistent for his European club this season was Weston McKennie for Juventus in the Serie A.  McKennie was one of the most informed players for Juventus this season and their leading player in assists with 7.  There has been discussion by Serie A media since January that McKennie deserves to be on the Serie A Team of the Season.  He spent a good amount of the season at RWB and was very successful.  He did not move to his natural position (central midfielder) until later in the season due to injuries.  Even with being one of Juve’s best players this season and being in discussion for Serie A Team of the Season, Juve refused to give the salary raise that McKennie asked for, leaving his future with the Italian giants in doubt.  McKennie started in 33 matches out of 38 matches.  He finished the season with 10 assists. 77.4% passing accuracy and 64.4% long ball accuracy across all competitions.  He also created 46 chances, 60.8% completed dribbles, 31 completed tackles for 80.2%, 168 duels won for 42.3%, 20 interceptions, and 128 recoveries.  When you compared McKennie to other Serie A midfielders, he outperformed 87% of them in chances created and 65% for aerial duels won.  After how things went last season for him, he had one of the biggest improvements in performance for an American along with Christian Pulisic.  The reason he finishes behind Pulisic is because he did not score a single goal and he was beginning to struggle in form towards the end of the season.  He was one of the few Americans to win a trophy this season by winning the Coppa Italia.

                Christian Pulisic

                It is a close call between Pulisic and Weston McKinnie for the 2nd best American this season and even 1st between Pulisic and Antonee Robinson.  I must give it to Pulisic because of his offensive work rate and productivity, and his European competition performance this season.  Pulisic finished the season with 15 goals and 10 assists across all competitions (1 goal being in the Champions League (UCL), and 2 goals and an assist being in the UEL) bringing a total of 25 G/A, the most he has had in a single season.    In Serie A, Pulisic tied for 4th of all players in the league for goals and assists.  For Milan, he was their 2nd highest goal scorer and had the 2nd most assists.  Pulisic started in 44 matches out of 55 matches played across all competitions.  Pulisic was nominated by the league for best midfielder of the season.  When compared to attacking midfielders and wingers in Serie A, he scored more goals than 91% of other players in those positions.  He also had an 83% passing accuracy, 60 chances created, 28.5% crossing accuracy (in the league, Pulisic was in the 72.7% ranking), 66 successful dribbles for 49%, 181 touches in opposition box, 71.3% tackles won, 198 ground duels won for 46.3%, 24 blocks, 11 interceptions, and 138 recoveries.  Since becoming a professional athlete, this was Christian Pulisic’s best season of his career.  People would argue he only performed as well as he did because he took a step down.  Even with Serie A not being at the level that the EPL is at, it is still a top 5 league in the world and Milan is one of the biggest clubs in Europe.  The reason why he is not the #1 American for this season is because Pulisic was not being consistent, especially against major opponents.

                Antonee Robinson

                  It was a tight decision between Antonee Robinson and Christian Pulisic for best American player in Europe this season, but I must hand it to Antonee.  Antonee Robinson was arguably the best LB in the English Premier League this season and even argued to be the best fullback this season.  This is very challenging when talking about the best league and the world where you have the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Andrew Robertson.  For the USMNT, he was perhaps the most consistent American in Europe this season.  Antonee started a total of 42 out of 44 matches.  He had a total of 6 assists this season, making him one of the top EPL defenders in assists this season.  He also finished with the most interceptions in the EPL with 80, 15 more than Lewis Cook, who had the 2nd most in the league.  This does not just include the EPL, but Jedi also had the most interceptions across Europe’s top 7 leagues.  In the top 7 European leagues, he came in 3rd in possession won in defensive 3rd with 145.  When comparing him to other fullbacks in the EPL, he outperformed 95% of the league’s fullbacks in defensive actions, 80% in touches, and 68% in aerial duels won.  Across all competitions, Antonee had 35 chances created, passing accuracy of 76.5%, 23% crossing accuracy, 49 successful dribbles for 60.3%, tackles won, 56.5% duels won, and 264 recoveries.  Antonee has made it on several reviewers’ EPL Team of the Season and is being monitored by top clubs for this summer by the likes of Liverpool and Bayern.  Compared to other Americans in Europe this season, Jedi made it on more continental stats leaderboards and competing in this best league in the world making him the best American in Europe this season.

