We’re back and building closer to the start of the season in the major European leagues. The American youngsters are making their final preseason push to garner more first team opportunities this year. For any new readers, the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I think each player should be called up by the senior national team at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him). Here’s what’s going on:
Josh Sargent - Striker, Werder Bremen
On Saturday, Werder Bremen played their final preseason match against Premier League club Everton. The 19-year-old came on at halftime and looked quite good in his cameo. He nearly scored after a fine counter attack the Everton keeper, Jordan Pickford, denied his left-footed effort. A few minutes later, he received the ball at midfield and dribbled at the defense before nutmegging star Everton centerback, Michael Keane and drawing a foul on the edge of the penalty area. You can see highlights of his entire outing below (thanks to @USMNTvideos).
Sargent has drawn rave reviews from his coaches this summer. Ian Kohfeldt has been pleased with his efforts in training and looks to have a bigger role in mind for him.
Next week, Werder Bremen takes on Atlas Delmenhorst in the DFB Pokal in the first official match of the season (2:45 PM ET on ESPN3). Then they will turn their attention to the league campaign with a date with Zack Steffen, Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Düsseldorf on August 17th. We’ll see if Sargent’s shown enough to push into the starting lineup. Rating: 9
Sebastian Soto - Striker, Hannover
Soto got his season debut on Saturday. The 18-year-old came off the bench very late with Hannover chasing a winner against Jahn Regensburg. Soto was unable to help them find the winning goal, but it was still good to see him get on the field for the first time this season. Soto has been in the news frequently this summer as he had attempted to force a move out of Hannover. The rumors around him have died down to some extent, but it remains to be seen how happy he’ll be with potentially playing sparingly in the 2. Bundesliga. Rating: 6
Roberto Hategan - Attacking Midfielder, FC Nürnberg
Hategan confirmed he has signed with FC Nürnberg this week. The 18-year-old has joined their U-19’s and will try to work his way closer to the first team as he continues his development. Hategan had previously played for USL club Sacramento FC before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways. Let’s wish him luck as he joins the large contingent of Americans in the U-19 Bundesliga. For those unfamiliar with him, below is a highlight video showing some of his skill. Rating: 1
Chituru Odunze - Goalkeeper, Leicester City FC
Odunze has left the Vancouver Whitecaps academy to join Leicester City. Unlike many of the recent deals functioning as free transfers for young Americans when they move to Europe, Vancouver actually sold the 16-year-old and will retain a percentage of any potential transfer fee in the future. Odunze has represented the US at the U-17 level and hopefully will be able to take the next steps in his development in England. Rating: 1
Alex Mendez - Central Midfielder, AFC Ajax
Mendez made the most newsworthy move of the week by signing with Dutch mega club Ajax. The 18-year-old midfielder will start the season with Jong Ajax where he will get the opportunity to play in the second division in Holland while he works his way into the first team picture. Let’s wish Mendez the best of luck as he tries to make it at one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Rating: 6
Haji Wright - Striker, VVV-Venlo
Wright earned the start in VVV-Venlo’s Eredivisie season-opener on Saturday. The 21-year-old missed a golden opportunity to even the score just after halftime but took a heavy touch that ruined the chance. However, he would redeem himself somewhat when he drew a penalty in the 58th minute.
Haji drew a penalty today. 1 assist on the season so far.pic.twitter.com/MFLe0GNYz0— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) August 3, 2019
The ensuing goal gave them the lead and they would go on to win 3-1. While Wright certainly showed some stuggles in his debut, it was good to see him get on the field and making his presence felt. Hopefully he keeps it up. Rating: 5
Yosef Samuel - Striker, Hobro IK
Samuel has joined Emmanuel Sabbi and Christian Cappis and signed a contract with Danish Superliga club, Hobro IK. The 22-year-old most recently played for Atlanta United’s reserves before leaving the MLS club. On Friday, Samuel came off the bench in the 62nd minute to make his Danish Superliga debut. Hobro would hold on for a 3-2 victory and their first win of the year. Let’s hope he can take advantage of this new opportunity. Rating: 3
Cameron Harper - Winger/Striker, Celtic FC
Harper has gone under the radar a bit, but it seems as though he’s making some headway with the Scottish giants. This week, the 18-year-old trained with the first team for the first time. Harper has been a regular for the their U-18’s and is continuing to push through. Let’s see if he can continue his rise. Rating: 2
Joel Soñora - Attacking Midfielder CA Talleres Cordoba (On Loan at Arsenal FC) - Youth Update Curtain Call
Soñora is headed on loan to Argentine Superliga club Arsenal FC. The 22-year-old appeared sparingly for Talleres last season and had uneven performances when he did play. We’ll see if he can earn regular playing time and show that he belongs while on loan. Please note that this will be the last Youth Update on the elder Soñora brother because he will turn 23 next month. Rating: 3
George Bello - Left Back, Atlanta United
We finally have some good news regarding George Bello. The 17-year-old made his return from injury for Atlanta United’s reserves this weekend. Atlanta head coach Frank de Boer is being cautious with his recovery and will only bring him back to the first team when he’s at full fitness. Still, it’s great to see him back on the field and it shouldn’t be much longer before he’s back with the first team. Rating: 4
Andrew Gutman - Left Back, Celtic FC (On Loan at FC Cincinnati)
Gutman is on the move. The 22-year-old is headed to FC Cincinnati on loan for the remainder of the year. Gutman had previously been on loan in the USL and was dominating before Celtic recalled him early. Gutman spent some time with the Celtic first team this preseason and impressed in a couple outings, but it wasn’t enough to convince the coaches that he should stay and fight for more opportunities at this time. So we’ll see if he can help the worst team in MLS have some success to finish out their season. Rating: 4
Donovan Pines - Centerback, DC United
Pines is having a nice breakout year for DC United. Following a knee injury that kept him out for a significant chunk of the season, Pines has returned to the starting lineup and is succeeding in his outings. Pines started four consecutive games heading into Sunday, and DC’s only loss came at the hands of Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta United. If Pines can show consistency, he’ll have to start garnering some attention from US Soccer. Look for Pines to play a part in Olympic qualifying next March. Rating: 5
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!