A lot of fringe players were in the news this week, while most of the regulars (Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, Antonee Robinson, etc.) were out injured. Luckily, there were several notable performances and debuts to speak about regardless. 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). Here’s what’s going on this week:
Erik Palmer-Brown - Centerback, Manchester City (On Loan at FK Austria Wien)
A week ago, the Austrian Bundesliga returned from their winter break. Erik Palmer-Brown resumed his role in the starting lineup in their 2-2 draw with SCR Altach last week. This weekend, the 22-year-old started again against Jesse Marsch and RB Salzburg. With Austria Wien trailing 2-1, EPB got his head to a corner in the 89th minute to score his first goal of the season and steal a point late.
Erik Palmer-Brown's 89th minute equalizer against RB Salzburg pic.twitter.com/2BGhgfz9Dl— Future USMNT (@FutureUsmnt) February 23, 2020
The 2-2 draw likely won’t be enough to get them into the Championship round as they still trail 6th-place Hartberg by 6 points with only two matches remaining. Still, EPB has somewhat quietly put together a nice season after struggling to get on the field at first. Palmer-Brown’s loan is set to expire at the end of the season, and he faces an important summer as his loan journey likely continues elsewhere. Hopefully he can finish the season strong and help them avoid relegation in the playoff that starts next month. Rating: 5
Giovanni Reyna - Attacking Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund
Reyna had a huge moment this week. The 17-year-old came off the bench in the 67th minute against Paris St. Germain to make his Champions League debut. In doing so, he became the youngest American to ever play in the Champions League and only the ninth ever to appear in the knockout stage of the competition. With the score tied at a goal apiece, Reyna picked up an assist when he received a nice line-splitting pass, turned into space and found Erling Haaland, who unleashed a world class strike from just outside the 18.
The goal would wind up being the game-winner. Reyna impressed in his cameo, helping them to the home victory in the first leg (the return leg in Paris will be played on March 11th). The assist was only the third ever for an American in the Champions League knockout stage (Christian Pulisic and Kenny Saief have the others). On Saturday, Reyna again came off the bench against Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen in Dortmund’s 2-0 win. He has appeared in every match in every competition for them in 2020, which is extremely impressive. His first start is the next step, but it only seems like a matter of time. Rating: 10
Alex Mendez - Central Midfielder, AFC Ajax
Alex Mendez’s journey with inconsistent playing time continues. The 19-year-old was pulled at halftime of their 7-2 loss to FC Utrecht’s U-21s a couple weeks ago and went as an unused substitute the following match. On Friday, Mendez came off the bench in the 70th minute with Jong Ajax leading 1-0 over Helmond Sport. In the 88th minute, Mendez scored his second goal of the season when he made a nice run into the box to get on the end of a cutback pass and finish with his first touch.
Mendez now has two goals and two assists on the season. The 2-0 win has them in third place in the Eerste Divisie. He hasn’t been able to contribute consistently for the Ajax reserves this season. However, he has been training some with the first team, so he’s clearly doing some things right. It’s possible he could see his number called soon, particularly with their extremely crowded schedule. Hopefully he can keep producing with his Jong Ajax opportunities and push his way into the first team. Rating: 5
Joseph Scally - Right Back, New York City FC
Scally appeared for New York’s first team for the first time since 2018 this week. In NYCFC’s Concacaf Champions League matchup against Costa Rican Primera Division club San Carlos, Scally came off the bench in the 62nd minute with NYCFC leading 4-1. San Carlos made it very interesting with two goals before the 80th minute, but New York slammed the door in stoppage time. Scally’s cross was deflected out past the 18-yard box and the ensuing dribble into the box drew a penalty. The penalty from Maxi Moralez was saved but they scored off the rebound and won the away leg 5-3. They will host the return leg on Wednesday. For Scally, it’s great for him to be back following an injury-riddled campaign last year. This will be his last season in MLS since Borussia Mönchengladbach has already agreed to buy him after the season. Hopefully the 17-year-old can play consistently and earn some experience prior to his move to Germany. Rating: 2
Bryce Duke - Central Midfielder, Los Angeles Football Club
Bryce Duke made his professional debut this week. The 18-year-old came off the the bench in the 62nd minute with LAFC trailing 1-0 in their Concacaf Champions League matchup with Liga MX side León. Duke wasn’t able to make the difference and León would go on to add a second goal to make the task in the second leg more daunting, but it was an exciting moment for the young man nonetheless. Duke has represented the US at the U-18 level and could be an option in the midfield for the U-20’s this summer. Rating: 2
Jonathan Pérez - Winger, LA Galaxy
This week Jonathan Pérez signed a homegrown contract with the LA Galaxy. The 17-year-old Mexican-American has been with the LA Galaxy academy since 2016 and worked his way through the various ranks. Pérez has good first touch, is a strong dribbler and very quick. He helped LA get to the U-17 DA Finals a season ago. The United States has a fight on their hands if they hope to get Pérez back into their system. He last represented the US at the U-16 level and has since represented Mexico at the U-16 and U-18 levels. If they can convince him to come back, he could be a factor for the 2021 U-20 World Cup team, assuming the US qualifies this summer. For now, let’s wish him the best of luck as he starts his professional journey. Rating: 1
Cameron Dunbar - Winger, Los Angeles Galaxy
The LA Galaxy front office was busy this week. On top of signing Pérez this week, they also signed Cameron Dunbar to a homegrown deal. The 17-year-old loves to get on the ball and take defenders 1v1. He also is dangerous shooting from distance. Dunbar was passed up for the 2019 U-17 World Cup team, but his development in the coming months could allow him to force his way into the 2021 U-20 World Cup team. It would be his only remaining chance to be in the competition, because he isn’t young enough to be eligible for the 2023 team. Let’s hope Dunbar can make his presence felt with Los Dos (LA Galaxy II) and push his way into the first team soon. Rating: 1
Abraham Rodriguez - Goalkeeper, Colorado Rapids
Colorado signed 17-year-old Abraham Rodriguez to a homegrown contract this week. Rodriguez impressed with his play in USL last season when he started 16 matches for Switchbacks FC, Colorado’s USL affiliate. Rodriguez will likely continue in that role going forward, but he could force his way into the Colorado first team if he impresses or if there is an injury. Let’s hope he can have a long and successful career. 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!