We’ve arrived at the March international window with another very eventful week at the club level. There were a couple stand-out performances and one matchup that earned a lot of eyeballs. Berhalter named his roster this week with only a few of the names that we typically mention making the list, many of them reportedly heading to the U-23s to prepare for Olympic qualifying.
Andrija Novakovich - Striker, Reading FC (On Loan at Fortuna Sittard)
Novakovich was perhaps one of the bigger surprises to not be named to the USMNT roster this week. While he hasn’t had some breathtaking year in terms of numbers, he’s done a good job with minimal scoring opportunities to help newly-promoted Fortuna Sittard avoid the immediate drop back to the second division. The 22-year-old seemed to take out some of that frustration on FC Emmen on Friday. In the 18th minute with Sittard already leading 1-0, Novakovich flicked on a header that teammate Lisandro Semedo smashed home for his second assist of the season. Then just before halftime, Novakovich scored one of his own when he headed in Sittard’s third.
Andrija Novakovich’s goal and assist today for Fortunate Sittard— USMNT Videos (@USMNTvideos) March 15, 2019
He now has 8 goals and 2 assists in 1,981 minutes in all competitions this season. With the 3-1 win, Sittard now sit in 12th place in the Eredivisie. Novakovich is too old to qualify as a U-23 player for next summer’s Olympics (he will turn 24 in the year of the 2020 Olympics), so his exclusion is a different case than the likes of Sargent, Weah, Carter-Vickers and others expected to be on the U-23 roster.
Following his Bundesliga debut last week, Tillman got his first start of the season on Sunday against Eintracht Frankfurt. It was a pretty uneven performance. The 20-year-old really struggled in the opening 25 minutes as he saw very little of the ball and made a couple poor decisions with it. Then he grew into the game a bit more, showing a nice first touch and some dangerous dribbling. Eventually, he was pulled in the 58th minute with Frankfurt leading 1-0. Once again, the woes continue for Nürnberg as they face almost certain relegation.
Tyler Adams - Central Midfielder, RB Leipzig
The matchup of the weekend with US implications was RB Leipzig facing off against Schalke 04. Adams once again started in midfield as Leipzig took the game to Schalke for large stretches. Adams didn’t have a ton of standout moments in the match, but he did his job brilliantly to cut out counter attacks on many occasions and was very calm on the ball. Once again, Leipzig pitched a shutout with Adams on the field and their incredible record with him in the lineup continued with the 1-0 win.
Weston McKennie - Jack of All Trades, Schalke 04
Last week, Daniel Caligiuri went out with a leg injury that will keep him out for more than a month. So Weston McKennie was tasked with filling in in his role at Right Wingback in Schalke’s two games this week. Against Manchester City, McKennie was tasked with trying to contain Leroy Sané. He had a decent first half hour but struggled mightily afterwards. Sané smoked McKennie badly on the third goal, setting him up and beating him with a well-timed run that caught him completely out of position. Later, Sané beat him again to set up another as Manchester City annihilated Schalke 7-0 to eliminate them from Champions League. The embarassing loss was the final straw as they decided to fire head coach Domenico Tedesco. On Saturday against Leipzig, McKennie again started at wingback and looked much better. He created a couple decent scoring chances in the second half as they were pushing for a tying goal, but some poor finishing wasted the opportunities. The 20-year-old is rumored to potentially be on the block to get sold this summer with Schalke struggling financially. If they can’t avoid relegation, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t moved.
Josh Sargent - Striker, Werder Bremen
Sargent was back on the bench on Sunday with Bremen facing Bayer Leverkusen. The 19-year-old watched from the sidelines again as Bremen won 3-1 in a thriller. This was the third consecutive match where Sargent has not seen the field since he had his first start. Hopefully he can keep pushing to get back on the field with everyone now healthy again.
Timothy Weah - Winger/Striker, Paris St. Germain (On Loan at Celtic FC)
Weah has seen his minutes diminish greatly in recent weeks. Early on in his loan, Weah was playing every game and starting occasionally, but since Brendan Rodgers left to join Leicester City, Weah’s opportunities have all but dried up. On Sunday, Weah came off the bench in the 78th minute with Celtic in a scoreless match. Odsonne Edouard scored a winner in stoppage time to push their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League to ten points. For Weah, he continues to be a bright spot when he gets opportunities, but he has to be frustrated at the lack of playing time (0 starts and only 90 minutes combined in all competitions since February 6th). He needs to keep pushing to prove that he needs to be on the field.
Miles Robinson - Centerback, Atlanta United
Perhaps one of the more underrated stories right now is Miles Robinson’s rise at Atlanta United. Last season, the 22-year-old played sparingly for the first team, but this season has been a full breakthrough for the young man. He’s been the best defensive player for Atlanta United in the early part of the season and should start to pique the interest of US Soccer if he keeps up this level of play. On Wednesday, Atlanta United faced a 3-0 deficit to Monterrey in the return leg of the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League. Robinson started as usual and put in his strongest performance yet, helping Atlanta keep a shutout in a 1-0 victory against the Mexican giants. Robinson was everywhere, snuffing out attacks as Atlanta pushed for goals on the other end. They were eliminated from the competition, but Robinson has shown that he could be an important building block along the backline. On Sunday, Robinson started again against Philadelphia and had another strong performance in the 1-1 draw. His defending in space was excellent and he reads the game very well in order to get in the correct positions. Let’s hope he can keep this up.
James Sands - Central Midfielder, New York City FC
Sands has also had an outstanding breakthrough early on in the season. The 18-year-old has started each of the first three games and has really held his own. On Sunday, Sands was excellent in New York’s 2-2 draw against Los Angeles FC. I’m impressed with the poise he plays with when he has the ball while simultaneously showing the willingness to physically challenge attackers. It’s very early days of course, but he should be in the discussion if he continues to play like he has early in the season.
Brenden Aaronson - Attacking Midfielder, Philadelphia Union
On the opposite side from Robinson on Sunday night, Brenden Aaronson received his first start for Philadelphia. The 18-year-old had an MLS debut to remember when his strike from outside the box took a deflection and beat Brad Guzan to give Philadelphia the lead in Atlanta.
18-year-old Brenden Aaronson just scored his first MLS goal for Philadelphia Union in his MLS debut. pic.twitter.com/y4erHxhQvI— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) March 18, 2019
Atlanta would wind up tying the score late and he would be subbed off in the 73rd minute, but it was a wonderful debut and a moment to remember for him. Hopefully it’s just the beginning for this talented young player.
Ayo Akinola - Striker/Winger, Toronto FC
Akinola got his first league start of the season on Sunday night. In the 14th minute, the 19-year-old scored his first career MLS goal after some excellent work to beat a couple defenders.
United States U-20 attacker Ayo Akinola scores his first professional goal for Toronto tonight vs New England to even the score at 1-1 https://t.co/LXUVZPmyrb— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 17, 2019
Akinola went 86 minutes before being subbed off, but he was a threat throughout as Toronto would win 3-2 over New England. Akinola was a key member of the U-20 Concacaf Championship team and could feature at the U-20 World Cup if he can keep producing quality like this.
I’ll take the week off next week while the International break is underway, so look for the next update on April 1st. As always, hir 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!