By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 16, 2021) US Soccer Players – The soccer calendar never comes to a stop. A two-month period loaded with National Team tournaments is behind us, and many players across Europe have now started their club seasons. Among this group are many Americans looking to leave their mark again after the success of USMNT players last season.
The US emerged victorious two weeks ago against Mexico at the Gold Cup, giving people yet another reason to wax poetic about the strength of MLS and the potential for even more Americans to potentially make the leap across the Atlantic. In fact, the number of Americans in Europe could increase as the summer transfer season continues and scouts continue to eye MLS talent.
As of now, there are at least 50 Americans playing in Europe, a number that includes first and second division clubs. While those who play in the biggest leagues get the most attention, many Americans are gaining valuable experience across Europe in time for World Cup qualifying.
In addition to the players, it will also be worth watching RB Leipzig, coached by Jesse Marsch. He joins Leipzig after coaching the New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Salzburg. A former US international and a protege of Bob Bradley, it will be interesting to see how far Marsch can take a Bundesliga contender this season.
The Bundesliga and Premier League started up again this past weekend, two of the most popular leagues with American television audiences. The Champions League, meanwhile, opens with the group stage next month. Here are five Americans to keep tabs on this season.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
After becoming the first American to play in a Champions League final and the first to win it, it’s tough to put a ceiling on what Pulisic will do for an encore. There’s plenty for Chelsea to win this season, and they already started with the UEFA Super Cup. The last time Chelsea won the Premier League title was in 2017, slotting in behind a successful defense of the Champions League.
As for the 22-year-old Pulisic, holding down a starting role is the next step. That’s where he was in the opener against Crystal Palace, scoring in the 3-0 win. He also contributed in that Super Cup win, becoming a key part of manager Thomas Tuchel’s planning. For Tuchel, how to use an all-star cast of players is part of the job. Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku will once again reset the offense. With Pulisic in this kind of form, he’s doing the work to be crucial to his club.
Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest)
Horvath left the Belgian champions after another season backing up Simon Mignolet. Horvath’s situation wasn’t indicative of his skills. His play at the Nations League showed he deserves the opportunity. Finding it in the Championship with Forest, Horvath now has to fight for the starting job.
Playing in England’s second tier is different from the Belgian Pro League. More clubs mean more games, with stronger cup competitions also providing chances. Horvath made his Forest debut last Wednesday in the League Cup, a 2-1 victory against Bradford City. Getting minutes is key, with the USMNT technical staff already well aware of what he can do.
Weston McKennie (Juventus)
Like Pulisic, McKennie plays in a high-profile league for a top club. McKennie, who turns 23 on August 28, could find a more prominent role this season under Massimiliano Allegri. The coaching shakeup could benefit McKennie with Allegri already encouraging him to get into the attack. McKennie had a great Serie A debut season after helping Juventus win the Coppa Italia and Italian SuperCup. Juventus opens the Serie A season on the road this Sunday against Udinese.
McKennie’s strength is his versatility. He can play in a more advanced position, as a deep-lying midfielder, and even as a striker. These multiple roles make him a player Allegri can rely on as the season progresses and players around him potentially succumb to injury. In addition, McKennie’s technical abilities make him an asset as Juve look to win another league title and finally add a Champions League triumph for the first time since 1996.
Gianluca Busio (Venezia)
After a great five seasons in MLS with Sporting Kansas City, Busio now finds himself at newly-promoted Serie A club Venezia. The 19-year-old midfielder is coming off a wonderful showing for the US at the Gold Cup. It’s worth noting that Busio holds dual citizenship by virtue of his father being born in Italy. He brings both that citizenship and solid midfield skills to the club.
Venezia is back in Italy’s first division for the first time in 19 years. There are low expectations for the Venice-based club, but Busio’s addition certainly makes them a stronger team. Busio could make his official debut when Venezia opens the season Sunday at Napoli. He joins former FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann, who signed with the team just last month and one of four Americans in Serie A.
Shaq Moore (Tenerife)
Another player who saw his USMNT stock rise due to the Gold Cup triumph, Moore enters his third season with Spanish club CD Tenerife. The 24-year-old right back, the son of former Trinidad and Tobago player Wendell Moore, will be key as the club looks to get the Canary Islands-based club promoted into the first division for the first time since being relegated in 2010.
Moore can break up plays, shut down strikers, and move forward as a wingback when his side has the ball. He did just that at the Gold Cup, scoring the goal in the 1-0 win over Canada to close out the group stage. Sports Illustrated recently defined his summer as “an under-the-radar ascent.” Indeed, bigger things could be on the horizon for him. Moore’s contract ends with Tenerife at the end of this season, meaning he could potentially move to a top-flight club at some point in the near future.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Q&A: Gianluca Busio
- The Cup Winners’ Cup still resonates in Europe
- Preview: 2021 Gold Cup semifinals
- The changing role of the full back
Photo by Tim Goode – PA Wire via ZUMA Press – ISIPhotos.com