Americans in Europe: 2019-20 Preview

Americans have been playing abroad in numbers for a quarter century, but never has there been a group like that which begins the European season in earnest this weekend.

Stars like John Harkes, Tab Ramos and Eric Wynalda were early pioneers in Europe but they all returned for the 1994 World Cup in the United States having spent the previous season in second divisions in England, Spain and Germany, respectively.

The group beginning the new European season is younger -- almost all were pros by the time they turned 18 -- but most have several years of pro experience. Christian Pulisic is only 20, but he is beginning his fifth season as a pro in Europe.

What sets this season's Yanks abroad apart is that they include players at some of the most ambitious teams in Europe. Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Tim Weah (Lille) and Pulisic (Chelsea) play for teams that have already qualified for the Champions League.

In Germany, there's also Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) and John Brooks (Wolfsburg). These aren't players in bit roles. They are all being counted upon to play important roles for their clubs.

And then there are the younger players coming up behind them, Weah's teammates on the 2019 U.S. Under-20 World Cup team. Two each at Dutch champion Ajax (Sergino Dest and Alex Mendez) and Dutch runner-up PSV (Richie Ledesma and Chris Gloster) and one each at German champion Bayern Munich (Chris Richards) and Spanish champion Barcelona (Konrad de la Fuente) plus Uly Llanez at Wolfsburg and Sebastian Soto at Hannover 96.

There's no guarantee that any or all of these young players will make it. Or how far they will go in their careers. Other Americans have gone to big European clubs and never made it or had their careers derailed by injuries.

Here is a look at the Americans playing this season in Europe. It is not an exhaustive list but covers those playing in Europe's top leagues.

England (Premier League)

Christian Pulisic (20), Chelsea
. Europe: Champions League group stage.

Pulisic had pressure at Borussia Dortmund but nothing like what he faces at Chelsea, which paid $73 million, shattering the record transfer fee paid for an American. If that price tag wasn't enough, Pulisic is being asked to replace one of the best players in the Premier League, Eden Hazard, sold to Real Madrid, and carry a big load on a team struck by a transfer ban shortly after the deal with Dortmund was concluded.

DeAndre Yedlin (26), Newcastle United.

The signs aren't good for Yedlin. He underwent a groin operation in May and missed the Gold Cup. Shortly after resuming full training this week, he was again injured. In the meantime, the Magpies have signed a new right back, Sweden international Emil Krafth, from French Ligue 1 club Amiens.

England (Championship)

Geoff Cameron (34), QPR
Cameron Carter-Vickers (21), Stoke City
Luca de la Torre (21), Fulham
Marlon Fossey (20), Fulham
Duane Holmes (24), Derby County
Eric Lichaj (30), Hull City
Matt Miazga (24), Reading
Andrija Novakovich (22), Reading
Tim Ream (31), Fulham
Antonee Robinson (22), Wigan Athletic

This is a group that Gregg Berhalter and his coaching staff will be following closely. Miazga and Ream started at the Gold Cup, Holmes was forced out of the Gold Cup because of an injury while Carter-Vickers and Robinson played against Jamaica in June.

Germany (Bundesliga)

Tyler Adams (20), RB Leipzig. Europe: Champions League group stage.

With the possible exception of Wynalda at Saarbruecken, a much smaller club, in 1992, no American has stepped into the starting lineup of a German club and had more influence than Adams after he arrived in Leipzig this winter. Until he got hurt in late March, Adams started seven games. RB Leipzig won six and tied the seventh and allowed only one goal. But Adams hurt his groin again after he returned in May to play in the German Cup. He missed the Gold Cup and isn't not clear when he'll return. In the meantime, RB Leipzig has brought in another promising young player who can play Adams' defensive midfield role, 18-year-old Welsh international Ethan Ampadu.

John Brooks (26), Wolfsburg. Europe: Europa League group stage.

Like Yedlin and Adams, Brooks missed the Gold Cup because of an injury suffered late in the 2018-19 season. His influence on Wolfsburg was enormous, though. It went from battling to avoid relegation to finishing in the top sixth and qualifying for the Europa League.



Weston McKennie (20), Schalke 04.

Only 20, McKennie captained the USA in the Gold Cup final against Mexico and is already a leader among the large contingent of Amis, now in his fourth season at Schalke. He played just about every position last season -- right back, centerback, defensive midfielder, central midfielder, forward -- as Schalke 04 went from second place in 2018 to 14th in 2019. Under new coach David Wagner, he should be given a more fixed role in midfield.

Josh Sargent (19), Werder Bremen.

Sargent scored on his first touch of the ball -- literally -- when he debuted for Bremen last December. Two goals in his first three games off bench suggested a bigger role in the second half of the Bundesliga season. It never came, and his lack of form cost him a spot on the U.S. Gold Cup team. That proved to be a blessing in disguise as it meant he arrived in summer camp on time and on a mission. Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt is counting on a big season on Sargent but cautions, "Please don't expect him to score 15 times and to play in every game. He's still a very young player who needs to get into his stride"

Zack Steffen (24), Fortuna Duesseldorf.

Steffen is back for a second time in Germany. The first time he arrived at Freiburg following two seasons at the University of Maryland and an outstanding 2015 U-20 World Cup in goal for the USA. This time, he arrives in Duesseldorf on loan from Manchester City following his transfer from the Columbus Crew as the U.S. national team's starting keeper. This season will give us a glimpse of how far he might go in his career. He joins a team known for what the German press has dubbed its "Torhüter-Seuche" ("goalkeeper plague"). Incumbent Michael Rensing fell off his bike at preseason training in Austria and hurt his shoulder badly, leaving Steffen as the likely starter when the season starts.

