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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Wolfsburg claims another one

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Paredes to Die Wölfe, U-20 camp, and more!

Welcome back to the USMNT Weekly Youth Update! Let’s take a look back at some developments in the young US player pool over the past seven days. By reader request, here’s a breakdown of which birth years are eligible for which youth national teams and tournaments:

  • 1999 and younger: eligible for “age-based” U-23 team (this is not something US Soccer does, but I advocate for it)
  • 2001 and younger: eligible for 2024 Paris Olympics (U-23 team)
  • 2003 and younger: eligible for 2022 Concacaf Championship, 2023 U-20 World Cup
  • 2006 and younger: eligible for 2023 U-17 World Cup

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). Let’s get into it!

Belgium

Early in the week, it seemed George Bello would be moving to Cercle Brugge in Belgium. The clubs agreed on a transfer fee. Bello wasn’t ready to join the club, though. More on the young left back further on in this piece.

Croatia

Rokas Pukstas, an ‘04 center mid from Stillwater, OK, joined the U-17s of Croatian club Hajduk Split from the Barça Residency in Arizona in the fall of 2020. The club is currently 4th of 10 in Croatia, and has finished between 3rd and 5th for the past 7 years. Pukstas progressed through their U-17s and U-19s, playing in several first team friendlies recently. The young midfielder also featured in the Revelations Cup with the US U-20s in November. Now, it appears he’s broken through to the first team. It will be exciting to watch his continued development. Rating: 1

Denmark

Jose Gallegos has moved to Danish club SønderjyskE from San Antonio FC in the USL Championship! Gallegos is an ‘01 attacking mid or winger, who loves to create magic with the ball at his feet. Gallegos continues the growing trend of young players moving directly to Europe from USL. SønderjyskE is 11th of 12 in Denmark, and will be looking to avoid relegation. Rating: 3

Here’s a dose of Gallegos highlights, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of watching him in USL.

And Gallegos isn’t the only USYNT-eligible player at SønderjyskE! ‘01 winger Jannick Liburd was born in Houston.

San Antonio FC said goodbye to Gallegos with the following clip:

France

Amir Richardson is an ‘02 CM/DM who has made 19 appearances with Le Havre in Ligue 2. The 20-year-old is very comfortable on the ball, and has been profiled by Brian Sciaretta of AmericanSoccerNow. He’s a triple-national, eligible for the US, France, and Morocco, and was in France U-20 camp in November. Rating: 6

Germany

Kevin Paredes has officially moved from DC United to Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga! Wolfsburg have had a rough season, firing their manager, hiring Florian Kohfeldt, and making several January signings, including €12m for striker Jonas Wind, €5m for Max Kruse, and nearly €7M for Paredes. The ‘03 left back/winger has been prolific in MLS even at his young age, and appears to have the profile to be a truly special player. He’s been in full national team camp, but remains eligible for this current U-20 cycle.

Wolfsburg is a controversial destination for young Americans, as it hasn’t proved a fruitful landing spot for Uly Llanez (on loan in Austria’s second tier), Bryang Kayo (discussed further down), or Kobe Hernandez-Foster (moved to a club in Norway). However, Paredes’ move is very different from these youngsters. Unlike them, he’s a full-fledged professional, and is moving with a significant transfer fee, with the expectation of joining the first team immediately and making an impact (perhaps pairing up with fellow Yank John Brooks). Rating: 8

Perfectly timed, Sanjiv (@USMNTvideos) released a full season highlight reel for Paredes. Enjoy.

Justin Che also got a Bundesliga feature, after the ‘03 CB made the move from FC Dallas to Hoffenheim on an 18-month loan.

