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USMNT Weekly Youth Update: European competitions take center stage

The return of Champions League and Europa League saw some standout performances from young Americans

FC Schalke 04 v AFC Fiorentina - Friendly Match Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

This was a pretty exceptional week for young American players. We saw some spectacular plays made by American youth on some pretty big stages. This is what happened this week:


Weston McKennie - Central Midfielder, Schalke 04

McKennie was given a huge opportunity to impress when Domenico Tedesco picked him to start against FC Porto in his first ever Champions League match. McKennie had a pretty quiet first half, but he provided a moment of magic in the 64th minute following a giveaway by Mexican International Hector Herrera. McKennie won the outlet ball at midfield and made a spectacular run to get behind the defense before playing it across to Breel Embolo for the go-ahead goal.

This was McKennie’s first professional assist. Porto would end up leveling the score, but it was an important display against a quality opponent from McKennie. On Saturday, Tedesco again looked to McKennie against Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, McKennie’s day would come to an end in the 54th minute when he took the full force of James Rodriguez’s attempted clearance. McKennie was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise that will keep him out of action for some time. With the October friendlies rapidly approaching, his status will be in doubt. Let’s hope he can get well soon.

Christian Pulisic - Attacking Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund

Pulisic had a big week. On Tuesday, he celebrated his 20th birthday by coming off the bench in the Champions League and fortuitously scoring the game-winner in the 84th minute.

Following that, Pulisic had his best performance of the season on Saturday against Hoffenheim. He was dangerous all throughout the second half and wound up scoring the game-tying goal in the 85th minute after Dortmund had been reduced to 10 players.

Pulisic reminded us this week why he is so highly regarded. Let’s hope he can sustain this form and continue to build on it.

Marcel Costly - Winger, FC Magdeburg

Costly has been playing regularly for Magdeburg in the 2. Bundesliga early this season, starting each 2. Bundesliga game and coming off the bench in their German Cup defeat to Darmstadt. The 22-year-old German-American had moved on from FSV Mainz in search of first team opportunities and has found it. On Sunday, Costly had his best performance of the season. In the 27th minute with Magdeburg already down 2-0, Costly ignited the comeback effort with a well placed strike to cut the deficit in half.

In the 63rd minute, Costly would again be on the scoresheet as he would provide the assist on Magdeburg’s second goal to again cut the deficit to one. The game ended in a 4-4 draw as they were able to salvage points following a dreadful start to the match. Magdeburg currently sit in 16th place out of 18 teams in the 2. Bundesliga, so needless to say this was an important result for them. For Costly, let’s hope this performance can instill him with some confidence.

Blaine Ferri - Central Midfielder, Greuther Fürth

Ferri has been rumored to sign with Greuther Fürth for some time now, but it is now official. The 17-year-old (he’ll be 18 on Saturday) has joined the 2. Bundesliga outfit and will start out with the U-19s before hopefully working his way up. Ferri featured in every match at the 2017 U-17 World Cup for the United States. Let’s wish him the best of luck as he starts in journey in Germany.


Cameron Carter-Vickers - Centerback, Tottenham (On Loan at Swansea City)

CCV got his first start in Swansea’s midweek 1-0 loss to Stoke City. The 20-year-old had an excellent match and was the top rated Swansea player on the day. CCV completed 53 of his 56 pass attempts (pretty impressive considering one of the knocks on him is his struggles with his passing), won 6 aerial duels and had two tackles. Unfortunately, it was not enough as he was back to the bench on Saturday. Hopefully we’ll see more of him soon.

Lynden Gooch - Attacking Midfielder, Sunderland AFC

Gooch had a big performance on Saturday. In the 41st minute, Gooch drew a penalty that he took and converted to put Sunderland up 2-0. In the 66th minute, Gooch would again find the back of the net on a beautiful left-footed effort that he put into the far corner. The 22-year-old needed to dominate League One and has pretty much been doing that. He now has three goals and four assists in nine games this season. Sunderland currently sit in third place in the league as they hope to earn promotion back to the Championship.


Jordan Siebatcheu - Striker, Stade Rennais

Siebatcheu has had a quiet start to the season as he struggled to see the field the first few weeks due to injury. He is back now and he had an impact in the Europa League on Thursday. Siebatcheu was lively and involved throughout, but had his most important moment late. With the score level at a goal apiece, Siebatcheu drew a penalty for being yanked down as he tried to wrestle free to get to a corner kick. Teammate Hatem Ben Arfa would convert from the spot in second half stoppage time to give Stade Rennais the victory in their first match of the group stage. Siebatcheu came off the bench on Sunday against PSG as Rennais would go down 3-1.

Timothy Weah - Winger/Striker, Paris Saint-Germain

Weah hasn’t had a great go the last few weeks. Despite Kylian Mbappe missing out for an extended period, Weah still hasn’t made the matchday squad since August 18th. The 18-year-old has been featuring for PSG’s B team and has scored a couple goals, but hopefully he can show more in training to convince Thomas Tuchel to give him some more opportunities. He turned down a loan move in August but it hasn’t worked out so well so far.


Andrija Novakovich - Striker, Reading ( On Loan at Fortuna Sittard)

Novakovich also had a big week. He celebrated his 22nd birthday on Friday and had a fine performance for Sittard on Saturday. Novakovich scored his first goal to level the score 2-2 in the 40th minute after a beautiful near-post run.

In the 53rd minute, Novakovich once again brought Sittard level with some nice play to shake free of the defender and create space to slot it into the bottom corner.

The match would end in a wild 4-4 draw. His brace now gives Novakovich four goals in his first six matches in the Dutch top flight. Let’s hope he can get some looks in October.

Sergino Dest - Fullback/Winger, AFC Ajax

Dest is featuring in a new position early on this season. Previously always deployed as a right or left back, Dest is now featuring on the wing for Ajax’s U-19 team. Dest came off the bench in Ajax’s midweek UEFA Youth League match in the 56th minute. Just one minute later, Dest was gifted a goal on a huge goalkeeping error following a long ball over the top. Keep an eye out for this kid. He is very smooth and aggressive with the ball at his feet.


CJ Dos Santos - Goalkeeper, SL Benfica

Dos Santos signed a contract extension this week which will tie him to the Portuguese giants through 2023. The 18-year-old has featured for the Benfica U-19s and has been a regular callup to the USYNTs. Benfica has developed some fantastic goalkeepers in recent times. Let’s hope Dos Santos can be another one in that line. Congratulations on the new deal, CJ!


Joel Soñora - Attacking Midfielder, VFB Stuttgart (On Loan at Talleres Cordoba)

Soñora earned his first start in the Argentinian Superliga on Saturday against Velez Sarsfield. The 22-year-old started as a 10 and created three chances in his 68 minutes before being subbed off in their 1-1 draw. It’s awesome to see this young man starting to get time in a league where so few Americans have played. His loan is scheduled to run out in December, so let’s hope he can continue to get time and impress.

United States

George Bello - Left Back, Atlanta United

Bello earned his first career start on Saturday, making him the eighth youngest player to start a match in MLS history. The 16-year-old showed some signs that he could be a big contributor in the coming years. He combined beautifully and had a goal-bound strike cleared off the line 15 minutes into the match. He faded a bit as he still has a ways to go before he’s ready to contribute consistently over 90 minutes. Bello was eventually subbed off in the 72nd minute to roaring applause from the Atlanta United crowd. Congratulations to the young man. Hopefully there will be much more from him soon.

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. Thank you for reading!