Also:

Tim Chandler (29), Eintracht Frankfurt. Europe: Europa League qualifying.
Fabian Johnson (31), Bor. M'gladbach.
Alfredo Morales (29), Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Brady Scott (20), FC Cologne.
Khiry Shelton (26), Paderborn.

Germany (2. Bundesliga)

Julian Green (24), Greuther Fuerth.
Sebastian Soto (19), Hannover 96.
Bobby Wood (26), Hamburg.

Now in his third season at Greuther Fuerth, Green scored a great goal last week in its 3-1 win over St. Pauli. Wood finished last season in the dog house at Hannover 96 and is back there at Hamburg. Soto hasn't played yet this season for Hannover 96.

France (Ligue 1)

Tim Weah (19), Lille. Europe: Champions League group stage.

Weah, one of the stars of the U.S. U-20s in Poland, could not have asked for a better move. Never likely to break in at Paris St. Germain, he joined Lille, which finished second on Ligue 1 last season to qualify directly to the Champions League group stage. Lille has a reputation for developing young attackers -- it just sold Ivorian Nicolas Pepe and Portuguese Rafael Leao to Arsenal and AC Milan, respectively, for almost $130 million -- so Weah should get a shot in a crowded attack. Coach Christophe Galtier is high on Weah and gave him a lot of playing time in preseason. Weah is expected to start alongside 20-year-old Nigerian Victor Osimhen, another offseason signing, on Sunday when Lille hosts Nantes because forwards Loic Remy and Luiz Araujo are both suspended.

Spain (La Liga 2)

Shaq Moore (22), Tenerife.

Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is Moore's sixth stop in a Spanish career that began four years ago. Twice he was forced to switch clubs because he had not been paid.

Netherlands (Eredivisie)

Sergino Dest (18), Ajax. Europe: Champions League qualifying.
Desevio Payne (23), Emmen
Haji Wright (21), VVV Venlo


Dest won his first trophy when he started in Ajax's 2-0 win over PSV in the Johan Cruyff Shield -- the Dutch version of the Super Cup. He started at left back in place of Nico Tagliafico, who was just returning from vacation after playing for Argentina at the Copa America. Dest dressed in the season opener at Vitesse but it's hard to imagine that he'll see much playing this season unless something happens to Tagliafico.

Belgium (Pro League)

Brendan Hines-Ike (24), Kortrijk
Ethan Horvath (24), Club Brugge. Europe: Champions League qualifying.
Kenny Saief (25), Anderlecht

Horvath started the first two games of the season but lost his starting job a day after Simon Mignolet was signed from Liverpool. The Belgian international started in Brugge's 1-0 win over Dynamo Kyev in their Champions League qualifier on Tuesday.

Turkey (Super Lig)

Tyler Boyd (24), Besiktas. Europe: Europa League group stage.

It took four seasons after he moved from his native New Zealand to Europe, but a big second half of the 2018-19 season at MKE Ankaragucu on loan from Vitoria Guimaraes earned him a four-year contract at Besiktas, one of the traditional big three clubs in Istanbul. He had a disappointing Gold Cup, but a strong season in Turkey should keep him in the national team mix.



Denmark (SuperLiga)

Jonathon Amon (20), Nordsjælland   
Christian Cappis (19), Hobro   
Michael Lansing (25), Horsens   
Emmanuel Sabbi (21), Hobro
Yosef Samuel (22), Hobro   
Deedson Vixamar (18), Hobro

In the last year, Hobro has imported three young Americans to go along with Sabbi, whom is now trying to sell.

Sweden (Allsvenskan)

Romain Gall
(24), Malmo. Europe: Champions League qualifying.
Aron Johannsson (28), Hammarby.

Gall scored 12 league goals in 2018 for GIF Sundsvall and Malmo but he hasn't scored this season and is out of favor at Malmo.

Austria (Bundesliga)

Erik Palmer-Brown (22), Austria Wien.
Europe: Champions League qualifying.

Palmer-Brown just joined Austria Wien on loan from Manchester City after stints at Belgium's Kortrijk and Dutch club NAC Breda for the 2018-19 season. Austria Wien needs help. It lost its first two league games and fell at home on Thursday to Apollon Nicosia in Europa League qualifying.

Scotland (Premiership)

Matt Polster (26), Rangers.
Europe: Europa League qualifying.

Polster made only one three-minute appearance for Rangers last season and its future in Glasgow is uncertain. He was dropped from Rangers' roster for its Europa League series against FC Midtjylland.

Israel (Ligat ha'Al)

Josh Cohen (26), Maccabi Haifa. Europe: Europa League qualifying.
George Fochive (27), Hapoel Hadera.
Aaron Schoenfeld (29), Maccabi Tel Aviv. Europe: Europa League qualifying.

Now in his fifth season in Israel, Schoenfeld won the Israeli league title last season with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

3 comments about "Americans in Europe: 2019-20 Preview".
  1. Alfred Randall, August 10, 2019 at 8:47 p.m.

    "Stars like John HarkesTab Ramos and Eric Wynalda were early pioneers in Europe but they all returned for the 1994 World Cup in the United States having spent the previous season in second divisions in England, Spain and Germany, respectively."

    Incorrect statement as Wednesday (Harkes) were in the top flight of English as was Wynalda in the Bundislega. Ramos was in the 2nd division in Spain. Get your facts first!   

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, August 11, 2019 at 3:02 p.m.

    You got me curious so I googled. Paul's comment was accurate. Harkes apparently moved to Derby County in 93, playing in what is now called the Championship, and wasn't with Wednesday. He played in the EPL in 95 with West Ham. Wynalda has a similar story.

  3. Bob Ashpole, August 11, 2019 at 3:04 p.m.

    Good article. Who knows what will happen on an individual basis, but overall--"the view from here" is impressive.

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