We’re back from the International window with a lot to catch up on. Many players made moves at their clubs while several youngsters were on the field with the senior USMNT. Here’s what’s been going on.
The largest news from the last couple weeks has to be the United States dominating the Concacaf U-20 Championship. The US U-20’s won each of their eight matches they played and outscored opponents 46-2 in the process. The Championship featured a matchup with archrival Mexico. Alex Mendez was the star of the show once again, scoring both goals in the US’ 2-0 (“Dos a Cero”) victory in the final. The recent Freiburg signing deservedly took home the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s most outstanding player. He consistently stood out for his ability to score spectacular goals (including the absolute banger attached below), drive the attack and dominate in the middle of the park. Congratulations to Tab Ramos and the United States U-20’s on back-to-back Concacaf Championships! We’ll see the US in the 2019 U-20 World Cup next May.
This is absolutely insane from Alex Mendez. USA closing in on a spot in the 2019 U-20 World Cup pic.twitter.com/2ynFE3gkLB— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) November 17, 2018
Haji Wright - Striker, Schalke
Haji Wright was easily the most surprising story of the last two weeks. The 20-year-old is back in the first team picture due to several injuries to Schalke’s attacking players. Given an opportunity to show during the break, Wright played the entire second half in a friendly against Russian side FC Zenit St. Petersburg. Wright had a golden opportunity to score in the 80th minute of that match but was denied by the goalkeeper. Still, the young man apparently did enough as he was on the bench for Schalke this weekend against FC Nürnberg. In the 88th minute, Wright made his Bundesliga debut with Schalke leading 4-2. Wright showed a couple glimpses of decent holdup play in his brief cameo. His story is one of amazing perseverance. A lot of people had written him off following his failed loan stint at SV Sandhausen last season and his return to the U-23 team this season. What he has showed this year is that hard work and humility pays off. Let’s hope he continues to show well in training and Domenico Tedesco gives him some more looks in the coming weeks while Breel Embolo and Mark Uth are on the sidelines. Please note that Wright will not be in the team for their Champions League matchup against Porto this week since he was not named with the squad prior to the group stage starting. Congratulations, Haji!
Nick Taitague - Attacking Midfielder, Schalke
Taitague has finally returned to the field for Schalke. The 19-year-old has been riddled with injuries for the last year, but he is back doing what he loves. In a friendly with their U-23’s, he scored two goals in an 11-2 win. It’s been frustrating that he would come back and get injured again on multiple occasions in the past year. It’s great to see him back and hopefully he can stay healthy this time.
Lynden Gooch - Attacking Midfielder, Sunderland AFC
Gooch had a very big game this weekend. Sunderland fell behind 2-0 after teammate Max Power was sent off. Gooch then stepped up when they needed them by providing the assist on Sunderland’s first goal in the 62nd minute. Then in the 89th minute, the 22-year-old finished himself on a very tough turn to level the score and steal a point.
The goal and assist now put him at 4 goals and 8 assists through 16 league games this season. Sunderland now sit in second place in League One, four points behind Portsmouth.
Charlie Kelman - Striker, Southend United
Kelman earned his first team debut over the break. In their 3-0 win over Southampton’s U-23’s in the EFL Trophy, Kelman came off the bench in the 85th minute. The 17-year-old has been tearing it up at the youth levels this season and fully deserved his chance. Let’s hope he can continue to push and become a regular contributor.
Erik Palmer-Brown - Centerback, Manchester City (On Loan at NAC Breda)
Palmer-Brown has seemingly won a starting spot while on loan. The 21-year-old started again over the weekend against Dutch powerhouse, Ajax. Ajax unsurprisingly dominated the match and the defense was under siege for the vast majority of the game. Palmer-Brown was deployed on the left side of a three man backline. He was slow to react on a chance that Ajax should have scored on in the second half, but overall he had a decent game against a quality opponent. I want to see him increase his focus to cut down on the amount of mental errors he makes. Hopefully he will get there.
Emmanuel Sabbi - Winger/Striker, Hobro IK
Sabbi is back healthy and playing regularly once again. The 20-year-old is enjoying his first season as a regular first team player, but his production has plateaued since the breathtaking start he had this summer. Sabbi has started the last five matches for Hobro and hasn’t contributed a goal or assist in any of them while his club continues to struggle. Hobro IK is in dead last in the Danish Superliga this season, having earned just 15 points through 17 games. The winter break will take place in a few weeks, so it will be important that they gain some ground in the relegation race to have some momentum before the break.
Mukwelle Akale - Attacking Midfielder, Villareal
Akale is having a fine year. The 21-year-old has moved up to the B team in the Spanish third division and has been making an impact often as a super sub but many times from the start as well. Over the International break, Akale trained with the first team for the first time this year. I'm impressed with his patience regarding his playing situation. Villareal has brought him along very slowly, but he continues to put in the work and believe that his time will come. Let’s hope he can keep pushing towards a shot at some first team opportunities.
As always, hit the comment section to let me know if there’s anything major I overlooked or if there’s anyone you’d like to hear about. Thank you for reading.