Major League Soccer is back, and not a moment too soon for the United States men’s national team.
After a difficult weekend for some of the top Americans playing for European clubs — Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Zack Steffen remain sidelined with injuries, while Weston McKennie was on the wrong side of a 3-0 loss for German Bundesliga side Schalke — the domestic league offered something of a reprieve, with several USMNT members opening MLS’s 25th anniversary season with strong performances that were sure to catch USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s eye ahead of high-profile European friendly matches against Wales and the Netherlands later this month.
Who put their best foot forward this week? Which national teamers are struggling here at home or in circuits overseas? Let’s catch you up on the latest.
USMNT players trending up
F Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (MLS)
Morris scored twice — the second a stoppage-time game-winner — in just 45 minutes of action in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire.
Takeaway: It often takes attackers time to find their feet early in the season, but Morris has hit the ground running following his career year last campaign. The imposing 25-year-old winger, arguably the USMNT’s top performer in 2019, now has three goals and an assist in the Sounders’ first three competitive games.
D Tim Ream, Fulham (England)
Ream has now helped the Cottagers to consecutive clean-sheet victories, and he’ll be a key part of third-place Fulham’s push to immediately return to the Premier League after one season in the second tier.
Takeaway: The slick-passing Ream also remains a big part of Berhalter’s plans. That figures to continue as long as the 32-year-old center back keeps performing at a high level.
D Walker Zimmerman, Nashville (MLS)
Zimmerman, traded to expansion side Nashville from LAFC just a few weeks ago, powered home the first goal in club history Saturday night against Atlanta:
Takeaway: Zimmerman remains a reserve with the U.S., but his ability to score set-piece goals like this will continue to keep him in the mix for his country.
D Matt Miazga, Readling (England)
Miazga returned from an ankle injury and started his first match since Dec. 11, going 90 minutes and helping the Royals to a 2-0 win over Barnsley.
Takeaway: Will Miazga’s return to action be enough to snare a recall? Hard to say. Berhalter didn’t select the 24-year-old for his final camp of 2019, and there might not be room for him this month with Ream, Zimmerman, John Brooks and Aaron Long all healthy.
M/F Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey)
Deployed as an attacking midfielder, Boyd made just his second Turkish Super Lig start of the calendar year in Friday’s 2-1 win over Alanyaspor.
Takeaway: After starting three CONCACAF Gold Cup matches last summer, the former New Zealand youth international’s playing time dried up. But if he holds on to his lineup spot in Istanbul — and winning sure helps — it should be enough to earn him a start on the wing in at least one of the two March U.S. games if Pulisic is unavailable.
M/F Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
He played just nine quiet minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Freiberg, but that was enough to keep the 17-year’s streak of appearing in every game for BVB in 2020 (nine straight and counting) intact.
Takeaway: While Reyna still hasn’t started a match for Dortmund, it says something about the trust he’s earned from Dortmund boss Lucien Favre that he was inserted with Freiberg desperately trying to equalize. It also explains why the son of U.S. captain Claudio Reyna will participate in his first USMNT camp later this month.
M Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders (MLS)
Roldan scored in the Sounders’ midweek CONCACAF Champions League defeat (on penalties) to Honduran outfit Olimpia, and he assisted on both Seattle goals Sunday in the Rave Green’s MLS curtain-raiser.
Takeaway: Although Roldan struggled with the speed and physicality of the international game at times in 2019, there’s no reason to think Berhalter won’t take him to Europe later this month, especially with other regulars missing and the MLS champs no longer in the running for the regional crown.
F Andrija Novakovich, Frosinone (Italy)
The well-traveled 23-year-old scored the winner for Serie B Frosinone in Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over Salernitana:
Takeaway: Novakovich’s three caps all came before Berhalter took charge of the USMNT, and the sense is that the coach doesn’t particularly rate him. But with March’s friendlies taking place in Europe and highly regarded FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira busy with the U-23s, it’s possible that the Wisconsin native’s opportunity finally comes this month.
M Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas (MLS)
After being forced to leave the USMNT’s January camp early to rehabilitate the groin injury he had in October, the 20-year-old scored the capper in FCD’s season-opening win over the Philadelphia Union:
Takeaway: Pomykal’s return to health is superb news for U.S. U-23 coach Jason Kreis, who included the former U-20 World Cup standout on his non-binding, 50-man preliminary roster for CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
USMNT players trending down
M/F Tim Weah, Lille (France)
Weah will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery last week, Lille manager Christophe Galtier announced on Saturday.
Takeaway: It’s brutal news for the recently turned 20-year-old, who has been limited to just 84 minutes in his first season with the Ligue 1 club. Galtier said he’s hoping Weah is ready for the start of next season — which would seem to put any potential involvement in the Olympics (should the U.S. qualify) in serious doubt.
D Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (MLS)
Robinson, who didn’t play in Atlanta’s opener because of a quad strain, would also miss the Olympics if United continues not to release players outside of official FIFA match windows. The Tokyo games, which run from July 22 to Aug. 8, fall into that category.
Takeaway: The Five Stripes are well within their rights here. But it’s still an unfortunate (and possibly short-sighted, given the exposure) policy for an emerging player like Robinson, 22, who won two caps with the senior U.S. team last year.
M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
After holding down a starting job for most of the season, Morales has come off the bench for two straight games under recently hired manager Uwe Rosler.
Takeaway: Morales is still getting minutes, and he should still get the USMNT nod for this month’s games with several other midfielders either still injured or with the U-23s.
D DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United (England)
The veteran right back has been an unused substitute in each of the Magpies’ last two Premier League games, including Saturday’s scoreless draw with Burnley, which starter Valentino Lazaro missed because of suspension. If Yedlin gets the call in Tuesday’s FA Cup fifth round trip to West Brom, it will mark his first action since the fourth round replay on Feb. 4.
Takeaway: It’s been a tough year on the injury front for Yedlin, and that hasn’t helped. But although the 26-year-old has tumbled down Steve Bruce’s depth chart lately, there’s a good chance he gets major minutes both March USMNT matches with Reggie Cannon in Mexico with the U-23s.
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