There was a flurry of cross-Atlantic activity during the winter transfer window, with Bundesliga clubs dipping into the US market to lure the likes of George Bello, Ricardo Pepi, Justin Che and Kevin Paredes to Germany.
With the success stories of the likes of Gio Reyna, Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Chris Richards and Joe Scally as a backdrop, bundesliga.com looks at the kind of impact the four fresh US recruits might have on Germany's top flight.
Pepi's arrival at Augsburg set the ball rolling, the 18-year-old choosing the Bavarian club as the ideal home for his burgeoning talent, having previously spent time on trial at neighbouring Bayern Munich. The former FC Dallas forward has already had his first tastes of Bundesliga football, and he has impressed on his two first starts in an Augsburg shirt, seeing what would have been a goal on his full debut ruled out by a VAR review. "He's making a great impression in training, but we're giving him time to settle in," said Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl. "He's younger than my own son, which is why I'm being cautious with the expectations."
Watch: Ricardo Pepi dreaming big at Augsburg
Nevertheless, Weinzierl named the 18-year-old in his starting XI twice and knows that he can already count on the services of a talented young individual who is keen to pay the faith back. "I know that I sometimes have to score from a chance, or even just a half chance, but that's what I'm here for as a striker," Pepi said in a recent interview with Sport Bild in which he also declared his dream of playing in the UEFA Champions League with Augsburg. "That may sound crazy at the moment, but it's my goal," he said. "I've always had big dreams and that's the only way to progress."
Thanks to the achievements, most notably of Pulisic and Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, such dreams are behind most American players' decisions to trade Major League Soccer for the Bundesliga and Che's arrival is similar to that of Pepi's. Both were able to get a closer look at how things run in arguably the most impressive of surroundings as part of a player development program between Bayern and FC Dallas.
During his spell in Bavaria, Che got to work under Sebastian Hoeneß, who has since moved from Bayern's youth academy to become head coach at Hoffenheim, and jumped at the chance to extend an olive branch to Che this winter.
"He made a good impression with the Bayern reserves," Hoeneß said. "He made his presence felt there without any problems. He's an exciting player, who can hopefully be a first-team option for us very quickly."
Watch: Justin Che - the Bundesliga's next Dallas graduate
That is an expectation and a hope shared by the US youth international, who arrived at the end of January 2022 on an 18-month loan and hopes to link up with compatriot Richards on the field in the Bundesliga very soon. "Hoffenheim is also known in the USA for its good work with young players, which has been impressively shown again in recent months with the development of Chris Richards," Che said.
The 18-year-old Texan, who plies his trade predominantly at the heart of the defence, but is comfortable also on the right-hand side of the defensive line, made 15 MLS appearances in 2021 and set up three goals. He will be out to impress with his pace and proficiency on the ball and convince Hoffenheim to make his move there a permanent one.
Watch: Chris Richards' road to the Bundesliga
That is the kind of contract fellow 18-year-old Paredes has signed with Wolfsburg, joining them from DC United on a deal through to the summer of 2026. “I can hardly wait to get going at VfL,” the 5'10" winger told the club's official website. “My first impressions of the facilities here are awesome. I’m very pleased to be here and I’m eager to take on the new challenge and succeed with VfL.”
Paredes, whose preferred position is on the left wing, but can play across the attacking line, cut his teeth in the DC United academy before making his professional debut at the age of just 16 for the Washington club's reserve team, Loudoun United FC, in the second division of US soccer. After impressing there he returned to his parent club and made 41 appearances in all competitions, registering three goals and two assists, while he also has two goals in five caps for the USA U16s.
Naturally left-footed, quick and attack-minded, Paredes likes to get forward at every opportunity and is able to deliver teasing crosses into the box, or cause havoc with mazy dribbles of his own, not too unlike Bayern's Canadian full-back Alphonso Davies, who is unsurprisingly one of Paredes' main inspirations. "Once he got put into that left-back role and moved to Bayern, I’ve been following him, following his tracks, how he plays, how he defends. He was an attacking player at Vancouver and in the academy before that transition to left-back, sort of the same position I’m in currently right now in the process of going to that more defensive role.”
In the words of Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schäfer: "He brings pace and dynamism, he’s very agile and nimble on the ball, covers a lot of ground on the pitch and has a really good mentality." To sum that up in just one word, Paredes promises excitement, and that is something Arminia Bielefeld fans can also expect from Bello.
Bello's name translates as 'beautiful' in Italian - apt given the the 20-year-old left full-back's frequent forays forward. He was weaned on a diet of 10-time Bundesliga winner David Alaba, and is already a firm part of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter's plans.
"We believe George is a massive part of the future," said Berhalter, who handed Bello his senior international debut and included him in the USA's triumphant 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup squad. The former Atlanta United youngster also featured in his nation's U17 side alongside Reyna, Pepi and Borussia Mönchengladbach's Scally, at the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup.
Whichever way you look at it, Bello is one talented individual and the Bundesliga has repeatedly proven its reputation as the best place for such young stars to grow, so it is another perfect match with the latest in a line of exciting USMNT prospects showcasing their talent to Bundesliga fans.
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