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                  Club News

                  Winter 2023 Transfer Window Preview

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                  In a couple weeks we enter silly season. During the month of January, the global football market will open up to leagues across the world and we can expect there to be a lot of action involving American players. 

                  Why? There are lots of reasons for players to change clubs: 

                  1. Not getting enough playing time to develop / stay sharp
                  2. Not playing at a high enough level of competition
                  3. Not a good tactical fit

                  Here is a list of players that I believe could benefit from a chance in scenery starting with the most urgent:

                  IT’S DIRE, GET OUT

                  WING, Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

                  Is really dire? Maybe not, but he’s clearly undervalued at Chelsea and Pulisic is too good to not be playing a significant role somewhere. Chelsea is once again linked with every attacker on the transfer market, so clearly he really isn’t in the plans. Newcastle seems to be the favorite to land Pulisic in January and I love the fit. 

                  WING, Konrad de la Fuente, Olympiacos

                  Konrad de la Fuente moved to Greece thinking he could get regular playing time after a managerial change at Marseille. Instead, Olympiacos signed a thousand foreign players even though only a set amount of foreign players (5) can make matchday squads, and de la Fuente has been an odd man out. Konrad isn’t in training with Olympiacos or Marseille right now and is instead looking for a new loan for the remainder of the season. 

                  AM, Richie Ledezma, PSV

                  Ledezma had the choice to stay at PSV or find a loan this summer and he chose to stay, likely thinking he’d get more minutes than he has. He has the same choice to make in January and hopefully this time he chooses to leave — he needs more minutes to grow. 

                  RB, Reggie Cannon, Boavista

                  Cannon is starting every week and that is good, but he is also playing center-back and I just don’t think he’s developed much since moving to Boavista. He didn’t make a World Cup roster which featured four right-backs, so maybe that is a sign that a change is needed? I think it is. 

                  CM, Gianluca Busio, Venezia

                  There was a brief moment in time when Busio’s move to Venezia looked like a great one. That seems like a long time ago and now he is struggling to find starts for a club in the bottom third of Serie B. I am sure the market for Busio has weakened, but there still might be interest in Serie A or other leagues where he could benefit from a career reset. 

                  CM, Eryk Williamson, Portland Timbers

                  I think it’s very likely Williamson played his last match in Portland. It’s been reported that LAFC would look to trade for him to replace Jose Cifuentes who is likely heading to the Premier League. There has not been a lot of reported interest abroad for Williamson, so a move within MLS is most likely. 

                  RB, Justin Che, Hoffenheim

                  Che’s 18-month loan with Hoffenheim looked promising last year when he was getting some appearances towards the end of the season, but with a managerial change he has fallen out of favor and has been stuck with Hoffenheim’s reserve team. I am sure Dallas and Che can end the loan early and hopefully find a better opportunity in Europe. Another half season in MLS wouldn’t hurt either, but I don’t think Che and his team want to go that route. 

                  THE RIGHT TIME FOR A CHANGE

                  LB, DeJuan Jones, New England Revolution

                  It’s not like his situation at New England is bad, he just hasn’t been able to get the attention of USSF. Perhaps a successful move overseas helps energize his stock.

                  LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls

                  I don’t think Tolkin has anything left to prove at NYRB and he is ready to make the jump to Europe. Last summer he was connected Anderlecht in Belgium — that level feels like the right next step for him. 

                  CF, Brandon Vazquez, FC Cincinnati 

                  Vazquez had a breakout season last year and I think both he and FC Cincinnati should strike while the iron is hot. A top third club in the English Championship could be a great next step for him. 

