With a host of talented North American players now firmly established in the Bundesliga, the 2021/22 season promises to be one of the most compelling yet for viewers in the United States and Canada.
bundesliga.com shines the spotlight over five of top North American stars to keep a particular eye on this season…
Club: Bayern Munich
Country: Canada (23 caps/9 goals)
Position: left-back, left wing
The 2020/21 campaign was something of a landmark season for Alphonso Davies. No longer the new kid on the Bayern block, the Canadian faced the first real challenges of his professional career – and passed them with flying colours.
Davies' was one of the first names on Hansi Flick's team sheet in 2019/20, missing just one of 35 games. An inkling that it might not be so easy in his second full season in Bavaria came when he was named only as a substitute for their season-opening game against Schalke. "For a young player like Alphonso Davies, it's not easy due to the sheer number of games last season and the short pre-season," reasoned Flick. "We've deliberately given him the time to recharge - mentally and physically - and that's what he's been doing."
Watch: Davies' landmark season
Davies suffered a further setback when, just 53 seconds into the game at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, he got his studs caught in the turf and picked up an ankle ligament injury. That kept him on the sidelines for seven weeks, but he returned eager to make up for lost time – and he didn't look back. Despite missing almost half of the season, he was second only to Thomas Müller in the number of duels won, and one of his many sprints saw him register the third-fastest speed in the Bundesliga last season at 22.35mph.
Coming into his third full season with Bayern, Davies has added his reaction to this adversity to the many positive attributes which have made him a genuine Bundesliga star in just two years, and do not forget he is still only 20, even if he already has three Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Champions League winner's medal to his name.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Country: USA (8 caps/4 goals)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Like Davies, it is easy to forget that Gio Reyna is still so young. The American attacking midfielder is still only 18, yet he has matured at a rate that has made him a household name already in the Bundesliga; and following the departure of Jadon Sancho to Manchester United this summer, his reputation is about to be enhanced even further.
The expectations in Reyna are certainly going to be higher in 2021/22 as he takes a larger slice of the Dortmund limelight having inherited Sancho's No.7 jersey.
"There are a number of other players I work well with - it can even be better [than with Sancho]," said Erling Haaland, who will be reliant on Reyna's intuition in what promises to be one of the most exciting attacking combinations in the Bundesliga and Europe, especially under the guidance of new Dortmund coach Marco Rose.
"He wants us to be very energetic, he wants the whole team to press," Reyna said of his first impressions working under Rose. "For myself, this is an area I can improve and he's giving me little tips on how to get closer to attackers when they have the ball and to try and get the ball in areas where I can be more efficient on the defensive end. I'm trying to take every bit of advice in and I think I'm improving day by day."
For Reyna, like for Davies, 2020/21 was something of a learning curve, out from which he has emerged even stronger. With four goals and six assists, despite only playing the full 90 minutes on 10 occasions, Reyna already knows how to make a contribution, while his three goals helped BVB on their way to winning the DFB Cup. His first Champions League goal is now due, with Reyna ready to take 2021/22 by its horns and ensure Sancho is not missed too much in Dortmund.
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: USA (14 caps/1 goal)
Position: defensive midfielder/right-back
Since arriving in Germany from New York Red Bulls at the age of 19, Tyler Adams has worked his way right into the core of the RB Leipzig team, where he now holds things together in front of the defence and – as was seen last term – also inside the back three.
It was Julian Nagelsmann who tried Tyler out in a 'quarterback' position, just a few steps deeper than where he has been pulling the strings regularly. "We wanted to open up some new spaces in our build-up play," Nagelsmann said of the experiment in the first round of the DFB Cup last year, explaining how Adams' technical qualities and vision made him an ideal player to launch attacks from right at the very back, even if he may not boast the physical attributes normally belonging to a central defensive stopper.
Watch: Reyna vs. Adams in the battle of the buddies
In his three years with Leipzig, Adams has shown great versatility in also playing as a right full-back – a berth he has filled regularly for the USMNT – and on the right-hand side of midfield. He was also earmarked for a more advanced role by former Leipzig coach and sporting director Ralf Rangnick and while that shift up the field has yet to materialise, it does give new Leipzig boss Jesse Marsch another option for his American all-rounder.
Speaking of the USMNT, Adams captained his country in a friendly win over Costa Rica last October, underlining how highly he is thought of also at international level, and he can be expected to lead the Leipzig charge on trophies this season, wherever he fits into Marsch's mosaic.
Club: Greuther Fürth
Country: USA (15 caps/4 goal)
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger
The career of Julian Green had fairy tale written all over it. Snapped up by Bayern before he turned 19 and selected in the USMNT squad for the FIFA World Cup, all the stars were lining up for Green as he found the back of the net with his very first touch of the ball in Brazil to become the youngest US goalscorer in a World Cup.
He became the first American to score a goal for Bayern when he struck in a DFB Cup win over Augsburg and he was living the dream in Munich. "I trained with the best players in the world at Bayern," he told ESPN. "You could learn from everyone, starting with Philipp Lahm to Arjen Robben. From those players on my position. Robben, Franck Ribery and even Robert Lewandowski. They gave me advice, and to see them in training made me stronger."
That early promise slowly faded, though, and Green went somewhat off the radar, eventually ending up in Fürth. "I want to play regularly, so I'm happy to take this step," he said at the time. Slowly but surely, Green started to benefit from the regular minutes on the field, though. "It was my first season that it was like this," he told ESPN. "I'd never had that before, and I think it was a very important season for me. Now I feel I'm a different kind of player, my game changed just a little bit. I feel better now."
Part of the transformation included a shift into the heart of the midfield. "I came to Fürth and started playing in the middle, and I think that was a very good decision," Green recalled. "That's my favourite and best position." After netting the goal which saved Fürth from relegation to the third division, he helped inspire them to promotion back to the top flight last season. He has taken a step back to take two forward. "I just love this game, and I just want to get the best out of my career," Green said. "It's normal that you sometimes have [setbacks], but you're getting stronger and fitter and ... at the end I think I will have [had] a pretty good career, and I can be happy about it."
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Country: USA (U17 cap)
When Joe Scally arrived in Mönchengladbach from New York City FC, a place in the club's reserve team, who play in the fourth-tier Regionalliga West, had his name on it. That was not to say he was not expected to aim for more, though, with Gladbach's sporting director Max Eberl saying prior to his arrival that he had "high expectations" for him, adding: "Our plan is for him to be part of the first team."
After 15 games in the Regionalliga last term, promotion to the first team has come quicker than anybody might have imagined. Anybody, that is, apart from Gladbach's Academy director Roland Virku. "Joe's been able to fit in quickly at Borussia,” he said. "He's really gone from zero to 100. I have never seen a young player that goes into challenges as hard as he does, while not being nasty."
His strength has not been lost on new Gladbach coach Adi Hütter, who has been monitoring Scally as part of first-team training all summer. After Michael Lang returned home to join Basel, Hütter gave even more thought to promoting Scally as an in-house solution, giving him a chance to impress in pre-season friendlies against Groningen, Viktoria Cologne, Paderborn, Metz and offering him a starting berth in a 2-0 win over Bayern.
Gladbach kick off their Bundesliga campaign at home to Bayern on 20 August, and you would not now bet against Scally being the man tasked with keeping Leroy Sane or Serge Gnabry quiet. "As a kid, everyone dreams of playing football in Europe, in one of the top five leagues," Scally said in January. "Being able to play in Germany is a dream and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m very glad to be here and take on this new challenge."
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