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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: Keaton keeps grinding

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The young Americans made some noise this weekend

SL Benfica B v UD Oliveirense - Segunda Liga Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

The United States youth internationals that played this weekend gave us some great moments and wonderful performances. Let’s highlight some of them:

Portugal

Keaton Parks - Central Midfielder, SL Benfica

Parks made headlines this week as Rui Vitoria (the Benfica coach) spoke about him in hopes that he can be the next Nemanja Matic. Vitoria reportedly likes Keaton’s ability on the ball and feels like his skill would be best-suited to build attacks from the back. Parks has usually featured as an attack-minded 8 and to this point, his outstanding skill has mostly been utilized to drive the attack going forward. But Vitoria feels like he could play as a 6 where he can use his unique frame (he’s 6’4”) and ball playing skills to be a dominant force. Last week, he held up well in the second half in this role and hopefully he can continue to improve. Parks was left out of the first-team squad for Saturday’s match against SC Braga. However, he did start for the Benfica B team and was the architect for their first goal. He also contributed a very nice assist on the 2nd goal in Benfica B’s 3-2 win. Parks is making big waves at a club with a ton of recent success in churning out top talent. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Germany

Weston McKennie - Central Midfielder, Schalke 04

McKennie made some headlines when he was tried out in central defense in a recent January camp friendly. He subbed on at halftime and performed well in his new role. Personally, I don’t buy the importance of what this means long term. Leon Goretzka is set to leave in the summer and Max Meyer is also out of contract. On top of that, McKennie’s greatest strengths are his ability on the ball and physical presence in midfield. In the short term, if he makes occasional appearances there or is used there in the case of an injury emergency, it could help him better understand defensive positioning and reading attacks. This could be a useful set of skills for his development. McKennie was an unused substitute Saturday in Schalke’s 3-1 defeat to RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent - Striker, Werder Bremen

Sargent made his Werder Bremen debut in a U-23 friendly midweek and even supplied an assist in a 45-minute runout. He followed that up with a second appearance and goal in another friendly on Sunday. Sargent will apparently also train some with the first team at times from the start. When he turns 18 next month, he will sign his first professional contract. The U-17 and U-20 World Cup star is ready to make his mark in the Bundesliga. Hopefully he proves to be deserving of the massive hype around him. Good Luck Josh!

France

Jordan Siebatcheu - Striker, Stade Reims

Ligue 2 returned from their winter break over the weekend and Siebatcheu picked up right where he left off. He scored the second goal in the 42nd minute in Stade Reims’ 2-0 victory over US Orleans. Reims now sits 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 2 and seem destined for promotion back into the top flight in France. Even if Reims collapses and doesn’t get promoted, I would imagine we will see Siebatcheu in a top flight league somewhere next year. He’s already in double figures in goals and has added 6 assists in only 19 league games. He needs to be called up in March, particularly with very few quality young strikers in the US player pool.

Timothy Weah - Winger/Striker, Paris St. Germain

Weah started for PSG’s U19 team this weekend and scored one of their 5 goals in their 5-0 win. Weah continues to look like he is ready for a higher level of play. There are lots of rumors about him getting a shot at the PSG first team this summer with them needing to offload salary to conform to Financial Fair Play regulations. We’ll see what happens there, but I would bet he’s playing first team football somewhere by this time next year.

Italy

Sal Esposito - Winger, SSC Napoli

Esposito is an Italian American who was born in Albany and raised in NYC. He moved from Manhattan Kickers FC to Genoa CFC where he excelled and was one of the most highly regarded youth players in their system. According to USA Prospects, this week he made his youth team debut for Napoli after the move there last year. Sal is a 16-year-old who has never represented the United States at the youth levels. Let’s hope he can show well at a big club like Napoli.

Argentina

Joel Sonora - Attacking Midfielder, Talleres

Sonora has played the last 2 years in Stuttgart’s system after moving from Boca Juniors, featuring regularly for the their U23 team (he had 5 goals and 3 assists in 22 games this season). This week, Stuttgart sent him out on loan to play for Talleres, who are in 4th place in the Argentinian Primera Division. His loan is for one year and will include an option to buy. This is a good opportunity for the 21-year-old to see first team action. Joel was a part of the U.S. team that went to the quarterfinals at the 2015 U-20 World Cup. Good luck Joel!

USA

Ben Mines - Attacking Midfielder, New York Red Bulls

Mines signed a homegrown deal with the New York Red Bulls this week. The 17-year-old had featured 11 times for Red Bulls II in USL last season, scoring twice. Mines is a highly regarded prospect who won the Golden Boot at last year’s Generation Adidas Cup. Let’s hope he can see time in MLS like his new teammate, Tyler Adams. New York has one of, if not the best, academies in MLS and Mines is just another to come from their excellent development system. Good Luck Ben!

As always, if there is something major I overlooked, please mention it in the comments section.