                  CB, Joshua Wynder, Louisville City

                  Wynder was a full-time starter in USL at the ages of 16 and 17 last season and of the top American prospects born in 2005. In order for him to continue to push himself and develop I think he should look to move to Europe or MLS this season. There has been lots of interest reported from both. If it is Europe, he will have to wait until he turns 18 in May, but he could sign a pre-deal like fellow LouCity player Jonathan Gomez did. 

                  SS, Quinn Sullivan, Philadelphia Union

                  Sullivan likely isn’t happy with his usage rates last season, but Curtin and company were in a tough spot trying to find their young players minutes while pushing for a MLS title. With Cory Burke gone, there might be more striker minutes available within Curtin’s two striker system. That could be enough to entice Sullivan to stay, but my hunch is that he’d like to get his European career started this winter. 

                  WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes

                  New San Jose Earthquakes manager and former FC Dallas manager and USMNT assistant coach Luchi Gonzalez says he has big plans for Cade Cowell. Are his plans to move him to right-back? Probably not, but I am not convinced another season in the South Bay is the right move for Cade. His development has stalled over the last two seasons and I think a change of scenery would be useful. Joe Scally’s club, Borussia Mönchengladbach has reportedly been interested as have some Premier League clubs. 

                  CB, Sam Rogers, Rosenborg

                  Rogers is a former Seattle Sounders Academy player that has spent the last two seasons in Norway. He had a breakout season of sorts for third place finishing Rosenborg playing as the LCB in a three back system, scoring an impressive six goals and one assist. It would be nice to see Rogers see if he can elevate his game to an even higher level of competition. 

                  DM, Danny Leyva, Seattle Sounders

                  The Seattle Sounders will have Leyva, Obed Vargas, Josh Atencio and João Paulo competing for midfield minutes next season which leads me to believe that one of the younger guys should leave to get the time needed to advance their career. Vargas and Paulo are coming off serious injuries, so it’s possible that Seattle holds on to all of the guys until the summer when there are less health concerns, but one could go in January. My bet would be Leyva because he is a more attractive prospect than Atencio, but Seattle seems to rate Vargas more. 

                  CB, Jalen Neal, LA Galaxy

                  Neal is one of the most first team ready, young center-backs in MLS, but I am not sure he is going to get an opportunity from the Galaxy on the first team this year and it might not come next year either. I think it is time to move to another club within MLS or go abroad where he can play in a more competitive reserve league. Galaxy 2 won’t be in the USL next year, they will be in MLS Next Pro, a big step down in competition, so a loan to a USL club is also a decent option though I’d prefer a higher level than that. 

                  HEAR ME OUT

                  WING, Tim Weah, Lille

                  Weah does not need to be playing right-back and I think there are better clubs and better fits for him out there. I’d like to see him leave even though I don’t think Lille is keen to move him, nor does the market seem to be too hot on him right now. 

                  CF, Josh Sargent, Norwich City

                  I am tired of watching Josh play on the wing when he is the best striker on the team. It’s a waste. 

                  GK, Matt Turner, Arsenal

                  Matt probably stays at Arsenal to continue their FA Cup and Europa League campaigns, but I think Matt has proven he should be a starting goal keeper for a pretty good club. I’d like to see him do that sooner rather than later. 

                  CB, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic

                  CCV has achieved great success and stability at Celtic, but I also think he runs the risk of stagnating. I would like to see Carter-Vickers move to a better league as soon as he can so he can continue to grow. 

                  CF, Haji Wright, Antalyaspor

                  What more does Wright have to prove in Turkey? He clearly can rack up goals in that league. I’d like to see him move to a better league and see if he can continue to be an efficient goal scorer. 

                  I’M INDIFFERENT

                  All of the guys are in pretty good club situations because they all have key roles and the competition level is fine based on where they are at in their career. 

