Americans Abroad Review: Cameron aids Stoke shock, Johannsson brilliant as usual

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The busiest Yanks were in England, though Holland saw Aron Johannsson’s star continue to rise and Stu Holden suffered another setback. Let’s dive right into this weeks Americans Abroad Review.

Jozy Altidore had even less reason to enjoy his club’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final, as the American striker was left out of the Match Day 18 altogether. While he’s been lauded for his work holding up the ball, his lack of proficiency as a striker is alarming for US and Sunderland fans alike.

Tim Howard picked up his 10th clean sheet of the season, but first in a month and a half, as Everton stymied West Ham by a 1-0 score at Goodison Park. The 10 shutouts match his total last season.

Brad Guzan didn’t keep it tidy early, allowing a Wes Hoolahan goal in the third minute thanks in large part to poor marking from his defense. But Aston Villa roared back with Christian Benteke leading Guzan’s Villans to a 4-1 win and moving them even closer to safety.

What else can be said about Geoff Cameron at Stoke City? As steady as you’d like, Cameron played 90 minutes in the back as the Potters shocked Arsenal 1-0. Cameron has now played the duration of all but one Premier League match for Stoke this season.

By the time Brek Shea subbed on for Barnsley in the 55th minute of their derby match against Huddersfield Town, the Tykes were down 3-0. It didn’t get any better with the blonde-haired speedster in the lineup, as Barnsley fell 5-0 and dropped in a precarious 23rd place in the Championship. And then… there’s the matter of his alleged obscene gesture toward his own team’s supporters.

Danny Williams played 90 in the back for Reading as they pulled to within a point of sixth-place Wigan in their fight for a spot in the Championship playoffs by drawing Duane Holmes (73 minutes) and Yeovil Town. Nottingham Forest was beaten soundly by Wigan, 4-1, and Eric Lichaj came out of the game with injury.

Birmingham City fell to Ipswich Town by a 1-0 margin, but Yank defenders Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector each played the entire contest, with Spector picking up a yellow card for a bad foul. Oguchi Onyewu played a strong match for Sheffield Wednesday in its 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Tim Ream also got 90 for Bolton, and almost opened the scoring with a header in the 4th minute before the Wanderers cruised to a 4-0 win over Blackburn. The Wanderers are now nine points out of the relegation zone, but the trouble more Americans will be concerned with has to do with Stu Holden. He suited up for Bolton’s U-21s on Monday in an attempt to comeback from his myriad injuries… and left after 22 minutes with an apparent knee injury.

Aron Johannsson was your proverbial man on a mission in AZ Alkmaar’s match against RKC Waalwijk. He upped his assists to 14 on the season by picking up two in the match. While he didn’t add to his goal total of 25, Johannsson was credited with attempting seven shots. Yes, seven. Altidore beware. This was all on the heels of playing 74 minutes in the Europa League tie against Slovan Liberec… so he’s got that whole “valuable” thing going for him.

Staying in the Eredivisie, FC Utrecht kept Juan Agudelo as an unused substitute in its 1-1 draw with Twente. In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan also didn’t play after making the bench for Anderlecht in a 2-0 win over Genk.

It’s two goals in three matches for Terrence Boyd, though the tally came in Rapid Vienna’s 6-3 loss to Red Bull Salzburg. Boyd played 62 minutes in the loss. Ale Bedoya played 67 minutes in Nantes 2-0 defeat at Evian, while Jermaine Jones finally got on the pitch Besiktas, playing 58 minutes in the Turkish club’s scoreless draw against Antalyaspor.

It wasn’t as busy as usual for Yanks in Germany as Steve Cherundolo and Timothy Chandler continue to fight injuries. Fabian Johnson played the first 87 minutes for Hoffenheim in its 6-2 win against Wolfsburg, and was at right back yet again. John Anthony Brooks did not play for Hertha Berlin in a 0-0 home draw with Freiberg.

Last but not least: watch DaMarcus Beasley turns on the jets to score Puebla’s winner this weekend.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

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The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

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But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.