Gio Reyna’s rise has continued at Borussia Dortmund, Chris Richards is knocking on the door at Bayern Munich and Josh Sargent is Werder Bremen’s leading man… we take a look at how the Americans in the Bundesliga have fared so far this season.
After impressing as Dortmund’s four-goal top scorer in pre-season and saying he was “ready to take the next step” Reyna has done exactly that. Despite only turning 18 in November and facing stiff competition for places in attacking midfield from more established internationals such as Marco Reus, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Jadon Sancho, Reyna has made a place in the starting XI his own.
The BVB No.32 is one of just four players to have featured in every Bundesliga game so far this season for the Black-and-Yellows, and he is only behind four other outfield players in terms of overall minutes played (888).
Watch: Reyna: like father and mother, like son
Ten of those league appearances have been starts, while he also became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to provide three assists in a single game when he did so on Matchday 3 against Freiburg.
With three goals and four assists overall so far, only Erling Haaland (10 scored, two assists) has been directly involved in more goals for Dortmund.
Not only that, Reyna earned his first international cap for the US Men’s National Team in November, and became his country’s third-youngest scorer when he found the target with a free-kick against Panama. No wonder he was recently announced as the US Soccer Young Male Player of the Year.
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Centre-back, right-back
Breaking into a backline that is home to three World Cup winners – Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard and Jerome Boateng – is difficult enough, and doing so at the age of 20 at Bayern Munich is a feat beyond most players. The fact that Richards is appearing with increasing regularity for Hansi Flick’s side, then, is a sure sign that club and country have a serious player on their hands.
The 20-year-old, who made his Bundesliga debut at the end of last season, made his first outing of the campaign on Matchday 1, and was given his maiden start a few days later on Matchday 3 against Hertha Berlin - even providing an assist for Robert Lewandowski in a 4-3 triumph. Richards picked up an injury in that game and was sidelined for a couple of weeks, but he has fought his way back, and has now played a total of 90 minutes spread across three matches, although he has been in the squad whenever he has been fit (10 times in total).
Not only that, he made his UEFA Champions League debut in November, starting the 3-1 win at home to Salzburg, and also came off the bench against Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow. USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter evidently liked what he saw, and made “Texas”, as he is nicknamed by the Bayern pros, a full USA international in November.
A positional switch for Leipzig captain Marcel Sabitzer from attacking midfield to a more central holding role – Adams’ preferred position - has limited the US international’s playing time somewhat this season, but the New York native has still featured in 10 of his team’s 13 Bundesliga assignments, starting seven.
It is testament to the faith head coach Julian Nagelsmann has in him that Adams tends to be on the pitch from the start in big, important fixtures: he played the full 90 minutes in draws against both Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, for example. Nagelsmann also brought him off the bench in the closing stages in crucial Champions League Group H wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Istanbul Basaksehir, needing Adams’ tenacity and defensive qualities to help protect the results. Die Roten Bullen, incidentally, lost the only two Champions League group games he did not play in…
Although Adams is most at home in central midfield, he has also operated at right-back this season, and even played from start to finish at centre-back in the team’s DFB Cup first round triumph over Nuremberg.
Watch: Adams at home in Leipzig
Werder Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt said he couldn’t imagine a starting XI without Sargent at the start of the season, and he has been true to his word so far: the O’Fallon, Missouri, native has played in 12 of the Green-and-Whites’ 13 top-flight assignments, with only four teammates having enjoyed more than his 1,009 minutes on the pitch.
Indeed, the only game Sargent has missed – the Matchday 9 defeat to Wolfsburg - was through injury, and even then he was a talking point after the final whistle. "His absence really hurt us and it's the biggest compliment you can pay him, that you could really notice that he wasn't there," said Kohfeldt.
Sargent has one goal and two assists in 2020/21, and while there is certainly room for improvement in that department, his game is about more than getting the ball into the net: the striker’s hold-up play and pressing of opposition defences is a key element of Bremen’s strategy. He scored as Bremen beat Hannover in the second round of the DFB Cup on 23 December, and was also called up to Berhalter’s squad for the November friendlies, but was unable to take part due to local health authorities in Bremen tightening coronavirus restrictions at the time.
Watch: Sargent's first goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 6
Brooks was in and out of the Wolfsburg team in the second half of last season following the arrival of Marin Pongracic, but he has been undroppable for Wolfsburg head coach Oliver Glasner in 2020/21. The 27-year-old did not miss a single minute of action between Matchdays 1 and 11, helping the Wolves enjoy their longest ever unbeaten start to a campaign. Indeed, their only loss so far was a narrow defeat to Bayern Munich on Matchday 12, which Brooks missed through injury.
The 6’3” defender has won 42 aerial challenges so far this season, putting him 14th in the league in that particular category, despite playing almost two games fewer than other players on the list. His quality on the ball, as well as in the tackle, is such that Berhalter has made him one of the few ‘older’ players on his rejuvenated roster, and Brooks played the full 90 minutes in the USMNT’s first game since the coronavirus outbreak, a 0-0 draw with Wales.
It’s largely been a campaign to forget for Schalke, who are bottom of the table and the only side without a win in the league so far this term. Yet it has been a positive one for Hoppe, who has benefited from injuries and disciplinary measures imposed on first-team regulars to be given a chance with the senior pros.
The Californian was a surprise inclusion in the Royal Blues’ starting line-up against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 9, giving a good account of himself in his 81 minutes on the pitch. Hoppe has made two more Bundesliga appearances since then, playing against both Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 10 and against Freiburg two weeks later. The forward was also a second-half substitute in Schalke’s DFB Cup second round victory away to Ulm on 22 December.
Watch: Hoppe reflects on Bundesliga debut
It’s been a difficult season for Chandler, who has had to be satisfied with just a handful of substitute appearances for Frankfurt. Erik Durm and Almamy Toure have been preferred at right wing-back for most of the season, and with the Eagles not playing in the Europa League in 2020/21, head coach Adi Hütter has not had as pressing a need to rotate his side.
Chandler has featured for just 55 minutes all told, across four Bundesliga matches. And while he has been in Frankfurt’s matchday squad for 12 of their 13 games, he hasn’t been named in the starting line-up yet.