                  CM, Yunus Musah, Valencia

                  There are some big clubs after Musah (Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter Milan), but he’d likely take a hit in playing time initially so I am not sure that is best for him right now. The counter is that nothing is certain and maybe Musah needs to take this opportunity while it is here. 

                  CM, Weston McKennie, Juventus

                  Juventus seems like a turbulent situation and perhaps a move to the Premier League would be best for McKennie. Tottenham has been after McKennie for what seems like multiple years. 

                  LB, Jedi Robinson, Fulham

                  Robinson and Fulham have been a great story in the first half of the Premier League season, but will they be able to keep it up? Newcastle is reportedly preparing a 15M offer for Robinson and that could be a better long term play for him. 

                  CM, Johnny Cardoso, Internacional

                  Cardoso is coming off his best season as a pro and his club finished second in the Brazil. Spanish and Italian clubs seem in on him and a move seems inevitable, but another year in Brazil would not be the worst thing. 

                  DM, Tanner Tessmann, Venezia

                  Tessmann is playing some of the best football of his life right now and the new manager trusts him as Venezia fight for their lives in Serie B, but there is reported interest from Serie A clubs. My gut tells me Tessmann should stay and help keep Venezia in Serie B, ride the form that he is in and perhaps he will have even stronger interest in the summer. 

                  CF/AM, Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas

                  Ferreira and Dallas are in an interesting position. Ferreira had a great season last year and Dallas looks like an emerging side in MLS as well. Ferreira also signed a designated player contract last year so his options are more limited in finding clubs abroad that will meet his salary requirements, but Ferreira is at a very critical age for development and he may not be able to grow much more in MLS, so, he likely needs to leave at the end of the next season at the latest. My guess is Dallas is going to go for a MLS Cup this year and then look to rebuild in 2024. 

                   

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                  Summer 2022 Transfer Window Preview

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                  The summer transfer window is a historically more action packed window where clubs tend to spend more than they do during the winter window. This year it will be an even more important window for players fighting for a spot on the World Cup roster. Gregg has made it clear that for players that are not considered “locks”, how a player establishes himself with his club during the preseason and early parts of the season leading up to the final September camp will be incredibly important. In this article we will look at three categories of US players:

                  1. Players looking to take the next competitive step
                  2. Players looking for situations that give them a chance to play more consistently
                  3. Players who have been rumored to be on the move that I think should stay put

                  Before we look at potential transfers, let’s catch up on movement that is already planned this summer: 

                  Planned Moves

                  GK, Matt Turner, New England Revolution → Arsenal FC

                  Matt is moving to Arsenal on July 1. Will the move to the Premier League raise his technical level? Or will he get rusty as a backup that rarely gets time in competitive matches.

                  CB, John Brooks, VfL Wolfsburg → TBD

                  There hasn’t been a lot of news to report on potential destinations for Brooks this summer. The only credible news I have seen is John being linked with Hoffenheim. Hoffenheim will have a new manager next season and reports are that John’s agent has a good relationship with the club and he is well thought of there. Chris Richards likely won’t be back with Hoffenheim, but young Justin Che is (fellow German-American). Even if it is not Hoffenheim, I think John will have demand from mid table teams in one of the top 5 leagues, but the Bundesliga is where he’ll likely end up.

                  CB, Kobi Henry, Orange County SC → Stade Reims

                  This move had been rumored a while ago by ESPNs, Jeff Carlisle. I was starting to wonder if it was just agency smoke, but the deal has been made and Kobi will deliver the largest USL transfer fee in league history at 700K. Kobi is 18 and will likely throttle between the reserve team and the first team. I think he is a few years away from being first team ready. Physically he is close, but he still has a long ways to go tactically and mentally. Be patient with Kobi, it could be a while before we see him play first team minutes with Reims.

