USMNT players in the Bundesliga: Reyna, McKennie and the top 10 Americans playing soccer in Germany
The USMNT has a number of stars in the Bundesliga to get excited about. Gio Reyna looks set to follow in Christian Pulisic's footsteps for Borussia Dortmund. Who joins him in the Top 10 American players in Germany?
bundesliga.com turns the spotlight over ten of the top Americans currently plying their trade in Germany…
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger
Dortmund fans mourning the departure of Pulisic to Chelsea in 2019 perked up immediately at the sight of a certain 16-year-old Gio Reyna starring in their U19s. Almost a carbon-copy clone of his predecessor in a black and yellow shirt, in terms of their respective journeys, Reyna opened his senior Dortmund account at the age of 17 and completed his first six months with the professionals having tread the turf in the Bundesliga 15 times. His four goals in as many UEFA Youth League matches for BVB's U19s last season are likely to be his last at youth level, with his place now well and truly cemented on the senior roster.
Watch: Gio Reyna living the dream
A first cap for the USMNT is merely a formality for a player who has scored with regularity at U15 and U17 level for his country, and underlined his ability week in, week out in the Bundesliga. While the Covid-19 pandemic may have cost him an opportunity to beat Pulisic's record as the youngest USMNT goalscorer, he still has a few years to catch up with his compatriot for his country, as he is doing for his club.
Since making his Bundesliga debut at the age of 18 on the final day of the 2016/17 season, McKennie has become a mainstay in the midfield of the Royal Blues. Texan tenacity combined with German grit – McKennie spent most of his childhood in Germany before taking his first soccer steps at FC Dallas – have helped the 21-year-old become one of the Gelsenkirchen club's most influential individuals. His 85 percent successful passes in 2019/20 was the highest for a Schalke player, as he surged through as one of their most consistent and reliable performers.
Watch: Weston McKennie's roots
In 19 USMNT outings, McKennie has scored six times, including on his debut against Portugal and a 13-minute hat-trick in a 7-0 rout of Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League – the fastest hat-trick from the start of a match in USMNT history, with his 30th-second opener the second quickest ever. He captained his country for the first time in their 2019 Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, and has been nominated for the US Men's Player of the Year twice. Statistically, he is one of his club and country's hardest-running players, regularly breaking the six-mile-per-game mark.
Club: RB Leipzig
Trying to pin down Tyler Adams' position is as difficult for his coach as it is for his opponent. In a still precocious career, the 21-year-old has covered almost every base across the midfield, more recently impressing in a more central role having also shown some spectacular promise at full-back and wide on the right. Former Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick also had him earmarked for a more advanced midfield role, such is the array of skills and talent Adams has, and which was rewarded with an almost cast-iron starting berth once injury-free in the second half of the 2019/20 season. He is a genuine all-rounder.
Watch: Tyler Adams remaining focused during self-isolation
In his ten caps for the USMNT, Adams has shown a similar amount of versatility. His most recent appearance, in a 2-0 win over Ecuador in March 2019, was as a right full-back, having already operated down the centre and on the right of the USA's midfield. All this movement has helped him develop an "uncanny sense of the situation when it comes to going out to win the ball," according to Rangnick, and makes him an unfathomable prospect.
With over 150 Bundesliga appearances already in the bank, Brooks has well and truly established himself as one of the league's most reliable central defenders. Although he did not score a goal last season, having found the back of the net three times in 2018/19, he showed an even greater level of maturity at the heart of the Wolfsburg defence, winning most of his challenges on the ground (61.5 percent) and in the air (74.4 percent) – both increases on his previous season's bests of 60.9 percent and 73 percent respectively – while Brooks' rate of 87.2 percent successful passes from open play – coming from 1,077 attempted passes – was more than any other member of the Wolfpack, underlining his pivotal role in a team going for European glory for the second season running.
2019/20 was one of the 27-year-old's best Bundesliga seasons as he helped Wolfsburg qualify for the UEFA Europa League with one of the league's stingiest defences (only five teams conceded fewer than the Wolves). That form has earned him a recall to the USMNT after being left out of the 2019 Gold Cup, and his experience from 38 caps could form a fundamental foundation for his country as he hits his prime.
Club: Werder Bremen
When you score your first Bundesliga goal with your first ever touch in Germany's top flight, then you're setting a very high bar. Fortunately for Josh Sargent, that debut strike against Fortuna Düsseldorf on 12 December 2018 was anything but a one-hit wonder as he struck again on his third substitute appearance, and marked his second start with another goal. Scoring has since become a trend for the 20-year-old, who has emerged – already at the end of only his second season in the Bundesliga – as the man to lead Bremen's attacking line of the future.