Johan Gómez is far less famous in U.S. soccer circles than his brother Jonathan, but the elder JoGo has racked up 5 goals in 20 games in Germany’s third tier this season - tied for first among U23-eligible players. A 2001, Gómez moved from FC Dallas’ youth setup to the FC Porto academy in the summer of 2019, but left Porto for FSV Zwickau this past summer, and it seems to have been a good move for the youngster. Rating: 1

After George Bello said no to Cercle Brugge, he officially moved to Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld. The ‘02 left back already has 6 full U.S. caps. Bielefeld are 14th of 18 in the Bundesliga, and will look to stave off relegation this season. Rating: 5

Bryang Kayo’s loan with Viktoria Berlin has been canceled, and he has been sent out to Nurnberg’s reserves. The ‘02 center mid was loaned to Viktoria Berlin in the 3. Liga in the fall after Wolfsburg shut down their reserve team, but Kayo has seen playing time dwindle there. He’ll hope to play more as he shifts to the Regionalliga, the fourth tier of German soccer. Rating: 1

Italy

Anthony Fontana has been heavily rumored to sign in Italy this winter, most recently linked with Serie B side Ascoli. The ‘99 center mid was in US U-20 camp in January 2019. Rating: 1

As discussed last week, ‘03 center mid Kevin Bright has moved from AC Milan’s U-19s to Cremonese. However, he didn’t begin with their first team in Serie B, but with their U-19 side, with reports saying the club hopes to bring him to the first team in the summer/fall. However, the 18-year-old started off excellently, scoring a goal! Rating: 1

Mexico

Mexico has two US-eligible 2005s in U-18 camp, while the U.S. youth program isn’t holding camps for their age group.

Mexico’s U-20 camp did not include players like Antonio Leone, Christian Torres, Jonathan Pérez, Jonathan Gómez, or Alejandro Alvarado.

Netherlands

Taylor Booth will make a free transfer to Dutch side Utrecht in the summer from Bayern Munich. Utrecht are 7th of 18 in the Eredivisie (12 pts ahead of Luca de la Torre’s 14th-place Heracles). The ‘01 center mid played with Bayern’s first team in summer friendlies, and made his DFB Pokal debut this fall, but has been mostly consigned to their reserves after he refused to sign a contract extension. Bayern II has been absolutely trouncing the fourth division after being relegated last season, racking up a +42 goal differential in 24 games. Booth has been playing mostly right back for the reserves. Rating: 6

However, Utrecht may not be willing to wait until the summer. After selling Denso Kasius to Bologna for between €3m and €4m, Utrecht have made an offer to buy Booth immediately.

Portugal

In one of the more surprising moves of the window, ‘02 left back Isaiah LeFlore has popped up with the first team of SC Braga in Portugal. LeFlore made 19 appearances with Sporting KC II in USL last season, and 7 games the prior year. It appears the 19-year-old will be joining Braga’s first team, not their youth sides, as he’s listed with the first team on the club website, and on Transfermarkt as well. Transfermarkt is normally very conservative about which clubs it lists players with (Folarin Balogun was listed with Arsenal’s U-23s even when he was playing regularly for their first team in cup games). It will be exciting to see whether the young left back begins with the first team or reserves! Braga’s first team are 4th of 18 in Portugal, trailing only Porto, Sporting, and Benfica. Rating: 1

Scotland

Sebastian Soto’s loan to Porto B has been canceled, and the ‘00 striker has been sent to Livingston, joining the rising number of Americans in the Scottish Premiership. Soto’s club career has been chaotic, as the 21-year-old has bounced from RSL’s academy to Hannover (Germany), Norwich (England), Telstar (Netherlands), back to Norwich, Porto (Portugal), and now Livingston. His only real playing opportunity came with Telstar, and he’ll be looking to recover that kind of form in Scotland. Rating: 3

USA

As if that wasn’t enough, the U-20 USMNT is holding a camp, and the roster has been announced (listed below the tweet).