                  RB, Bryan Reynolds, AS Roma → KVC Westerlo

                  Bryan is headed back to Belgium on another loan from Roma, this time with recently promoted KVC Westerlo. It’s been reported that there will be an option to buy for 7M€. I thought Bryan would be able to get loaned to a slightly stronger club, but I do believe the Belgian top flight is a good level. He was pretty good for Kortrijk FC last year after a Winter loan. I am excited to see what Bryan can do with a full offseason and season with a club that has plans to play him. It can be challenging playing for a recently promoted club, but it looks like Westerlo is looking to make moves and the middle to lower half of the Belgian league is typically more competitive than other leagues.

                  CM, Luca de la Torre, Heracles Almelo → TBD

                  What was widely assumed has been confirmed, Luca has an agreement in place to be moved this summer from Heracles, with one year left on his contract so Heracles can get some transfer money from the move. We have learned that this was going to happen whether Heracles get relegated or not. It will be very interesting to see where Luca ends up. He is a player that you really have to watch to understand how good he is and you have to think that clubs in the Eredivisie, that played against him will be excited to have the chance to sign him. Additionally, clubs in top 5 leagues with smart scouting departments will also be interested in him. He is a very skilled player that will be a bargain signing. His G/A stats have never been impressive, but he does so many things to help a midfield.

                  CM, Taylor Booth, Bayern Munich II → FC Utrecht

                  This is the planned move I am most excited for this summer. Taylor did not get a loan this year after refusing to extend his contract, so he played at too low of a level with Bayern’s reserve squad. Fortunately, Utrecht saw the talent and signed him on a free. Taylor will have competition in the midfield at Utrecht next year, but if he can breakthrough, he could be a sleeper pick to make the plane to Qatar. 

                  AM, Brenden Aaronson, RB Salzburg → Leeds United

                  Brenden is joining former manager and fellow American Jessie Marsch at Leeds United. He is trading European competition for more consistent top level competition in the Premier League. Brenden and Jessie know each other well from their days in Salzburg. It’s a great system fit and Leeds will likely have a lot of roster turnover with pending sales of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.

                  CB, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic FC Tottenham Hotspur Celtic FC

                  CCV has decided to return to Celtic after having the best season of his young, but winding career. I love the decision. He’s highly valued im Glasgow (13M transfer!!!), he’ll be in European competitions year in and year out and he’ll be able to continue to develop on the pitch. He won’t be in the most competitive league, but a couple of successful years at Celtic could turn in to bigger offers during the prime of his career.

                  Players LOOKING FOR A HIGHER LEVEL

                  GK, Gaga Slonina, Chicago Fire

                  Gaga’s move to Chelsea seems all but complete as the London club has out bit Real Madrid for young American keeper. It has been said that Gaga will be loaned back to Chicago for the remainder of the season or longer, similar to Caden Clark’s deal with RB Leipzig/NYRB. Gaga has struggled recently for Chicago, but clearly he has shown enough for the biggest clubs in the world to be bullish on his future potential.

                  LB, DeJuan Jones, New England Revolution

                  DeJuan is turning 25 this summer and he is one of the better left-backs in MLS. He has not been able to get a real chance from Gregg Berhalter and he needs to try something else to get on his radar. I think if he’s ever going to test himself in Europe, the time is now and New England seems to be in the middle of selling spree.

                  LB, John Tolkin, New York Red Bulls

                  John isn’t the splashiest prospect, but he’s really well rounded, mature and he is young. If he can string together some goal contributions this season, I think there will be a good amount of demand abroad. There has been reported interest from RB Salzburg. 

                  CM, Timothy Tillman, SpVgg Greuther Fürth

                  Fürth exercised their club option to extend Timothy another year. With Fürth heading to 2. Bundesliga, I am expecting mid-low Bundesliga clubs to come calling and for Tim to get a chance with another club this summer.