When Sargent scored 30 goals in 48 games for the USA's U17s, the US Soccer history book writers knew they needed to keep a chapter clear for him. Just as he had on his Bremen debut, Sargent struck his first senior goal for the USMNT on his first appearance, in a 3-0 win over Bolivia. That made him the fifth-youngest player to score for the USMNT at the end of a remarkable year in which he had represented his country in World Cups at U17 and U20 level, though the senior selection is now his stomping and striking ground.
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger
Getting your first set of wheels is the dream many kids have as they approach their 18th birthday, but Ulysses Llanez got an even greater gift when he reached that milestone: a first professional contract with Wolfsburg. He earned that by impressing in their U19 team, scoring 11 and assisting six in just 16 outings during a 2019/20 campaign which ended with him sitting on the bench twice for the first team, getting himself warm for his impending Bundesliga bow.
There appears to be something of a trend in Bundesliga-bred players scoring on their USMNT debut, and Llanez is no exception. Even before being blooded in Germany's top flight, he had already celebrated a goal for the USMNT in a friendly against Costa Rica in February 2020. Widely held as one of the most exciting up-and-coming wingers in the game, the only people not looking forward to seeing more of his dizzying dribbles are opposition defenders.
Club: Fortuna Düsseldorf
Born in the German capital of Berlin to a German mother and Peruvian-American father, Morales has just finished his fifth season in the Bundesliga, having now made more appearances in Germany's top flight (109) than in Bundesliga 2 (103). Hertha Berlin, Ingolstadt and Düsseldorf have all benefited from the dynamic midfielder's services, with his strength in winning back possession for his team seeing him heavily involved. Combine that with his 81 percent successful pass rate and Morales is a midfielder who stops opponents in their tracks before getting his own team on the front foot.
Morales' head was turned the USMNT way by Jürgen Klinsmann, who gave him all 13 of his 16 caps to date. Although a three-year international hiatus followed Klinsmann's departure, Morales returned to international duty in September 2019, letting his Bundesliga consistency convince Gregg Berhalter that he warrants a place on his team.
Club: Bayern Munich
To be successful as a defender at Bayern Munich, you need to know the entire hymn sheet, and Chris Richards is certainly well versed. Having started the 2019/20 season at right full-back in Bayern Munich's reserves, he would end the campaign as an established central defender, and with his first Bundesliga appearance – also at the heart of Hansi Flick's defence – under his belt. In between, Richards also appeared on the left, showing something distinctly Philipp Lahm-like about his dexterity.
Richards' 13 outings for the USA's U20s all came at the heart of the defence, on the other hand, and that is where he is expected soon to give USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter a helping hand in the months and years to come. Having already shone internationally at U23 level, and with eyes on a place in the Olympic Games, a first senior call-up is edging closer on the horizon for a player who has no doubt benefitted from a full year training with Bayern's first team.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
To be branded a "little kid" when you've already entered the fourth decade of your life is perhaps one of the biggest compliments a footballer can be paid, yet it is not out of place when it comes to Chandler, who experienced something of a revival in 2019/20. It was Frankfurt coach Adi Hütter who praised one of his most experienced campaigners for his energetic presence both on and off the field, and how he manages to take younger players under his wing and show them the ropes, all the while keeping the Eagles' spirits high. Breaking through the landmark of two centuries of Bundesliga appearances in December 2019 appears to have been the trigger for Chandler's second wind, with five valuable goals in his final 14 outings of the season.
Chandler is not normally known for his goalscoring, though, and he has only found the back of the net once for the USMNT. Playing in a much deeper role for his country than the one he has filled for Frankfurt explains why his 29 caps to date, since his debut under Bob Bradley in 2011, have yielded that solitary strike, against Guatemala in 2015. That said, the "little kid" is still an important young-at-heart member of Gregg Berhalter's team.
Club: Bayern Munich
Another player to follow the Pulisic path to the Bundesliga, arriving early courtesy of a relative with the right passport, Booth has managed to steal a march on his generation by training in the inspirational surroundings of the Säbener Straße, in perfect view of the first team he could soon be joining. The first steps towards the senior squad have been taken with Booth concluding the 2019/20 campaign with two outings for Bayern's reserves, after appearing regularly in their U19s.
Booth is following a similar step-by-step path for the USA, rising the ranks from U16, through U17 and U18 to U19 level. With a goal and an assist in his first two outings at the latter level, the many years watching his inspirations Thierry Henry and David Beckham appear to be rubbing off on the youngster from Utah.
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