As we reach the home stretch in European leagues, some of our American youth are facing opportunities under high pressure situations.
Weston McKennie - Central Midfielder, Schalke 04
McKennie started on the bench against Hamburger SV on Saturday. Following a poor midfield performance in the first half, McKennie subbed on at halftime for Max Meyer to make his first appearance since March 9th due to a groin injury. Unfortunately, it was not the best performance from the midfielder. He was largely at fault for Hamburg’s second goal. He lost his runner who eventually scored to make it 2-1. McKennie did make up for his poor defending by splitting the defense with a beautiful ball that Leon Goretzka had saved before it was scored on the rebound to tie the score at 2-2. After an injury forced off one of the 3 centerbacks, McKennie showed his versatility once again and finished the last 20 minutes at Left Back. McKennie’s contributions were not enough to salvage points as Hamburg would find a late winner. Despite the loss, Schalke remain in second place. Still, it’s great to see him back on the field. With the Revier Derby coming up next Sunday, let’s hope McKennie can get the opportunity to show against Christian Pulisic and Dortmund. Let the hype begin!
Weston McKennie sets up Schalke's second. pic.twitter.com/qFBC9LG4hd— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) April 7, 2018
Lynden Gooch - Attacking Midfielder, Sunderland
After Gooch returned to the lineup last week, he featured twice this past week as Sunderland tries to mount a great escape from relegation into League One. On Monday, he started and played 83 minutes. In the 61st minute he picked up an assist on this beautiful cross:
Sunderland are considerably crap - but Lynden Gooch seems to consistently provide a spark when given an opportunity. Here's his assist to tie the match (before it all fell apart). #USMNT https://t.co/qRV8f5Ln5L— Don't Tread On Us (@DontTreadSoccer) April 3, 2018
That goal tied the score briefly, but Sunderland would concede twice to lose 3-1. On Saturday, Gooch would again be in the lineup and provide another standout Man of the Match level performance. He provided a nice backheel to afford George Honeyman with space to flick a pass for the go-ahead goal. Once again, Sunderland would prove to be weak defensively as they conceded a tying goal. Despite Gooch’s best efforts, they were unable to find a winner. Gooch has played inspired football in a time of desperation for Sunderland as they stare down the reality of back-to-back relegations. He should be praised for his high level performances under pressure.
Bolton are also in the thick of the battle to avoid relegation at the bottom of the Championship. Robinson had been on dropped in favor of veteran Andrew Taylor in recent weeks. On Saturday, he got his first start since March 3rd. However, Robinson struggled along with the rest of the team as they were rolled by Derby County 3-0 as he was deployed as a Left Wing Back in a back 5. Bolton have struggled mightily to create chances this year, and they will need the 20-year-old to play at a higher level if they want to avoid relegation.
Maki Tall - Striker/Winger, Tours FC
Tall has had a very rough spring. Following a good French Cup outing in January, Tall suffered a hamstring injury that knocked him out for six weeks. He came back to make one appearance in early March, but he hasn’t been back in the squad since. To make matters worse, Tours sit dead last in Ligue 2 and face certain relegation. At 22, Tall has played fewer than 1,000 minutes in all competitions this year, scoring four times. Tall was once a highly thought of prospect, but a summer move seems to be likely on the horizon following this disappointing campaign.
John “Xuhxuh” Hilton - Right Back, Koninklijke HFC
For those that follow American youth, Xuxuh Hilton has been on the scene for a number of years. He had a time at Ajax before he was forced to return to the USA due to FIFA regulations. He returned to the LA Galaxy until last summer. The 16-year-old then joined Koninklijke of the Dutch third tier where he remains. Currently playing for the U-19’s, Hilton remains one of the big talents of his age range. Hopefully he can move up through the levels quickly and realize his excellent potential.
Ben Lederman - Attacking Midfielder, Barcelona
Lederman has been in and out of the news for years. He was forced to leave Barcelona’s academy following a crackdown by FIFA regarding underage academy players. After he turned 16, Lederman obtained a Polish passport and was able to rejoin La Masia. Currently with the Barcelona Juvenil B team (alongside fellow American Konrad de la Fuente), the 17-year-old has started to see a bit more of the field of late after not being preferred earlier in the season. Barcelona’s famed academy hasn’t produced as many top end players of late, but let’s hope they can develop Lederman and de la Fuente into legitimate pros.
George Acosta- Attacking Midfielder, Boca Juniors
This week, Acosta has reportedly signed with Argentinian giant club Boca Juniors. The Colombian-American featured for the US U-17’s at the 2017 U-17 World Cup scoring and once and assisting once in his two appearances. Acosta is a very talented “10” capable of creating and finishing chances. Boca Juniors could be a great opportunity for the young man to grow as a professional. He is set to feature for the U-20 team. Good luck!
Kyle Duncan - Right Back, New York Red Bulls
Duncan received terrible news this week as an MRI revealed he has a torn ACL. The 20-year-old suffered the injury in the 4-3 loss to Orlando City on March 31st. Duncan had been very impressive in four starts since returning to MLS from France. The news has seemed to increase the rumors of another Red Bull product (Manchester United’s Matthew Olosunde) returning to the side on loan. Let’s hope Duncan can make a full recovery and return to the strong form he was displaying early in the season.
Miles Robinson - Center Back, Atlanta United
Robinson was handed his full MLS debut on Saturday. The 21-year-old was the first player drafted by Atlanta in the 2017 draft. Robinson was very strong in his debut, consistently breaking up LAFC attacks. His passing out of the back needs to improve, but he showed excellent ability defensively. Facing a team that has virtually scored at will behind Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela, Atlanta pitched a shutout in large part due to Robinson’s contributions. Let’s hope he can build on his strong debut.
As always, please let me know in the comments section if there is anything major I overlooked. Also, please let me know if there are any players that I haven’t mentioned in a while (or at all) that you’d like to hear about. Thanks for reading!