                  CM, Gianluca Busio, Venezia FC

                  I would be comfortable with Gianluca in this category or the “stay put” category. Venezia spent a lot of money on Busio, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him grind it out and help Venezia get back to Serie A for the 2023-2024 season. There has been reported interest in other Serie A clubs and I would also be happy to see him stay at that level and develop. Either way, Busio needs to continue to develop and figure out what role will be most effective for him. Is he a 6, 8 or 10? He played all of those positions with Venezia last year. I think he his best suited long term to play the 6 if he can manage the defensive responsibilities that comes with it.

                  AM, Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal

                  Next to Gaga Slonina, Djordje is probably the hottest American commodity in the MLS. There is a lot of reported interest from big clubs and it seems likely that Djordje’s time to go to Europe is now. He just received his first call-up to the USMNT, if the camp goes well, you have to wonder if now is the right time to move to Europe or if he should stay where he is a known commodity and move after the World Cup?

                  WING, Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes

                  Cade is starting to get into a good rhythm for the post-Almayda San Jose Earthquakes. He is starting consistently at LW and contributing consistently. He’s still raw and the technical aspects to his game have not developed as quickly as you’d like to see. Does he need a move abroad to better develop those skills? Does MLS allow him to rely too much on his athletic ability? If he continues to put him numbers, I could definitely see big name clubs trying to facilitate a move and betting on his rare physical profile. There have been reported interest from Everton.

                  ST, Jordan Pefok, BSC Young Boys

                  I don’t think there is much more for Jordan to prove at the current level after winning the golden boot in first year in the Swiss Super League. Jordan is in his prime and needs to see what he can do in a top 5 league. There have been reported interested from Bundesliga clubs with Borussia in their name: Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Both moves would likely be for a substitute role, which I think is fine. I can see Pefok doing well as a 60 or 70 minute sub looking to poach a late goal.

                  PLAYERS LOOKING FOR MORE PLAYING TIME

                  GK, Zack Steffen, Manchester City

                  It’s become very clear that being GK2 at Manchester City isn’t benefiting Zack’s career. He needs to request a loan or permanent move where he can have a better chance to play consistently. 

                  GK, Ethan Horvath, Nottingham Forest

                  Ethan Horvath and Nottingham Forest are headed to the Premier League after a magical season. Ethan is the clear #2 at Forest behind Brice Samba. It has been reported that Forest is looking to move Samba, most likely because they are looking to sign a proven Premier League keeper. It would be better for Horvath and the USMNT if he was loaned out where he could be the #1 option, but I just don’t see that happening.

                  LB, Jonathan Gómez, Real Sociedad 

                  Real Sociedad B is getting relegated to the third tier of Spain. That’s not a great level for JoGo. Will he get a chance to have a role on the first team or will they look to loan him to a lower table LaLiga club, or potentially a LaLiga 2 club? A strong start to the 2022-2023 season at a good level could be enough to get JoGo into the September camp with an opportunity to take the LB2 job for the World Cup.

                  RB, Brandon Bye, New England Revolution

                  Brandon is having a very strong season in New England and has had a couple of nice seasons in the MLS. He is in the prime of his career and has yet to get a cap for the United States. Like DeJuan Jones, the time is now for Bye to test his skills overseas. There is reported interest from Fulham and Lille.

                  CB, Chris Richards, Bayern Munich

                  Chris Richard’s 2022/2023 club situation is one of the most important to monitor. Bayern is losing a starting CB, but will Chris earn the right to be a starter? It has been reported that Bayern is going to give Chris a strong look this offseason to have a bigger role with Bayern this year. If that does not manifest itself, Chris has options elsewhere for a loan or permanent deal in Crystal Palace, Southampton and Hoffenheim, where he has had two successful loan spells in the last two years.

                  CB, Kik Pierie, Ajax

                  After a solid year with Twente last season, this year has been brutal for Kik. He was injured for the majority of the season and struggled once he returned to the squad. He will be back with Ajax this summer and likely looking for a move. 

                  CB, Matt Miazga, Chelsea FC

                  Matt’s loan to Alavés was not a successful one. He had some bright moments early in the year, but lost his starting job and never really recovered. He’ll be heading back to London this summer and looking for a new loan or permanent deal. Is it time for him to come back to the MLS? Or does he go back to the Netherlands or Belgium where he has had the most success?

