New season is not as rosy for many Americans in Europe

The 2020-21 season saw Americans enjoy unprecedented success in the big five European leagues.

Their contributions were varied and came at different times in the season, but Americans played for championship teams in three of the five leagues (England, France and Germany). Americans also played on the winning teams in the cup finals in three of the same five countries (Germany, Italy and Spain).

The topper was Christian Pulisic's role in helping Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League title.

It's early in the new season, but signs are that player and/or club repeating the same success won't be easy.

In France, Tim Weah, Lille's best rated player before his thigh injury in late August, returned to action on Saturday in the champion Dogues' 1-0 loss at archrival Lens that dropped them in 15th place with five points in six games, 13 points off the lead and just two points out of last place.

In Germany, Tyler Adams' RB Leipzig, the 2020-21 Bundesliga runner-up, is off to its worst start ever since its promotion to the Bundesliga with four points in five games, nine points off the lead and just three points out of last place.

In Spain, Sergino Dest's Barcelona remained unbeaten but needed a 90th-minute goal to earn a 1-1 tie with winless Granada on Monday. Without Lionel Messi for the first time since the 2004-05, Barca's prospects don't look great.

Weston McKennie's Juventus, which is off to its worst start in Italy's Serie A in 50 years, winless after four games and in the relegation zone, just 14 months removed from clinching its ninth straight Scudetto.

Individually, several prominent national team players find themselves in difficult situations.

John Brooks did not play for unbeaten Wolfsburg in its 1-1 tie with Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday after being red carded in the Wolves' 0-0 tie at Lille in their UEFA Champions League opener.

New Wolfsburg coach Mark van Bommel simply said Brooks needed to be careful about picking up second yellow cards. (Van Bommel's career ended with with ninth yellow-red card 19 minutes from time in the final game of his career in 2013.)

The Wolfsburger Allgemeine reported Wolfsburg is open to extending Brooks' contract -- he is a free agent at the end of the season -- but only if he accepts a pay cut. (A decision will likely be made during the winter break.)

In his first season at Juventus, McKennie quickly became a favorite of Andrea Pirlo, who was not retained as head coach. Massimiliano Allegri, Pirlo's replacement, does not seem as high on McKennie, who has played just 140 minutes over Juve's first five competitive matches and did not get off the Juve bench against AC Milan on Sunday.

The 2021-22 season is complicated by World Cup 2022 qualifying. The USA did not play in the September or October FIFA windows in 2020. Covid-19 was raging in Europe, so travel was difficult. The plus side was, the young Americans were able to fully concentrate on solidifying their place at their clubs.

When the USA played in the November 2020 and March 2021 windows, it played just two games per window, all in Europe, the second friendly being played on Monday and then Sunday, plenty of time for players to reintegrate back into their clubs.

Now, World Cup 2022 qualifying has moved into full swing -- three games over seven days on top of transatlantic travel in September, to be replicated in October and November.

Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund are both off to strong starts to their new seasons, but Pulisic and Gio Reyna (two goals in his first three Bundesliga games) haven't played for them since being injured in the September qualifiers. Dest's start at right back -- he later moved to the left side -- in the Granada match was his first appearance for Barca since injuring his ankle in the 1-1 tie with Canada in Nashville.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Sunday Pulisic (ankle sprain) remained "doubtful" for Wednesday's Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa, while Dortmund coach Marco Rose recently said Reyna's hamstring strain could keep him out of action until mid-October.

A little bit of good news on Monday: Zack Steffen is healthy and completed his quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19. He is training again with Manchester City and expected to start in Tuesday night's game against Wycombe Wanderers in the Carabao Cup, which City won in 2021 with Steffen in goal for every game.

Photo: Jean Catuffe/DPPI/Icon Sportswire

7 comments about "New season is not as rosy for many Americans in Europe".
  1. frank schoon, September 21, 2021 at 9:44 a.m.

    That is the price one pays and expect with Reyna and CP, when you play Turbo soccer...good luck with that....

  2. frank schoon, September 21, 2021 at 9:52 a.m.

    Dortmunt, just got a Dutch player who played for PSV and the Dutch national team. The Dormunt coach stated that he needs to run more, VROOM ,VROOM.  A dutch coach in contrast would have said, he needs to position more or less 5meters to the right or left or position further back or forwards or apply his left more in the situations he often finds himself in. But in Germany, the soccer focus is more applied to the physicall to the power and less intelligence and more Turbo...

  3. John Sabala replied, September 21, 2021 at 10:19 a.m.

      Frank, obviously you are a fan of the Dutch methodolgy for soccer.  CP got hurt in WC qualifiers because he got the S*&% beat out of him in every match because opposing teams can't match his quality on the ball, along with his speed.  Reyna quickly learned as well that your superior skill on the ball and speed will just get teams to foul you repeatedly as that is CONCACAF soccer in a nutshell.   Speed is the one thing you can't coach, a player has it or does not have it and speed kills in open field and 1v1.  I believe the Dortmund coach things the new player has speed and he may need to use it to his adavantage.  The skill with the ball and speed is something learned over time.  You get a player with both of these and they are deadly on top of the formation....  Dmbeyele, Mbappe, Haaland, Werner, Morata, Ronaldo, and the list goes on.............

