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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Indiana Vassilev debuts for Aston Villa

The 18-year-old made his first appearance in the FA Cup

Fulham FC v Aston Villa - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Happy New Year and welcome back to the Weekly Youth Update! I took a nice break over the holidays to be with my family, but I’m back and ready with all kinds of news to get you up to speed. Many leagues are off at this time, but the transfer window is open and and lots of moves have already happened. For any new readers, the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I think each player should be called up to the senior national team at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him).


Indiana Vassilev - Attacking Midfielder, Aston Villa

The news of the weekend came from England. 18-year-old Indiana Vassilev made the bench for the first time for Aston Villa in the FA Cup. Taking on Championship side Fulham FC, Vassilev then made his professional debut when he came on in the 80th minute with Aston Villa chasing a tying goal. Like his entire team, Vassilev struggled to impact the game in those final 10 minutes plus stoppage time. He only had a few touches and several of them were sloppy. The 2-1 loss knocked them out of the competition, which is bad news since it’s less opportunity for rotation. It’s still a good sign that he would get a look, even if the cup competition is less important than survival in the Premier League. Currently Aston Villa are in 17th place in the 20-team EPL. We’ll see if Vassilev can continue to push his way into the first team picture as the season goes along. Vassilev joins Owen Otasowie as American teenagers to debut for Premier League clubs in the last month. Look for him to potentially be in the mix for inclusion again in their midweek League Cup matchup against Leicester City on Wednesday (3 PM ET on ESPN+). Rating: 4

Luca de la Torre - Attacking Midfielder, Fulham FC

Luca de la Torre has been taking some strides in the right direction in recent weeks. The 21-year-old has been making the matchday squad much more often, having appeared on the bench in 6 of their last 9 matches in all competitions. Luca appeared twice this week, making short cameos at the end of each of their matches. On Wednesday, he made just his second league appearance of the season in their 2-1 loss to Reading. On Saturday against Vassilev and Aston Villa, de la Torre nearly picked up an assist after a nice bit of patience and lovely pass to set up a quality chance. De la Torre’s contract runs out at the end of the season, so perhaps they’re trying to give him some looks to decide whether to hang onto him, but he needs to have more consistent opportunities than he has had. Rating: 4

Charlie Kelman - Striker, Southend United

Kelman finally returned from injury the day after Christmas to make his first appearance since September 28th. The 18-year-old came off the bench in the 82nd minute in their 2-2 draw with MK Dons. Last Wednesday, Kelman again came off the bench with Southend trailing 1-0. Kelman drew the penalty and then stepped up and took it himself to salvage a point for the struggling club.

While Kelman was out, Southend were nothing short of dreadful (to be fair, they weren’t playing very well before he was injured either). They earned just 2 points (TWO!) in the 12 matches in that timespan, so as you can imagine, they’re in major trouble to stay alive in League One. They will need to dramatically improve if they hope to stay alive. For Kelman, it’s great to see him back to full health and contributing again. He now has 4 goals in only 305 minutes in all competitions this year. Rating: 4

Cameron Carter-Vickers - Centerback, Tottenham?

The news isn’t good for Cameron Carter-Vickers. His loan to Stoke City was ended early and he has returned to Tottenham. Reportedly, they are actively looking to sell him permanently from the club as he has continued to struggle to find his way. While on loan at Stoke, CCV had failed to even make the matchday squad in recent weeks after struggling defensively when he was getting his chances earlier this season. The 22-year-old supposedly is set to make a move elsewhere and has received interest from MLS clubs reportedly.

We’ll be monitoring his situation in the coming weeks before the transfer window closes. Rating: 6


Nick Taitague - Attacking Midfielder, FC Schalke

One of the most welcome surprises was finding out that Nick Taitague would be joining FC Schalke’s first team for winter training camp. The 20-year-old has had a very difficult time with injuries over the last couple years which has prevented him from taking the next step with the club. But he is finally healthy and coming off a Most Outstanding Player performance in a recent U-23 tournament in China. With Schalke in need of some attacking help, Taitague has a golden opportunity to impress David Wagner and push his way into the rotation in the second half of the season. Let’s hope he can take advantage of this chance. Rating: 5

Chris Richards - Centerback, Bayern Munich

This was a very good week for finding out about players getting their shot in winter camp. Chris Richards was another one that will travel with the club and compete for a spot in the rotation with the German giants. Richards has been with the B team all season despite all the injury struggles at centerback. The 19-year-old has a massive opportunity to impress the first team coaches and prove that they don’t need to add help in the transfer window. Let’s hope he can take this chance. Rating: 8

Sidney Friede - Central Midfielder, Wehen Wiesbaden

Friede has left Hertha Berlin to join Wehen Wiesbaden in the 2. Bundesliga on a permanent move. Following a solid loan campaign in the Belgian Pro League last season, Friede has had a rough season where he failed to feature for the first team and only even made the matchday squad a few times. Instead, he spent the bulk of the fall playing for the reserves in the German Regionalliga. Let’s hope he can straighten out his career following this move. The 21-year-old German-American is provisionally cap-tied after featuring with Germany at the U-19 Euros, so he would have to file a one-time switch to play for the US even if he wanted to. Rating: 4


Nicholas Gioacchini - Striker, SM Caen

Gioacchini has had an eventful couple weeks. No longer will we see videos of him without a name on the back of his jersey. Gioacchini has impressed coaches to the point that they wanted to secure his services going forward. So the 19-year-old signed his first professional contract which will keep him with the Ligue 2 club through 2023. Following their winter break, Gioacchini started against French fourth tier club Guichen in the Coupe de France (French Cup). In the 10th minute, Gioacchini headed home the opening goal off a corner kick.

It was his 4th goal in 10 matches in all competitions this season. Gioacchini would sub off in stoppage time as Caen held on for a 2-1 win. We’ll see if he can help Caen continue to climb in the standings as the season goes along (they currently sit in 13th place in the standings). Rating: 4


Richard Ledezma - Attacking Midfielder, PSV Eindhoven

Richie Ledezma is another player joining his first team during the winter break. Along with a few other youth players at PSV, Ledezma traveled to Qatar with the club for winter training camp in hopes of impressing and pushing his way into the fold on a consistent basis. He’ll have his opportunity and it will be up to the 19-year-old to take advantage. Word came out this week that he was in line for a call-up to January camp alongside Uly Llanez and Christian Cappis, but they allowed him to have this chance to break in with his club instead. That’s a great sign that US Soccer wanted to take a look. Hopefully Ledezma can take advantage of this chance. Rating: 8

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!