                  DM, Johnny Cardoso, Sport Club Internacional

                  So far this season, Johnny has taken a step back in minutes for Internacional. There has been reported interest in Johnny from the MLS and perhaps some interest from Europe. Maybe it’s time for a new start where he can potentially have a better opportunity to play more and develop?

                  AM, Malik Tillman, Bayern Munich

                  Malik is the newest dual-national player to commit to the USMNT and he received his first chance with the team in the June camp. Malik showed flashes of talent, but also looked like a player that needs more senior minutes at the Club level. Malik made his senior team debut with Bayern, playing in both cup, league and European competitions, mainly because of injuries in the squad. i would love to see him get a loan to a lower table Bundesliga team, perhaps one of the newly promoted clubs Schalke or Werder Bremen?

                  AM, Richard Ledezma, PSV Eindhoven

                  Richie had a very challenging season in 2021/2022 coming back from a torn ACL injury. He throttled between Jong PSV and the first team, but saw very few minutes with PSV. He did end the season with the longest run-out of the season and contributed his first goal. This is a big summer for Richie. His chances of doing enough to displace Paul Arriola for a World Cup spot, in Gregg Berhalter’s eyes, will be very difficult, but a great preseason with PSV and a key role with the prestigious club would turn some heads. If it does not look like Richie is going to be a key player for PSV next year, he needs to look elsewhere so that can develop on the pitch.

                  AM, Caden Clark, New York Red Bulls

                  2022 has not gone to plan for Caden Clark. Many thought he’d be a locked in starter for NYRB this year, but he was used as more of a super sub role early in the year. That was going okay and then he injured himself at a US U20 camp. He is just now getting back into fitness and playing for NYRB. It’s been reported that he isn’t happy with how much time he is getting and that RB Leipzig likely isn’t as well, so it’s possible that Caden goes to Europe this summer on a different loan deal where he can get a fresh start. I think that might be good for him. I am not sure the current NYRB system suits his game very well.

                  WING, Alex Mighten, Nottingham Forest

                  Alex Mighten, along with Horvath will get his first chance in the top league in the world. Mighten started the season as a starter when Forest was really struggling. He then was moved to the bench where he was regularly used. In the middle of the season Alex was injured and when he came back he had more diminished role. Alex will train and fight to become a more utilized part of the attacking rotation next year and Forest will likely look to make a lot of moves to strengthen their roster as they head to the Premier League for the first time in decades. It’s possible Mighten gets loaned to a Championship club where he has a better chance to develop on the pitch.

                  ST, Matthew Hoppe, RCD Mallorca

                  I don’t think any 2021 Summer transfer turned out worse than Hoppe to Mallorca. He has had 127 minutes in 4 appearances in LaLiga. I was very optimistic about this transfer when it happened, but clearly I was misguided. There have been reports of MLS interest, which I think would be fine, though I think he can play at a higher level. The most important thing for Matthew is to go somewhere and play and build his confidence back.

                  ST, Folarin Balogun, Arsenal FC

                  Folarin Balogun is a high priority dual-nat that is currently focused on England, but Gregg is in communication and will continue to leave the door open. Flo received his extended opportunity with a senior team during his loan to Middlesbrough. It was up and down but he showed flashes of his potential. He’ll be heading back to Arsenal this summer and he will most likely look for a new loan deal. There are rumors that Fulham is interested on a loan with an option to buy. 

                  PLAYERS WHO SHOULD MOVE FOR OTHER REASONS

                  RB, Reggie Cannon, Boavista FC

                  Reggie lost his right-back job last season and was moved to right center-back in Boavista’s back three formation. This role is better suited for his skillset right now, but it’s not helping him develop his offensive game. Boavista has also been in financial crisis for a few years. I am not sure if there is a strong market for Reggie, but I do think a move could help him develop a bit more. As of right now, his offensive limitations are limiting what he can bring to the USMNT. 

