By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Aug 9, 2023) US Soccer Players – Plenty has changed since the final matchday of the 2022/23 season back in June when Manchester City celebrated its third consecutive title and fifth championship in six years. Manager Pep Guardiola’s club also claimed the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League trophies, making them favorites in the Premier League. The annual churn of the transfer market has landed some players in new places for the new season, and the makeup of the American contingent in England was part of that change.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen played on loan for a Championship promotion playoff club last season at Middlesbrough. He’s back with his parent club, Manchester City, as he recovers from offseason surgery.
The three promoted teams for the new campaign are Burnley, runaway winners of the Championship last season, Sheffield United, the division’s 2nd-place finisher, and Luton Town, finishing 3rd and advancing from the promotion playoff. Neither Burnley nor Sheffield United had an American in their squads last season, though Sheffield United has added one for the club’s return to the Premier League.
Auston Trusty is now a Blade following his permanent transfer from Arsenal last week. The move gives the American defender a chance to play at the highest level after a stellar year in the Championship last season. Trusty made 44 starts on loan for Birmingham City in 2022/23, earning high praise for his efforts over a grueling campaign that saw the Blues finish 17th in the 24-team league. Like any promoted team, Sheffield United’s main aim this season is to win a chance to play another season in the topflight.
“I am more than excited,” said Trusty when his move became official. “The opportunity to be here at this historic club, and an opportunity to play in the Premier League and show my ability, is everything I could have ever dreamed of growing up as a kid.”
Unlike Burnley and Sheffield United, Luton Town did have an American in its squad during its promotion campaign last year. American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath played a significant role in the club’s success while on loan with the Hatters. Horvath kept 19 clean sheets, second in the division, and made critical saves during the club’s playoff run to win promotion.
The end of Horvath’s loan means he is once again with Nottingham Forest ahead of the 2023/24 season, joined by fellow USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner in a move announced on Wednesday. Forest finished 16th in its promotion campaign last season and hopes to dramatically improve on that showing.
“It feels great to be here,” Turner said in the press statement announcing the move. “It’s something I’m really looking forward to, it’s a great challenge and a great step in my career. When I heard that there was interest to bring me here, it just felt right for my family, it felt right when my agent spoke to me about it and it feels like the right move for me right now.”
Seven points and five places higher in the standings was London outfit Crystal Palace, home of defender Chris Richards. Between injuries and adjustment, Richards played just 447 minutes in league play last year after making a permanent move to Palace from Bayern Munich.
A versatile player who can play both center back and fullback, Richards will enter his second season in the Premier League fresh from a strong showing with the United States at the Concacaf Nations League finals in June. The confidence earned with the national team should stand him in good stead as he starts a new season under manager Roy Hodgson.
Elsewhere in London, two clubs that finished with the best topflight showings in years hit the first matchday with Americans in the picture.
Striker Folarin Balogun made his USMNT debut with the Nations League squad in June and scored the 2-0 final victory over Canada. Balogun is one of the most-wanted strikers in the game and is regularly linked to other clubs in the roiling transfer rumor mill of Europe. For the moment the 22-year-old is part of the squad for last year’s Premier League runners-up following his return from loan in France.
Balogun’s had a breakout season with Reims in Ligue 1, scoring 21 goals in 37 league appearances and finishing tie for fourth among goalscorers in France’s top league.
Fulham is another London club with USMNT players on its roster. Their 2022-23 season defied all expectations, finishing 10th, 18 points above the drop zone. USMNT World Cup starters Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson play in partnership on the left side of manager Marco Silva’s back line.
Ream turned an excellent start to last year’s Premier League campaign into a starring role for the Americans at the World Cup. Fulham rewarded Ream with a new contract in late December. As he approaches 300 league appearances for the Cottagers, he figures to be central to the club’s efforts again this season.
Robinson also signed a new contract last month, and the 26-year-old looks primed to build on last season’s campaign. His speed and athleticism combine with a growing understanding of his dual role to make Robinson one of the better left backs in the Premier League.
One more London club can count an American in its ranks is Chelsea, where 19-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina is training ahead of a season that will start with him at Stamford Bridge. ED: Slonina moved on loan to Eupen in the Belgian Pro League.
The Premier League begins on Friday, and though the still-open transfer window creates some uncertainty, the American contingent in England’s top division is ready for the bright lights of the Premier League stage.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
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Photo by Jose L Argueta – ISIPhotos.com