The October international window is now upon us. This was a week that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon, because there were some standout performances like we’ve rarely seen by American youth internationals. As has become the norm, the young Americans were at the heart of it.
Weston McKennie - Central Midfielder, Schalke 04
McKennie was easily the American performer of the week. On Wednesday, Schalke traveled to Russia to take on Lokomotiv Moscow in the second game of the UEFA Champions League group stage. McKennie started the game as an attacking midfielder making runs high up the field. It wasn’t very effective creating chances and Schalke struggled in the first half. At halftime, Domenico Tedesco moved McKennie back into a holding midfield role where he flourished. McKennie was all over the field winning the ball back and winning aerial duels with Schalke threatening for a breakthrough. Then in the 88th minute, he scored his first professional goal off a corner to give Schalke the 1-0 win. This victory puts Schalke into a tie for first place with FC Porto atop Group D with four matches remaining.
Then, McKennie started again on Saturday against Alfredo Morales and Fortuna Düsseldorf. This time Tedesco started him as the right midfielder in a diamond midfield. Again, the match went scoreless in the first half, with McKennie creating arguably the best Schalke chance with a sublime ball over the top to Franco Di Santo, whose effort was just wide of the far post. McKennie took matters into his own hands just after halftime. McKennie found space in the 6-yard box to finish Suat Serdar’s pull-back header and give Schalke the 1-0 lead. Moments later they would add a second and go on to win 2-0. The win pulls Schalke out of the relegation zone.
McKennie has been at the heart of Schalke’s resurgence from the horrific start to their season. The 20-year-old has featured in 5 of the last 6 matches (he was injured for the other) in all competitions. In those matches, Schalke has a 3-1-1 record even though they’ve managed to score just five goals. McKennie has been involved in three of those goals (assisting one and scoring two) and all three goals put Schalke in front. He has absolutely stepped it up at a crucial point for them. Unfortunately he picked up a knock near the end of the Düsseldorf match that appears will keep him out of the upcoming USMNT friendlies. Regardless, this was the kind of week that makes you think McKennie can be a legitimate top level player. Let’s hope he can sustain this form when he gets back.
Ulysses Llanez - Winger, Wolfsburg
Keith Costigan is reporting that Llanez is leaving the LA Galaxy Academy to try his luck in Germany. He won’t turn 18 until this coming April, but Costigan states that a deal has been agreed. Llanez had been on trial at several clubs in Europe in recent months. The Los Angeles Galaxy will receive no compensation for him. Look for Llanez to be a regular on the upcoming U-20 World Cup Qualifying team. Let’s hope he does well and can climb the ranks at Wolfsburg.
Alex Mendez - Central Midfielder, SC Freiburg
Mendez is also leaving the LA Galaxy Academy to try his luck in Europe. Mendez is one of the three star youth players that have come through LA Galaxy’s ranks (along with Llanez and Efrain Alvarez). Having just turned 18 years old in early September, Mendez would be ineligible to start playing for Freiburg until January when he can be registered. Just like Llanez, LA will receive no compensation for him. Let’s wish him the best of luck. This is a player I have high hopes for. Look for him to feature in the U-20 World Cup Qualifying campaign next month.
Timothy Tillman - Attacking Midfielder, Bayern Munich (On Loan at FC Nürnberg)
It has not been a good start for Tillman on loan. He was on the bench for the first two weeks of the Bundesliga season, but he hasn’t even been in the matchday 18 since they returned from the September international window. Instead, he has been playing with the FC Nürnberg U-23 team in the German Regionalliga (the German 4th division). Tab Ramos claimed Tillman would file a one-time switch to come play for the United States this past January, but it never materialized, with Tillman even accepting a Germany call in March.
Malik Tillman - Attacking Midfielder, Bayern Munich
Timothy’s younger brother, Malik, is thriving for Bayern’s U-17 team. In just five matches, he has recorded three goals and three assists this season while captaining the side. Unfortunately the news with recruiting isn’t good for him either. The 16-year-old accepted a call-up to the German U-17 team in September. In general, the U.S. isn’t doing well on the dual national front at the moment. On top of the struggles with the Tillman brothers, Efrain Alvarez accepted yet another Mexico call (and recorded an assist against the U.S.) to the U-17 team. Jordan Siebatcheu seems committed to France. Frandtzdy Pierrot, a striker who has two goals this season in Belgium, is now cap-tied to Haiti following the most recent window. Werder Bremen’s Trevor Zwetsloot is now cap-tied to New Zealand. Both the Omidiji brothers have accepted Nigeria call-ups in recent months. Jonathan Klinsmann has been invited to a Germany goalkeeping camp as they attempt to see what they have in him. We need to be more proactive.
Matthew Olosunde - Right Back, Manchester United
Olosunde is off to a very frustrating start to the year. After have a rough year for Man U’s U-23s last season, Olosunde has been out with a knee injury for the entirety of the season so far. It does appear that he is set for a return, but he needs to move quickly to pick up the pieces of his young career.
Emerson Hyndman - Central Midfielder, AFC Bournemouth (On Loan at Hibernian FC)
Hyndman has been playing more regularly of late after some struggles with consistency early on in his move to Scotland. On Saturday, Hyndman started his fourth match in the last five in all competitions. Hyndman was a constant threat and opened his account with a lovely finish in the 39th minute to make it 3-0 (starts at the 0:40 mark).
Hyndman was subbed off in the 66th minute as Hibernian would go on to win 6-0. The win pulls Hibernian into second place in the Scottish Premiership. Let’s hope the 22-year-old can continue to find his form.
Patrick Leal - Attacking Midfielder, SC Portugal
Leal has officially signed with mega club SC Portugal. The 15-year-old previously played at the New England Revolution Academy before joining Belenenses last year. He has previously been called up by the United States at the U-14 level. He joins fellow young American Ethan Borges at the club. Leal also has a twin brother who signed with third division SG Sacavenense. Let’s wish him the best of luck as he takes the step up at that big club.
George Bello - Left Back, Atlanta United
Bello started his second match on Saturday and delivered in a big way. In the second minute, Bello nearly had his first career assist with a very nice run and pass across the 6-yard box but he was called for being just offside. He wouldn’t be denied. In the 17th minute, Bello opened the scoring after making a beautiful run and firing past the keeper.
A moment to remember.@_georgebello's first @MLS goal. What. A. Strike. https://t.co/IYcowNdMCJ— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) October 6, 2018
Atlanta would go on to win 2-1 with Bello delivering a Man of the Match level performance. He completed 79% of his passes, won four tackles, two aerial duels and was a threat down the left flank. The 16-year-old looks ready to potentially play a role in the playoffs for Atlanta United in the coming weeks.
Tyler Freeman - Striker, Sporting Kansas City
Freeman signed a homegrown contract with Sporting Kansas City this week. The deal runs through 2022 with a club option for 2023. The 15-year-old becomes the ninth youngest player to sign in MLS history and the second youngest in SKC history. Freeman has represented the United States at various levels in recent years and has the ability to make some eye-popping plays. Let’s wish the young man the best of luck as he starts his professional journey in MLS.
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. With the October window here, look for the next edition on October 22nd. Thank you for reading!