By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jul 20, 2020) US Soccer Players – The final weeks of the European domestic season have never stretched this far into the summer. The pandemic forced the season to take a three-month break that spanned the spring, pushing the domestic calendar into July and the Champions League to August.
Once again, Americans played an increasingly important role at various clubs throughout the continent. With some 30 Americans playing in Germany, several USMNT players had standout seasons in the Bundesliga. In Austria, meanwhile, it was an American coach who led the way. Former New York Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch had a fantastic season at another Red Bull team, this one in Salzburg. Marsch led his club to the domestic double. The Austrian Bundesliga title is now the most significant trophy won by an American coach in Europe.
"My main emphasis in coming to Europe — of course, ambition was a part of it — but it was more to see if my idea of leadership could thrive in this competitive setting of our sport," Marsh told The Associated Press. "And, you know, I mean, it's very sink or swim in Europe."
It's sink or swim for players as well over in England. Once again, Americans, fewer than in years past, continued to shine in both the Premier League and second-tier Championship. Spearheading the effort was Christian Pulisic, who used the return from the hiatus to show that he can play in that league. Along with Pulisic, here's a look at the Americans who stood out the most in Europe this season.
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
The 17-year-old midfielder had a huge rookie season, scoring a goal in 15 league matches. He made his Bundesliga debut in January, coming on as a sub in a 5-3 win against FC Augsburg. In doing so, Reyna became the youngest US citizen (age 17 and 66 days) ever to appear in the Bundesliga. Reyna, the son of former USMNT midfield maestro Claudio Reyna, set a series of records. He scored his first goal in a Dortmund jersey on February 4 in a 3-2 defeat to Werder Bremen in a German Cup Round of 16 game. He became the youngest scorer in DFB Pokal history. On February 18, Reyna became the third-youngest player ever to appear in a knockout game of the Champions League, coming on as a sub in the 67th minute against PSG and assisting on Erling Haaland's game-winning goal.
Weston McKennie (Schalke 04)
The 21-year-old midfielder played in 28 league matches this season, cementing his role as a regular each weekend. McKennie, who scored three goals this season, missed games largely to injury or suspension. His three goals are a personal best in his four seasons in the Bundesliga. McKennie has been a dynamo in midfield, winning over 60% of all aerial challenges and completing nearly 85% of his passes. McKennie's ability to play as a defensive midfielder as well as an extra striker on the wings makes his versatility an asset. As a result, McKennie is part of a new wave of talented Americans in Germany. That's drawn interest from across Europe ahead of the summer transfer season.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
The heralded attacking midfielder moved Dortmund to Chelsea last summer. What started off as a rocky start turned into success following the pandemic hiatus. He made his Premier League debut in a 4–0 defeat against Manchester United back in August. Pulisic scored his first goal for Chelsea last October 26, completing a hat trick in a 4-2 triumph at Burnley. Injured before the lockdown, the 21-year-old returned healthy and became a super-sub during a recent string of games. Pulisic, who has eight goals so far this season, scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win against Manchester United, helping Liverpool clinch the title. Pulisic could help Chelsea win the FA Cup this season when the London club faces Arsenal on August 1 at Wembley Stadium. Chelsea also remains alive in the Champions League.
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
The 21-year-old midfielder, who joined Bundesliga club RB Leipzig in the middle of last season, completed his first full in Bundesliga after a groin injury sidelined him for throughout the fall and winter. Nonetheless, Adams showed plenty of progress in his 14 league appearances. Used primarily as a defensive midfielder, Adams made his Champions League debut back in March, coming on as a second-half sub against Tottenham. With Leipzig still alive in the Champions League quarterfinals, it is likely that Adams could see more minutes over the coming weeks.
Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
The 25-year-old seasoned goalkeeper also completed in his first full season in Germany after being loaned out to Fortuna Dusseldorf from Manchester City. The move to Germany was a chance for Steffen to play regularly, and he did not disappoint early on. Given the starting job last summer, Steffen made 10 saves in his debut against Werder Bremen on opening weekend. He went on to start in 17 league matches for Fortuna, until a serious knee injury halted his season. A second knee injury just before the Bundesliga resumed ended his season. Steffen did enough to now be under serious consideration for a backup role with Manchester City.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- The USA at the 1930 World Cup
- 5 things for the MLS is Back tournament
- The present and future of MLS stadiums
- Seattle and Portland step up
Photo by Imago via ZUMA Press - ISIPhotos.com