It says everything about the rarefied air that the best young U.S. men’s national teamers are breathing these days when the biggest story of the week isn’t 19-year-old Sergiño Dest becoming the first American to play for Barcelona, or 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna getting a standing ovation from Borussia Dortmund’s fans after becoming the youngest player in Bundesliga history to dish out a hat trick of assists.
No, the most significant news right now involves Alabama-born defender Chris Richards, who, at 20, has quietly walked into the starting lineup with mighty Bayern Munich, the reigning Champions League winners and probably the deepest, most talented, most well-balanced team in the entire world.
Even the less encouraging news — Weston McKennie getting dropped from Juventus’ lineup for a game that never happened, Tyler Adams missing Champions League semifinalist RB Leipzig’s most recent match through injury — doesn’t seem so bad these days.
The mother of all USMNT Stock Watches catches you up on the latest from across the player pool.
USMNT players trending up
D Chris Richards, Bayern Munich (Germany)
The FC Dallas academy product seems to have unseated World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard at right back in Hansi Flick’s starting lineup. Richards started over Pavard in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin, assisting on a Robert Lewandowski goal:
Chris Richards provides the assist for Robert Lewandowski's goal! pic.twitter.com/63h4AwA3m2
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 4, 2020
Takeaway: Richards’ emergence immediately puts him in position to start for Gregg Berhalter’s senior U.S. squad — he’s previously represented the U-20s and U-23s — either at right back or, more likely, in the wide-open right center back spot alongside veteran lefty John Brooks.
D Sergiño Dest, Barcelona (Spain)
Following his $25 million transfer from Ajax, the Dutch American made his Barca debut on Sunday, coming off the bench to play the final 15 minutes of a 1-1 draw with Sevilla at left back:
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) October 4, 2020
Takeaway: He might not understand a word Lionel Messi says yet, but Dest looked lively on both sides of the ball in his quarter-hour cameo, even if he could’t help his new team secure a late winner. It will be fascinating to see how manager Ronald Koeman deploys Dest going forward. Sub or starter? Left back or right? Regardless, Dest’s move to the Nou Camp is a boon for both the player and the national team.
M/F Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Reyna has started all three of BVB’s Bundesliga games so far this season. With three assists in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Freiburg, he produced his best performance since bursting onto the scene at the beginning of the year:
Reyna to Haaland again!
The 17-year-old American has three assists today! pic.twitter.com/ID8L2Ua2Li
— ESPN (@espn) October 3, 2020
Takeaway: Reyna was something of a curiosity before his planned first USMNT cap in March — an appearance that never happened after friendlies against Wales and the Netherlands were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seven months later, he looks like a surefire starter for his country. Look for Berhalter to let Reyna run the show if and when a mostly European-based squad convenes for the first time this year next month.
M/F Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)
After recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered in August, the Blues’ freshly-minted No. 10, saw his action of the season, playing seven minutes (plus stoppage time) off the bench in a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace.
Takeaway: The fact that the U.S. doesn’t have a match this international window gives Pulisic another two weeks to up his fitness levels ahead of Chelsea’s next match, on Oct. 17 against Southampton. Look for Pulisic to make his first start of 2020-21 in that one.
D Antonee Robinson, Fulham (England)
The lightning-quick left back made his maiden Premier League appearance in the Cottagers’ 1-0 defeat at Wolves.
Takeaway: While it will take time for Robinson, who spent the last few seasons in England’s second-tier Championship, to adjust to the speed of the Prem — he was lucky not to get burned Saturday for reacting late to a Nelson Semedo shot — the 23-year-old will have a strong case to be the USMNT’s first-choice left back if he keeps starting for Fulham.
M/F Ulysses Llanez, Heerenveen (Netherlands)
After cutting his teeth in Wolfsburg’s reserves, Llanez, on a season-long loan, finally saw first-team minutes for the first time in Friday’s 1-1 draw with Utrecht.
Takeaway: The crafty winger, who scored the winning goal in the only match the USMNT has played in 2020, is perfectly positioned to shoot up Berhalter’s depth chart as he gains experience in the Eredivisie.
F Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (MLS)
The veteran hasn’t scored in three games, but he’s still been the most consistent striker in the USMNT pool this year, averaging a goal every 133 minutes for the Crew.
Takeaway: The Americans’ lack of depth up top remains a serious concern for Berhalter. With Jozy Altidore injured and Josh Sargent playing but not scoring in Germany, the former Crew coach would probably start Zardes, 29, if the U.S. faced a must-win match tomorrow.
M Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia Union (MLS)
The Union’s 19-year-old maestro is reportedly headed to Red Bull Salzburg in January.
Takeaway: For Aaronson, the Austrian champs would provide the ideal introduction to the European game. The club has nurtured talents like Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino under the watch of American coach Jesse Marsch, who would no doubt help smooth his countryman’s midseason integration into the squad.
D Matt Miazga, Anderlecht (Belgium)
The center back joined Belgium’s most successful club on a season-long loan from Chelsea.
Takeaway: It’s Miazga’s fourth loan in four years following stops in the Netherlands, France and England’s Championship. But in Belgium, the 25-year-old will have the opportunity to learn under Anderlecht manager Vincent Kompany, which could help him climb back up Berhalter’s shallow central defensive depth chart. Remember: Miazga started the 2019 Gold Cup final, the biggest match of the Berhalter era so far.
D Erik Palmer-Brown, Austria Vienna (Austria)
After sitting out his team’s season-opening loss, Palmer-Brown has now made three consecutive starts for the Violets, which have conceded just three times in winning twice and drawing once.
Takeaway: Palmer-Brown has been under-the-radar excellent so far this season. With MLS defenders such as Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman potentially unavailable to the national team in November because of travel restrictions and/or quarantine rules, don’t be surprised if the 23-year-old, who won both of his two USMNT caps in 2018, gets his first look since Berhalter was hired.
USMNT players trending down
D DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)
Yedlin, who hasn’t featured in any of the Magpies’ four Premier League matches this season, was hoping to leave Tyneside before the transfer window slammed shut on Monday. Now. it appears that he’ll be staying in Newcastle until January.
Been told DeAndre Yedlin will re-evaluate his future in January with his deal expiring next summer.
Won't be leaving #NUFC tonight
— Aaron Stokes (@AaronJStokes) October 5, 2020
Takeaway: With his immediate future settled and games coming thick and fast, it’s possible that Steve Bruce will look to rotate Yedlin back into the fold. It’s still not a great situation for one of the U.S. program’s most experienced players.
M Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (Germany)
A minor back ailment prevented Adams from dressing for Saturday’s 4-0 spanking of Schalke.
Takeaway: Not only isn’t the injury considered serious, the better news is that its not related to the groin and foot issues that sidelined the 21-year-old bulldog for most of last season.
M Weston McKennie, Juventus (Italy)
After starting his first two games for Juve following his summer transfer from Schalke, the Texan was not in manager Andrea Pirlo’s 11 for Sunday’s scheduled visit from Napoli.
Takeaway: Pirlo knew that Napoli wasn’t going to show up for the match, of course, so it’s hard to read too much into that team sheet. Still, after a splendid debut, McKennie struggled in his second match, and one off day is enough to get any player benched at a club like Juve. We’ll know more about where the 22-year-old stands when the Old Lady meets Crotone on Oct. 17.
M/F Tim Weah, Lille (France)
Recovered from the hamstring tear that cost him almost all of last season, Weah has played just 31 minutes though Lille’s first six Ligue 1 games.
Takeaway: No need to panic here; it makes sense to ease the 20-year-old back in early on. If Weah’s still not playing regularly a month or two from now, then it will be time to worry.
F Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC (MLS)
The 30-year-old two-time World Cup vet pulled his hamstring Saturday in TFC’s 2-0 win over Philly.
Takeaway: Altidore’s hammy history is well documented. It’s not clear how long he’ll be out, but the injury comes just as the frontrunner was heating up, with two goals in the Reds’ last four games.
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