                  Players who have been rumored to be on the move that I think should stay put

                  RB, Sergino Dest, FC Barecelona

                  Xavi loves him. Xavi doesn’t rate him. Xavi rates him. Xavi wants to sell him. I don’t know what the hell is going on in Barcelona, but what we do know is Serg loves being a Barca player and he is going to fight like hell to be an important player there. It has been recently reported that Dani Alves will not return to Barca, but it’s possible that they are still looking to acquire Cesar AzpilicuetaI — thought I don’t think he would be tough for Dest to fend off for playing time. I think he should stay and continue to fight. 

                  RB, Shaq Moore, Tenerife 

                  Shaq Moore is the only American that hasn’t finished his European season. He has one more match to try and help Tenerife get promoted to LaLiga. They play at home in the second leg of the promotion final after a 0-0 draw on the road. MLS clubs tried to acquire Shaq during the Winter transfer window, with the most publicized club being Nashville. Those reports have persisted and it sounds likely that Shaq will be heading to the MLS no matter what happens in the promotion match. I do wonder if Tenerife and Shaq’s position would change if they win and get the promotion to LaLiga. Do they feel Shaq could help at that level? Shaq may never get another chance to test himself at that level. We’ve seen how tough it is as a bottom level club in a top competition. I don’t feel strongly either way. I do think Shaq is still in the mix for a World Cup spot after underwhelming performances in the June window by Reggie Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin and Joe Scally, so a summer transfer to the MLS where he can show what he can do might be the best move for him. 

                  DM, Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig

                  Tyler’s playing time took a significant dip when Tedesco took over midseason and pivoted to a more composed, possession based system. Many think Tyler should move on where he is more likely to be an every day starter. I agree, but his place on the USMNT is not in question, so I’d prefer he stayed at Leipzig, try to boost his stock at the World Cup, and then move in the winter. It’s also not the worst thing that Leipzig need him to be better in ball progression to get more time, that is where he needs to develop. As of now, Tyler has been linked to Leeds United and Sevilla. I really like the Sevilla option. 

                  CM, Weston McKennie, Juventus FC

                  Juventus is about to sign Paul Pogba, does that mean Weston is on his way out? Not necessarily, though there has been off and on reported interest from Champions League bound, Tottenham. Wes was in the midst of the season of his career before his leg injury. I’d like to see Wes stay with Juventus and play alongside Pogba. That midfield would be fun as hell and I trust Wes to fight and win minutes no matter who is there. 

                  WING, Christian Pulisic, Chelsea FC

                  I do not enjoy Chelsea fans as much as the next guy or gal, but they are a top club and I do not prioritize Pulisic being an every match starter. I prefer the load management he gets at a super club like Chelsea. Would I be upset if he want to say, Liverpool, absolutely not. Anytime you can play for a manager like Klopp, you do it, but if Pulisic does stay at Chelsea through to the winter window, I would be fine with it. 

                  WING, Konrad de la Fuente, Olympique Marseille

                  Konrad has immense talent, but does Konrad have the drive to be great? I have no idea, but he had an up and down first season as a consistent senior player and there were reports of a lack of work ethic and desire. Marseille will be in the Champions League next year and I would prefer Konrad work his tail off to get back in the rotation at the club that gave him his first big chance. 

                  ST, Haji Wright, Antalyaspor

                  Haji’s successful loan ends with Antalyaspor at the end of June at which point he will return to SönderjyskE, but that is almost certainly temporary. Antalyaspor will certainly be interested in retaining Haji’s services on a permanent move, but there will likely be competition. It’s been reported that one of the biggest clubs in Turkey, Galatasaray, has interest and will likely drive the price up. I would love to see Haji return to Antalyaspor and build off of a career year with one of the more promising young managers in Europe, Nuri Sahin. 

                   

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