What a week this was! It’s not every day that you have two Americans make league debuts in two of the best leagues in the world, but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. On top of that, there were some solid performances and Tyler Adams making his first midfield start in 8 months, and there was good news in the form of signings sprinkled in as well. For any new readers, the rating at the end of each update reflects how much I think each player should be called up to the senior national team at the next opportunity (1-nowhere near ready; 10-absolutely call him up and start him). Here’s what’s going on this week:
Giovanni Reyna - Attacking Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund
Obviously the most noteworthy story from the past week involves Gio Reyna. The 17-year-old was officially promoted to Dortmund’s first team, and Lucien Favre included him in the squad for Saturday’s clash with FC Augsburg. With Augsburg racing out to a 3-1 lead, Reyna’s debut seemed to be out of the cards, but new signing Erling Håland’s introduction turned the match in their favor. After coming back and going up 4-3, Reyna was introduced in the 72nd minute to make his professional and Bundesliga debut. In doing so, he eclipsed Christian Pulisic as the youngest American to ever play in the Bundesliga and is the fifth youngest player of any nationality to feature in Germany’s top flight. Reyna looked like he belonged. He was very comfortable on the ball and helped build the attack that led to Håland’s third goal that put the match away. The 5-3 win pulls Dortmund within 3 points of second-place Bayern Munich. We’ll see how many more opportunities he gets as the season goes along, but they have a crowded schedule coming up in the next few weeks with their Champions League matchups with French giants Paris Saint-Germain and a DFB Pokal game against Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen on top of the usual Bundesliga fixtures. This will help his chances as rotation will be a necessity. In any case, it’s an incredibly exciting moment for Reyna. Rating: 8
Julian Ryerson - Central Midfielder/Right Back, Union Berlin
Ryerson earned his first career Bundesliga start against RB Leipzig on Saturday. The Norwegian-American had appeared sparingly for Union in the Hinrunde, featuring only four times off the bench for a total of 22 minutes (he did start and go the distance in their 3-1 win over SC Freiburg in the DFB Pokal). Union Berlin started off the match well, stealing an errant pass intended for Tyler Adams and scoring on the ensuing counter. The Bundesliga leaders woke up after that though, and Union Berlin were on the back foot, eventually conceding the lead and any points in a 3-1 loss. Deployed at right wingback, Ryerson struggled in his first start, completing just 56% of his passes as well as getting beat defensively on several occasions. Ryerson has flown under the radar, but there is some reason for the 22-year-old’s lack of press. He is provisionally cap-tied to Norway after having featured for them in U-21 Euro qualifying, so he would be required to file a one-time switch to play for the United States. Still, it’s notable anytime a US-eligible player starts in a top league like the Bundesliga. Rating: 4
Chris Richards - Centerback, Bayern Munich
The news around Richards isn’t as positive. He was back with Bayern’s reserves this weekend following his stint with the first team over the Winter Break. He started a friendly match with Bayern II on Sunday while the first team was destroying Hertha Berlin. Richards always faced long odds to force his way into the first team over the break, but there was some hope with all the injury problems along the backline. The 19-year-old has the talent to succeed, but he faces an incredibly difficult task to get into the first team on a permanent basis. Perhaps he’ll get another look at some point this season. Like Dortmund, they have a crowded schedule in the coming weeks. If not, he may have to wait until this summer. If he can’t make enough of a case then, perhaps they’ll seek a loan to get him some higher level experience. Rating: 6
Indiana Vassilev - Attacking Midfielder/Striker, Aston Villa
The other major headline this week was from Indiana Vassilev. The 18-year-old easily could have headlined if not for Reyna’s storyline. That clicking sound you heard a few minutes after Reyna made his debut was everyone switching on the last few minutes of the Aston Villa match against Brighton. That’s because Vassilev came on in the 68th minute to make his Premier League debut. He’s also just the third American to feature in England’s top flight this season (Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin the others). He also became the first American to come out of a team’s academy and play in the EPL since Lynden Gooch did so for Sunderland in 2016. Playing as a striker, Vassilev’s energy and willingness to pressure the Brighton backline helped to turn the match in Aston Villa’s favor. Trailing 1-0, Villa captain Jack Grealish unleashed a 75th-minute tying goal that saved them a point as they remain hopeful for safety from the drop to the Championship. During the previous two appearances for Vassilev, I thought he struggled and didn’t look confident. Saturday’s performance was an improvement as he seemed a lot more comfortable with the speed and willing and able to help build attacks. While Vassilev’s situation has been sped up by the team’s injuries, he can only do what he can to show that the faith they’re putting in him is warranted. Saturday’s cameo will help his case. Rating: 7
Charlie Kelman - Striker, Southend United
Charlie Kelman’s presence continues to be huge for Southend United. With relegation in sight, the 18-year-old has returned to health and helped them slowly drag their way out of the hole. On Saturday, Kelman started against Accrington Stanley and got them off to a great start. Kelman patiently waited for the space to open and finished with an excellent strike into the right corner to put then in front.
This was his fifth goal in just 395 minutes in all competitions this year. The lead was shortlived however, as their opponents answered just 6 minutes later. Southend went into the break still level at a goal each. In the second half, teammate Jason Demetriou scored a penalty in the 51st minute to give them the final lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. This was their first league win since before Kelman was injured in September, and it pulled them within 9 points of 21st-place Tranmere Rovers. Hopefully he can continue to play well and help them somehow rescue themselves from relegation. Even if he can’t do so, playing well and producing will only drive up the interest. He should absolutely be on Anthony Hudson’s radar for U-20 qualification this summer. Rating: 3
Richie Ledezma - Attacking Midfielder, PSV Eindhoven
Ledezma was also back with the PSV reserves as they kicked off the second half of their season on Friday. The 19-year-old had a spectacular performance as he tried to make his case for more first team opportunities. In the 43rd minute with PSV II down to 10 men, he scored the tying goal with a tremendous strike from outside the box. Then in the 50th minute, Ledezma intercepted a square pass and scored his second to give them the lead temporarily.
After Volendam had tied the score, Ledezma unfortunately limped off injured in the 71st minute. His teammates couldn’t hang on and wound up losing 4-2. The two goals give Ledezma four goals and an assist in 1,612 minutes in Holland’s second division this season. Hopefully he isn’t out too long with the injury, because he has to be available for selection in order to break through. Rating: 8
John Tolkin - Left Back, New York Red Bulls
New York signed Tolkin to a Homegrown contract this week. The 17-year-old has featured for the US at the U-17 level and figures to be an option for the upcoming U-20 cycle, although he faces some stiff competition at that level. New York Red Bull Sporting Director Denis Hamlett had this to say about Tolkin:
See the below video with some highlights and feedback from the club. Let’s wish him the best of luck as he gets his professional career started. Rating: 1
Kevin Paredes - Winger, D.C. United
Paredes signed a homegrown deal with DC United this week. The 16-year-old debuted with Loudoun United (DC United’s USL affiliate) last year and is well thought of in US Soccer circles. He has played some for the US at the U-17 level. While too old for the next U-17 cycle, he may be an option for the next two U-20 cycles depending on how his development goes. See below for a highlight reel for anyone who hasn’t seen him play. Let’s hope Paredes can make a good career for himself in MLS. Rating: 1
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!