With the English Premier League set to open its season this weekend, followed by the rest of Europe in the coming weeks, plenty of Americans will feature as they attempt to help their clubs either win titles, achieve promotion, or just simply stay afloat in their leagues. The United States Men’s National Team is in a transition period right now, with our player pool expanding and players attempting to show that they have what it takes to feature on the national team for this brand new World Cup cycle.
While we all have our various favorite clubs, of course we’re keeping an eye on those players that we could possibly see in red, white, and blue representing our country on the field. We pay attention to their club performance, how they’re developing, whether they’re the big fish in their small pond or struggling to swim with the best. So, which players will you pay the most attention to this season?
For me, there are three players that I will particularly focus on:
John Brooks (Wolfsburg): John Brooks, in my opinion, is our best and most important defender. I think we missed him deeply last fall when he was injured and had to miss out on the final months of World Cup qualifying, and I think his absence from the lineup really hurt our team. He’s been battling injuries the past year, a year where he barely managed to stay on the field for Wolfsburg. Can he get back to playing like the John Brooks that was a brick wall for the USMNT in 2016 and early 2017? Can he get back to form and play like one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga? His form is still most important for the USMNT as the 25-year-old prepares to enter the prime of his career. He is still our best defender, and with him having a successful year, that will give our back line all the confidence in the world. I’m hoping 2018-19 is the best season yet for him as he starts year 2 with Wolfsburg.
Timothy Weah (Paris Saint-Germain): I’m really high on Timothy Weah. Really high. I think the kid has the tools to become one of the best players our nation has ever seen. I love his style of play, his flair, and especially his attitude and determination to become the best player in the world. He’s started to break through at Paris Saint-Germain and wow people in the process. But, with players like Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé locking down the lineup once the season starts, the question will be whether Weah can still stick with the first team at Parc des Princes. I’m watching this kid this season to see if he can get the opportunities to play on PSG’s first team, or whether he will be loaned out so that he can see consistent first-team action elsewhere. If he can become a formidable player for PSG, that would be huge for the American game and it would absolutely mean great things for the future of the USMNT. Regardless, his trajectory is sky high, and this will be an important year to see whether he can rise to the challenge of his own goals.
Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic, on loan from Everton): Antonee Robinson has featured quite well in the few times he has received a chance recently with the USMNT, and if he can have a great season with Wigan, it could translate into a left back competition on the USMNT. He shows flashes of the creativity and great play that he can produce on the left side, and building confidence with consistent form for Wigan will only help him as he seeks to be the first-choice left back over Jorge Villafana. Robinson can be that guy and form the core of a young back line that’s gaining experience by the day. After his debut for Wigan last weekend, several fans had rave reviews of his performance. That’s what you want to see. I’ll be watching to see how he develops and if he can become that consistent fullback that the USMNT desperately needs on the left side.
Now, we hand the mic to each of you. We ask you to hit the comments and let us know which European-based players you will most pay attention to this season. It can be due to their importance for the national team, or maybe it’s because you want to see if they can develop into a decent player. There could be a competition at a position you’re interested in, a player who needs a fresh start somewhere else, or you could hope a player comes back from injury to once again shine. It’s not about whether you disagree with another member of the community on their picks, but rather explaining why you personally are interested in what kind of season a player or players may have.
Pick three players and let us know why those players are the ones you’re most set on following as the dawn rises on Europe’s 2018-2019 season. The floor is yours!