By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Aug 11, 2023) US Soccer Players – The late summer produced a flurry of moves for American players as clubs across Europe work to firm up their rosters for the new season. In some case’s the moves came after a long period of speculation. In others, they happened quickly, pairing a club in need with a US international seeking the new opportunity.
Midfielder Yunus Musah’s transfer to AC Milan was more the former, though his destination wasn’t clear until the famous Italian club stepped up to acquire him from Valencia of La Liga last week. The 20-year-old always appeared primed for a jump to a higher level, and though he was linked to clubs in several major European leagues, the Rossoneri did what was necessary to complete the transfer.
Milan laid out a reported $20 million to add Musah, who Milan coach Stefano Pioli sees as a key part of a rebuilt midfield. Musah will be part of a squad with USMNT teammate Christian Pulisic, who joined the club from Chelsea in July. The pairing means there are now two teams in Italy with a USMNT duo, with Weston McKennie and new signing Tim Weah at Juventus.
Now established as a skilled two-way central midfielder for both club and country, Musah will get a chance to help Milan push for a scudetto and European honors in the Champions League.
A pair of Musah’s World Cup teammates got their futures sorted with moves in recent days. The same day Musah’s move to Italy became official, striker Haji Wright transferred from Antalyaspor of the Turkish Super Lig to Coventry City in England’s Championship.
Wright blossomed in Turkey, where he first played for Antalyaspor on loan from his Danish parent club, Sonderjyske. In 2021-22, Wright scored 14 goals in 32 appearances and helped Antalyaspor to a 7th-place finish. The club then made his loan permanent, and Wright rewarded that faith with another 15 goals last season.
Coventry City broke its transfer record to sign Wright, bringing the 25-year-old on as the club makes another run at promotion to the Premier League. Coventry finished 5th in the second division last season and lost to Luton Town on penalties in the playoff final. Wright is aiming for a fourth consecutive season of double-digit goals. Should he accomplish that feat, he’ll have done it for three teams in three different countries.
USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner’s transfer from Arsenal to Nottingham Forest went through on Wednesday. Turner spent the 2022-23 season serving as Arsenal’s number two keeper following his move from the New England Revolution and MLS last season and played seven games in the club’s cup competitions.
The move for Turner promises Premier League matches and a chance to show off the talent that made him the best keeper in MLS while with the Revs and a desirable signing for Arsenal. Nottingham Forest finished 16th in the Premier League last season, avoiding relegation despite conceding 68 goals in 34 matches. Turner’s shot-stopping should be a help in improving that record.
Another USMNT player left Arsenal for a different Premier League club, with Auston Trusty now at Sheffield United. “In Pennsylvania, this was a dream,” Trusty said in the press statement announcing the move. “Almost an impossible dream, but I believed in myself and the opportunity has come around, it is everything that I dreamed for.”
Former Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina, the 19-year-old academy product who joined Chelsea last season, also left London for a chance at greater playing time this week. Slonina spent the first half of 2023 training with his new club and adapting to life in European soccer.
Now ready to gain experience in competitive matches, Slonina is headed to KAS Eupen of the Belgian Pro League on loan for the season. Eupen finished 15th in the 18-team Belgian league last season, narrowly avoiding relegation. This year, the league returns to a 16-team format after several seasons with 18 teams in the league.
Slonina made his first appearance for the USMNT in January in a friendly against Serbia. He joins Eupen two matchdays into the Belgian season with the club sitting on a win and a draw, good for four points and 4th-place. By heading to Belgium, Slonina joins a sizable group of Americans playing in the Pro League, including fullback Sam Vines at reigning champion Royal Antwerp and central defender Mark McKenzie at Genk.
A loan is also the mechanism by which Malik Tillman will play for a new team this season in a move announced on Thursday. The USMNT midfielder spent last season on loan with Rangers from Bayern Munich. While remaining with Scotland appeared to be a possibility this summer, Tillman has instead signed a new contract with Bayern and joined Dutch club PSV on loan.
Tillman will team up with American striker Ricardo Pepi for the new campaign. Tillman and Pepi joined a club directed by former USMNT midfielder and US Soccer sporting director Earnie Stewart, who joined PSV as their director of football in early 2023.
“Malik Tillman developed very well during his loan spell in Glasgow,’ said Bayern Munich’s director of youth development Jochen Sauer. “We believe he has great potential, which is why we have extended his contract until 2026. He needs more minutes on the pitch at the highest level to take his next steps. We wish him every success at PSV Eindhoven and will monitor his development very keenly.”
Konrad de la Fuente will play for Segunda Division club Eibar on loan from Marseille this season. De la Fuente’s stint in France produced some good moments, but with playing time a concern last year, he spent the season on loan with Greek outfit Olympiakos. The move to Eibar represents a return to Spain for de la Fuente, who rose through the FC Barcelona academy at La Masia.
Erik Palmer-Brown also made a move, joining Panathinaikos from Ligue 2 club Troyes, who finished 19th in last season’s Ligue 1. Palmer-Brown made 54 Ligue 1 appearances, now playing for a club trying to advance to the group stage of this season’s Champions League.
That makes Emmanuel Sabbi the only USMNT player starting the season in France. Like Slonina, Emmanuel Sabbi earned his first USMNT cap in January. Sabbi scored 59 goals in Denmark for Hobro and OB and will now get a chance to prove himself at a higher level with newly promoted Le Havre.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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Photo by Jose L Argueta – ISIPhotos.com