Grading the Seasons of USMNT Players in Europe

The European football season has wrapped up, and with that, we put a grade on some of the USMNT players who had great, so-so, and absolute stinker seasons. 

Christian Pulisic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Antonee Robinson, Weston McKennie, Johnny Cardoso, and Josh Sargent are all Yanks abroad who can hold their heads up high after a very good season in European club competition.

More and more Americans are playing in the top leagues in Europe, and while it is a major step forward in the development of American soccer players and the national team, the country has yet to produce a true world-class talent.

Right now, the Americans are great workhorses — stable players who complete their tasks — with some players being a cut above the rest, like Pulisic and McKennie, and even Cardoso, who has truly shown his qualities in Spain.

Below is a breakdown in terms of good, OK and, bad seasons for Americans in Europe.

The Good

The most outstanding player without a doubt has been Pulisic, who had a master class first season with AC Milan, scoring 15 goals and nine assists in 49 games for the Rossoneri. Pulisic had the tendency to go hot and cold at times, but when on, the American was no question one of Milan’s best players.

McKennie’s return to Juventus was a resounding success and has taken the bad taste of his Leeds United loan out of his mouth. While McKennie did not score for Juventus this season, he did provide 10 assists, turning into a quality set-up man.

Cardoso did not need a move to La Liga to showcase the kind of player that he is. Anyone following Internacional of Porto Alegre saw qualities that the United States men’s national team midfield needs in Cardoso — specifically knowing how to play a ball and being calm and cool in interception. Since joining Real Betis, Cardoso has adapted perfectly to European soccer and has a very high ceiling both for club and country.

After another quality season for Fulham, Antonee Robinson is surrounded by rumors of a move to Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Manchester City. “Jedi” will now have the difficult decision to make the leap to a bigger club or remain at Craven Cottage to cement his status as the next team leader.

If anyone needed a good season to get his club career on track, it was Sergino Dest, who was part of the American contingent at PSV that led the club to an Eredivisie title. Sadly, an ACL injury will see him miss much of the start of next season, be it at Barcelona or a return to PSV, as well as this summer’s Copa America. Dest, whose offensive capabilities have never been questioned, improved his defensive game as the year progressed, which was a positive sign.

At the striker position, Josh Sargent had a remarkable season considering he missed half of it with injury. With 16 goals in 26 games, he has found his scoring touch. But can he do it at a level above, or is he just a very good Championship player?

Other Americans who had exceptional seasons: Malik Tillman, Haji Wright, Gabriel Slonina, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tanner Tessmann, and Gianluca Busio.

Needs Improvement

Ethan Horvath may have lost the battle for the number one spot in the USMNT net for Copa America, but the war isn’t lost. The goalkeeper played 16 games for Championship side Cardiff City to mixed results. Now, Horvath will need to have a season of the ages to convince the USMNT coaching staff that he deserves another look.

It felt that Tim Ream has begun phasing out for longtime club Fulham. The veteran American defender lost his starting position, however he did mix in some solid performances along with the slow ones. For Ream, at 36, it’s about still being active. If he can play 16 games next season, it’s still a step in the right direction.

Chris Richards, to many, is a top-level defender. While he has earned his stripes at Crystal Palace, he is still prone to being a good defender on a mediocre team. Expectations are that Richards can grow into a top-level defender. To do that, he needs to become a young version of Ream. His task is to truly command the Palace backline next season.

Joe Scally is only 21, but he mixed in a lot of good and bad performances for Borussia Mönchengladbach. While becoming a mainstay in the starting lineup and nearing over 100 Bundesliga appearances, fans will be expecting a more solid Scally next season.

Yunus Musah looked great at times for AC Milan, and down the pecking order at others. At the moment, Musah is a utility player — good at a lot of little things but not great at any.

Other Americans with room for improvement: Luca de la Torre, Ricardo Pepi, Tim Weah, Kevin Paredes, Paxten Aaronson.

The Bad

Gio Reyna’s catastrophic loan move to Nottingham Forest only worsened an already dire club situation. Reyna will return to Borussia Dortmund with his tail between his legs after being a non-factor for two clubs in one season. For the talented but conflicted American, a good Copa America could go a long way in securing the right move.

Matt Turner did not fare any better. With a lot of mishaps this season, the American did little to solidify himself as a Premier League keeper, and his future could be away from Europe’s top league.

Folarin Balogun had a mediocre campaign for Monaco after being one of the more sought-after strikers in the summer transfer market. Balogun scored seven goals in 29 games only a season removed from dominating Ligue 1. It wasn’t always pretty from the dual national, but there is much-needed room for improvement. While not all bad, it was a poor season by the expectations many have for the 22-year-old.

Other Americans with poor seasons: Brenden Aaronson.

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