The 2019-2020 EFL Championship kicks off this Friday. The English second division is perhaps the best second division in the world and is home to many American players. Here’s a look at what to expect this season for seven of the league’s Americans, all of whom have received United States Men’s National Team call-ups in the past year.
Club: Wigan Athletic
Position: Left Back
Last season, Antonee Robinson spent the 2018-2019 season with Wigan, on loan from Everton. Robinson had a solid year and was a consistent starter, featuring in 26 matches and recording 1 assist.
This season, Robinson will once again be an important member of Wigan’s starting eleven after joining the club on a permanent transfer. While he showed glimpses talent last season, he will need to become more consistent and increase his offensive output.
Robinson seems poised to have a strong year on an individual level, although expect Wigan to struggle. The Latics will likely avoid relegation, although they don’t seem capable of becoming a mid-table side.
Club: Derby County
Position: Right Midfield
Last season, After two seasons with League One side Scunthorpe United, Duane Holmes joined Derby County last season. His first campaign with the Championship side proved to be a breakout year, as he made 33 appearances in all competitions, scored 2 goals, and contributed 4 assists. Holmes helped guide the club to the EFL Championship Playoff Final, but ultimately missed out on promotion as Aston Villa defeated Derby 2-1.
So far this season, Holmes has not appeared in Derby’s preseason matches as a result of being given time off after the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup and an injury. However, this should not be cause for alarm. While he may not be fully fit at the beginning of the season, expect him to be a fixture in the starting lineup.
A successful season for Holmes would be one in which he improves upon his play in the final third, scoring more goals and recording more assists than last season. Derby County lost manager Frank Lampard, who departed for Chelsea, but should still challenge for a spot in the playoffs.
Club: Reading FC
Last season, Matt Miazga had a roller coaster year. He began the season on loan to Ligue 1 side Nantes, from Chelsea. Miazga was a key player for Nantes, but poor early season results and the firing of coach Miguel Cardoso resulted in Miazga benched.
He then left Nantes, joining Reading on loan in January. He received ample playing time for Reading, appearing in 18 matches and helping the club avoid relegation. While Miazga admittedly struggled for Nantes, he blossomed into an above-average Championship centerback.
This season, expect Miazga to be a regular for Reading. Look for him to build upon his strong end to last season. One thing he will look to improve upon is his positioning. However, if Reading struggles, it could be difficult for Miazga to impress. Reading should be able to avoid relegation, although expect the club’s season to be lackluster.
Position: Centerback/Left Back
Last season, Tim Ream had an abysmal year for a Fulham side that finished 19th and was relegated from the Premier League. While he made several glaring errors as an individual, the poor performances of his teammates gave him little chance to succeed.
This season, Ream and Fulham should have a much better year as they return to the Championship. When the club won promotion to the Premier League during the 2017-2018 season, Ream was named the team’s player of the year.
Expect him to be a regular for manager Scott Parker. He may excel against Championship competition, although it seems that his ability is declining. Fulham is one of the favorites for automatic promotion.
Club: Hull City
Position: Right Back/Left Back
Last season, Eric Lichaj was an integral member of a Hull City side that finished 13th. He made 40 appearances in all competitions and notched 1 assist. He once again proved that he is an excellent Championship defender.
This season, success for Lichaj will entail replicating his form from last season. This is entirely possible and probably expected. Lichaj is surrounded by players of average Championship ability and is now 30, so it may prove difficult for him to improve upon last season. Expect Hull to finish somewhere around mid-table.
Luca de la Torre
Club: Fulham FC
Position: Right Midfield/Central Midfield
Last season, Luca de la Torre primarily spent last season with Fulham’s U-21 and U-23 sides. He made just 2 appearances (2 goals and 1 assist in those games) for the senior team, both of which came in the Carabao Cup.
So far this season, de la Torre has made 2 starts and 3 substitute appearances in Fulham’s 5 preseason matches. Manager Scott Parker has been using him in a 3-man central midfield. It looks like De la Torre will be given opportunities as a substitute.
While he will likely play for the senior team, he could occasionally feature for the U-23s. A successful season for de la Torre would consist of him becoming a frequently used substitute and making the most of the occasional starts he may be handed in cup matches. Fulham should do well in the Championship and compete for automatic promotion.
Club: Reading FC
Last season, Andrija Novakovich spent last season on loan with Fortuna Sittard (Eredivisie) from Reading. He made 32 appearances for the Dutch side, scoring 11 goals and adding 2 assists. Novakovich performed well but was incredibly streaky. He would score consistently for several weeks in a row and then fail to find the back of the net for a month. However, that wasn’t entirely his fault as Fortuna was a weak side that finished 15th in the 18-team league.
This season, Novakovich joins fellow United States international Matt Miazga at Reading, and he has had some solid moments so far during the preseason. Still, he likely hasn’t done enough to win a starting role. Expect him to be a substitute, although he has a chance to rise above the two strikers, Sam Baldock and Yakou Meite, ahead of him on the depth chart. A successful season for Novakovich would entail him having an impact as a substitute. Reading should be able to avoid relegation, although the team will be poor.
Which Americans in the Championship are looking forward to watching? who will have the best individual performances this season?