    I have lived in Germany for just over 15 years from my active duty time here in the Army and now as a high school teacher (and coach).  The German system does not rely on physical play and speed. It is ball control, possession and technical play. 

  4. frank schoon replied, September 21, 2021 at 10:56 a.m.

    John, CP gets hurt because his upbringing in German soccer, especially at Dortmunt, is one of turbo. CP relies more on Turbo, his first reaction with the ball is that not thinking how he can bring his opponent off-balance or what can I do to take advantage of his weakness. CP allows himself to be placed to get hurt as, for example he comes back to midfield to collect the ball when instead he should take advantage of his 1v1 when staying as deep as possible. He needs to position himself better ,like not receiving the ball with his back to opponents for example. He is not build to take these onslaughts and therefore he has to play smarter, positionwise....

    With Reyna, his position ,to me, is not on the wing, he's not a winger, he's very predictable in his movements by going always inside and thus easier defend against and get him hurt. I think his position has not been finalized as to where he best should play, perhaps more between the lines but than he needs to be a little quicker as soon as he receives the ball; for I see him a lot times waiting for the ball, not knowing what he should do next, quickly, thus allowing the opponent to tackle him and get him hurt. The style of the US game is  not sophisticated enough, not quick enough, technically speaking,  to be able to handle the ball movement wise, lacking smarts, like the hispanics, and thereby invites unable to avoid the garbage of play occuring we see at Concacaf.

    It was interesting but watching ,I think Amazon, the Dortmunt video with coach that was previous fired. His first words that came out of his mouth was, run, run ,run....I'm sorry John, I thought the Germans were beginning to wise up after the WC of 2002 for they realized their style of turbo, physsical soccer had to change and become more modern. They did, they improved ball possession, passing, etc...They began to copy a lot of the Dutch training techniques, van Gaal became coach of Bayern, later  Guardiola...Bayern became the flag ship of good soccer ,the WC'14 showedcased German soccer modern style and the reason was that the team carried 6 Bayern players on the field who were trained by Guardiola and gave the Brazilians a lesson in soccer...

                                                         Next Post.

  5. frank schoon, September 21, 2021 at 11:39 a.m.

    It was joy to watch the Germans play in WC'14. The dutch who were going through their doldrums complained that the Germans were playing the "dutch school" of soccer better than we do....
    Guardiola left Bayern and things began to waterdown in German soccer, elements such as running ,turbo, fighting are a basic DNA in German soccer and these elements are seeping back in.   It is in the German mentality, like the English.

     Guardiola in his book stated even though it took him a lot of hard work to change the German mentality by playing more positional games, allowing the ball do the running instead of the player,
    the players would come up to him and asked him to allow them to do lots of running, they were missing their turbo. It is something you can't change for it has become part of their soccer culture for so long.

    You mentioned speed can't be coached. True, but you see speed as physical thing and I look at  speed as a mental thing to further improve. You can't outrun the ball, there will always someone faster no matter how fast one is, so what can you do to improve speed. It is speed of handling the ball, which Reyna should work on, speed of thinking, like a move or two ahead, the speed and/or accuracy of the pass and to the right foot. Speed as related to how you receive the ball, the angle and in what position. Or for example you increase the speed of the game or tempo rather by moving to the ball and receiving it in motion.  You know how few players execute this. Just watch the WNT, all receive while standing still. Speed to so many is seen as outrunning the opponent where actually moving to the ball gives you a step on the opponent and that is only what you need for continuity of play.  Speed is that extra step you gain that allows you just that extra time , if you have a step ahead, to execut what is next. It is like a shorter player can outhead a can that happen?  That can happen if you think being taller makes you a better header. The same with the use of speed...

    The players you named are all Turbo. I wouldn't put Ronaldo there for he has a brain ,is smart, calculating, and picks his spot and is quick, but he doesn't outrun players. Mbappe , is brainless, his first reaction, is like a horse that opened the barn door. He wouldn't know what to do if he played against a team that parks the bus, Haaland, idem ditto. Werner has his problems...

    John the problem I find today in soccer is that it left the Barcelona sophisticated phase  where midfielders were small ,technical, smart, who knew how to handle a ball, and allow the ball do the running. We have gone back to counter attacking soccer that takes less brains, more turbo. It is what it is and we have gone back to a more simplistic soccer which is fine but I yearn for a little more intelligence again....

  6. Peter Bechtold, September 22, 2021 at 2:21 p.m.

    Frank and John, you might be interested in a short article in the renowned KICKER-SPORTMAGAZIN. There was an interview with Djennifer Maroczan, the technical leader/playmaker of Germany's WNT who has been playing for years at Olympique Lyonnaise, France's perennial womens'champion. The OL "owner" has bought into Tacoma(previously Seattle) Reign and transferred some OL players there to make TR more competitive. One of them was Maroczan. She came back to Germany for the 2 WCQs this past week and KICKER-SM interviewed her about life and soccer in the USA. She said that soccer in the NWSL was more physical than in Europe, but she was missing technical and tactical skills.

  7. frank schoon replied, September 23, 2021 at 8:58 a.m.

    Peter , thank you for your input on that.....

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