GOALKEEPERS (3): Antonio Carrera (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), KyMani Dade (LA Galaxy; Ontario, Calif.), Anthony Ramos (Real SC/POR; Torrance, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (8): Noah Allen (Inter Miami CF; Miramar, Fla.), Brandan Craig (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Mauricio Cuevas (Club Brugge/BEL; Los Angeles, Calif.), Marcus Ferkranus (LA Galaxy; Santa Clarita, Calif.), Michael Halliday (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; Lake Forest, Calif.), Caleb Wiley (Atlanta United FC; Atlanta, Ga.), Thomas Williams (Orlando City SC; Titusville, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Javier Casas Jr. (Chicago Fire FC.; Addison, Ill.), Caden Clark (RB Leipzig/GER; Wayzata, Minn.), Daniel Edelman (New York Red Bulls; Warren, N.J.), Kristian Fletcher (Unattached; Bethesda, Md.), Diego Luna (El Paso Locomotive; Redwood, Calif.), Jack McGlynn (Philadelphia Union; Middle Village, N.Y.), Jayvin Van Deventer (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Obed Vargas (Seattle Sounders FC; Anchorage, Alaska)

FORWARDS (6): Esmir Bajraktarevic (New England Revolution; Appleton, Wisc.), Patrick Bohui (Vejle Boldklub/DEN; Philadelphia, Pa.), Brian Gutierrez (Chicago Fire FC; Chicago, Ill.), Malick Sanogo (1. FC Union Berlin/GER; Berlin, Germany), Dante Sealy (PSV Eindhoven/NED; Frisco, Texas), Quinn Sullivan (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.)

Ricardo Pepi and Gaga Slonina are with the full national team, RSL goalkeeper Jeff Dewsnup is injured, while Kevin Paredes, Moses Nyeman, and Cade Cowell had their clubs reject the callup. Paredes was still with DC United at the time, and it seems likely they refused to release him due to his impending transfer. Likewise, Rokas Pukstas stayed with his club in Croatia as he looks to break into the first team there. It was interesting to see three 2005s make the roster, as they are two years younger than the ‘03 age cutoff for this group (forward Esmir Bajraktarevic, midfielders Kristian Fletcher and Obed Vargas).

For more detailed analysis of the U-20 roster, 11 Yanks interviewed David Kerr, one of the foremost experts on the youngest age groups of the USMNT pool.

Austin - Damian Las has moved from Fulham’s reserves to Austin FC in MLS. The ‘02 keeper will hope for better opportunities at home, as fellow American GK Alex Borto was rated more highly than Las at Fulham. Rating: 1

Chicago - Gaga Slonina continues to be the subject of transfer speculation. The ‘04 shot-stopper has been linked to Juventus and to Premier League interest. Rating: 4

Columbus - Aidan Morris made a name for himself toward the end of the 2020 MLS season, and the ‘01 midfielder’s 2021 was marred by injury. He’s looking for a strong return in 2022, and was featured in this MLS piece. Rating: 5

Dallas - Paxton Pomykal has been the subject of discussion heading into the 2022 MLS season. The ‘99 center mid may finally be back from injury, and he’ll have a new manager (and some high-profile new teammates). Rating: 5

Houston - Brooklyn Raines has been linked with the Houston Dynamo. Raines is an ‘05 defensive mid, coming from the Barça Residency. Rating: 1

Los Angeles - Alex Villanueva is an ‘02 left back who progressed through Seattle’s academy to sign with Tacoma Defiance in USL. The Sounders are looking to loan him, and LAFC could be the destination. Rating: 1

Louisville - Ray Serrano is another ‘02 from the Sounders academy with Tacoma Defiance. The below report has been confirmed, the winger will join Louisville City in USL on loan. Rating: 1

Philadelphia - Signed ‘03 left back Anton Sorenson to a homegrown deal. I’ll let @ProspectsUSMNT handle the analysis here.

Richmond - Stuart Ritchie is an ‘01 left back from the San Jose academy who has spent years with Groningen in the Netherlands and Hannover in Germany. He’s also been a regular U-18 and U-20 callup in past U.S. youth cycles. The 20-year-old is returning stateside and signing with Richmond Kickers in USL League One. Rating: 1

Seattle: Good reports from Sounders Matchday on ‘05 center mid Reed Baker-Whiting. Seattle faced Portland in a friendly, and RBW impressed. Good to see from the 16-year-old. Hopefully he earns more minutes with the first team this season. Rating: 1

Hit the comments 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!